It’s been 24 years since Roberta Bondar’s historic space mission, but the Canadian astronaut, scientist, teacher, and photographer is continuing to expand her orbit as role model, especially for young women.

In late April, the space pioneer agreed to lend her name to a new career development program taking aim at advancing the careers of young women in science and technology.

Appearing at the recent Women in Communications and Technology’s (WCT) Annual Awards Gala in Ottawa to launch the program, Bondar said the majority of jobs in the future will be created on the backs of those who understand the value of technology and science.

Although disappointed only a small number of women have made it to space since her 1992 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, she said she remains optimistic that 25 years in the future the numbers will be significantly better.

She hopes programs like the one that will bear her name will help develop the critical thinkers that will position young women to take on leadership roles in the digital economy.

The Dr. Roberta Bondar Career Development Program is designed to give women an advantage in science and technology careers in both the private and public sector. The program consists of networking and leadership development sessions, site visits and meetings with private and public sector leaders.

The program is open to women 35 years old and younger who have been hired into their first science and technology position within the last five years. Women engineers, researchers, scientists, computer scientists, technologists and others working in science and technology fields are eligible to apply. The internship provides the participants with a perspective on issues and practices within a wide variety of government and commercial organizations and provides a unique perspective that can help bring together women working in the public and private sectors.

“Young women need professional development and strong networks to succeed in their careers”, said Kelly Gillis, Associate Deputy Minister, Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada as the program announcement.  “This is particularly true in scientific and technical fields where women are significantly outnumbered and where the opportunities and networks don’t occur naturally.”

The program is modeled on another successful program that WCT has operated for over 20 years.  The Jeanne Sauvé Career Development Program brings women in broadcasting and communications companies together with women in cultural and economic public policy and regulation for a similar two-week program.  This program now boasts over 200 alumnae, including many current leaders in industry and government.

“This model works”, said Joanne Stanley, Executive Director of WCT.  “It interrupts the isolation that women in scientific and digital enterprises occupations can experience, it introduces them to leaders in their sectors, provides unique learning opportunities and provides a network of fellow-participants that many have found to be an asset throughout their careers.”

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