On Wednesday, May 25, 2016, Weizmann Canada’s Women and Science committee held their third annual Wonderful Women gala, a very inspiring evening celebrating successful women from all walks of life, at Toronto’ historical Casa Loma. The sold-out event gave guests an exclusive opportunity network with other accomplished women, and learn from a stellar line-up of speakers, including Jann Arden, author and actress Mary Jo Eustace, successful business woman Carrie Kirkman and immunologist, Dr. Yifat Merbl.

Each speaker has a mind-blowing profile.

Multi-talented Jann Arden has released 13 albums, and her songs have been on the top 10 on music charts 19 times. Arden has won multiple awards including the Much Music Video Award, Western Canadian Music Award, and many more. She is also an author of 4 books.

Mary Jo Eustace, TV host and producer, co-hosted “What’s for Dinner,” a very popular program, which was syndicated around the world, she also hosted “He Said, She Said” on the W Network. She is also a chef who just released her cookbook “Scared Wheatless” last fall, and the author of “Divorce Sucks,” a book teaching women how to handle divorce, including lawyer fees, destroying memories, and dealing with the new, younger wife. Eustace has also just launched her own line of skincare products called Cell Candy.

Dr. Yifat Merbl (Department of Immunology,
Weizmann Institute of Science)’s accomplishments include completing her Ph.D. at Harvard Medical School, receiving multiple scholarships and awards, and joining the I-CORE (Israeli Centers of Research Excellence) program in structural biology of the cell.

Carrie Kirkman, President and Chief Merchant of Sears Canada Inc, is a successful business woman with an extensive experience in the Canadian apparel industry. Kirkman continues to demonstrate her ability to drive success. She has been featured in top Canadian publications and has been on the nominating committee of the CAFA (Canadian Arts and Fashion) Awards

With Toronto’s magnificent Casa Loma as the backdrop, each panelist shared their stories, including the obstacles and triumphs they have experienced in their respective careers.

“We have really joyful moments in which we find something that we either did not anticipate at all, or we understand something that no one before us knew,” said Dr. Yifat Merbl. “You can ask me whether I am going to cure cancer, and I would be lying if I said yes because cancer includes a lot of diseases. But we aim to provide several solutions, hopefully in the next few years coming from our approaches, which are very different from other places,” she answered, when questioned by moderator Dianne Buckner. Buckner is a well-known journalist and TV personality who hosts CBC’s business reality show Dragons’ Den and a Business Correspondent of CBC News.

Proceeds from the Wonderful Women 2016 gala will be directed to the Israel National Postdoctoral Program for Advancing Women in Science. This award is a Weizmann Institute initiative, which offers financial support to outstanding females in Israel who must travel abroad to pursue their postdoctoral research, a crucial step in achieving status as a senior scientist, and a door that will hopefully have a beneficial impact on our lives and our children’s lives.

To secure its economic future, Israel must ensure its intellectual edge in science and technology. 50% of the Ph.D. graduates in the sciences are women. However, they comprise only 15% of faculty positions in academia. Because by playing multiple roles in life, many women drop out at the point when they need to go abroad for postdoctoral research, and with them goes a valuable source of brainpower and potential.

“The most difficult stage in my career was the moment when I had to decide whether I should go abroad. I had two kids at the time, and one of them was only one year old,” said Dr. Nirit Dudovich, Department of Physics of Complex Systems, Robin Chemers Neustein Career Development Chair.

Weizmann Canada started the Israel National Postdoctoral Program for Advancing Women in Science started in 2007. Of the 36 women who have completed the fellowships, 81% have attained faculty positions in Israeli academia.

It is lovely to learn how this encouraging event is actually making a positive impact in the world and in women’s lives.

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