Unstacking the Deck

Detail from the Euphemia Haynes trading card (Shannon Wright)
Detail from the Euphemia Haynes trading card (Shannon Wright)


Forget Pokémon: these scientists are reviving the trading-card game while also fighting gender inequality. Last spring, researchers from Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology and the Michael Smith Laboratories at The University of British Columbia (UBC) released a set of trading cards featuring notable women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

WISE, short for Women in Science and Engineering, is a deck-building game where the main objective is to collect a set of cards. A starter deck, aimed at kids 10 and up, features 21 scientists and engineers. Players score points by collecting different achievement cards for each individual, thereby completing the CVs of various women.

With so many notable women contributing to STEM fields, selecting individuals for the starter pack was not easy. “We wanted to focus on women who were not necessarily well known,” said David Ng, a UBC faculty member working on the project, “and to include people whose profile reflected some of the challenges in gender culture.”

Alice Hamilton, a pioneer in occupational health and medicine, made the first cut, as did Inge Lehmann, the Danish seismologist who discovered Earth’s inner core. Ng and his colleagues are already working on expansion packs that include a wider range of women, as well as cards addressing sexual harassment and misogyny.

“We talk a lot about diversity and representation in STEM circles,” Ng said, “but it’s also clear that’s where the structural and cultural challenges to gender equity are still very much with us.”

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Sara Goudarzi is a freelance writer.


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