Michelle Holigroski – helping Canadian farmers access world markets

Michelle saw baby guppies in her childhood aquarium and immediately fell in love with biology. After attending university to study science, Michelle was hired to work in the Experimental Lakes Area and kicked off her career in environmental studies and fieldwork.

After a successful career working as a laboratory technician, Michelle loves spending time with her family, travelling and being outdoors, so pursuing a career where she got to spend most of her days canoeing for water samples and scuba diving was a dream come true. Before her current position, she also worked in Manitoba’s virology lab testing for measles, mumps and rubella, along with other viruses.

If women weren’t as well represented in biology, Michelle says she may never have decided to go to university. As the first person in her family to earn a degree, she said that continuing to improve women’s representation in STEM is essential to empowering women and girls.

“I feel very grateful to work as part of a union because it shows to me the value in the advocacy of the union.”

This year, PIPSC bargained a historic win of 10 paid days of leave for survivors and victims of domestic violence, as well as a parental leave top-up of five weeks when both parents work for the federal public service. Michelle says that these important wins could never have been made possible without the advocacy of the union and the united efforts of women at the bargaining table.

“We have a long way to go in terms of Indigenous rights, women’s rights and the rights of the other,” Michelle says. 

“A better Canada is one where we realize we are all in this together.”

With amazing members like Michelle working to improve our communities and advocate for women’s rights, PIPSC will continue to make a difference in shaping a stronger Canada.

Today, Michelle works as a research biologist at the Canadian Grain Commission. On a daily basis, she helps establish and maintain science-based standards of quality for Canadian grain sold nationally and abroad.

“I use science to help farmers sell their grain. The testing I do is critical,” she says. “I’ve always tried to make a positive difference in my community that I hope will have a ripple
effect around the world.”

Michelle isn’t just an important part of the lives of Canadian farmers, but she’s also an important leader in her workplace and union. Michelle is an active, contributing member of the PIPSC Women in Science (WiS) taskforce that works to improve
equity and inclusion policies in public science.

“With respect to the WiS taskforce that I’m involved with… I see that evolving into really great projects and policies shaped by women in science.” For Michelle, the work she does in the WiS task force is more important than ever because of the way women have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

“The pandemic has hit women harder than men. Some women have had to leave their careers or scale back their careers because of the pandemic,” she says. “When we shape policy, we need to do it with all genders in mind.”