Gender and academe: Council of Canadian Academies releases report on women researchers

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Milena Stanoeva Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Yesterday, the Council of Canadian Academies released its report on women’s representation in Canadian universities and the particular challenges that female academics face. The report has been two years in the making – it was commissioned in 2010 by then-Minister of Industry Tony Clement after not a single woman was nominated to the 19 newly-appointed Canada Excellence Research Chairs. Léo Charbonneau published an excellent summary of the key findings, as well as the history of the report, in University Affairs.

When the first round of CERCs was announced, the Federation responded with an open letter to Minister Clement expressing our concerns with regards to the exclusion of researchers in the social sciences and humanities and the lack of diversity reflected in the appointments. The Globe and Mail’s James Bradshaw notes that in the next round of CERCs, universities will have to provide the names of women they are actively pursuing, and that four chairs will be earmarked for non-science disciplines.

Yesterday’s CCA report confirms that the two issues are related as departments in the humanities, social sciences and education were found to have the highest percentage of female faculty (39.6%). The report found that women in the physical sciences, computer sciences, engineering and mathematics had the lowest representation at 14.8%. The report also found that the gender gap grew with each rank in the university hierarchy.

This is an important issue that needs to be addressed, because as Shari Graydon points out in her Globe and Mail article on the report, the underrepresentation of women in the academy’s highest ranks means a less diverse talent pool to tackle the complex social, economical and environmental issues of our day. Women’s gendered perspectives on problems like child-care, agriculture, and care for the aging, among others, can lead to innovative solutions for our future.


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Gender equityStatus of women in the academy