Data Check: Success in the academy still determined by gender

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The Council of Canadian Academies’ report on the gender dimensions of Canada’s research capacity found that the pattern of under-representation of women in universities is similar to that in other advanced countries. While recognizing Canadian women have made great strides, the assessment identified a number of life-course factors affecting their success.
 
The broadest factor concerns the learning and professional trajectories of women. Overall, Canada has not done enough to uphold its stated commitments to women’s rights. Building stronger social services to “enable parents to combine family and work responsibilities” and promoting programs to “reduce gender stereotypes” would do more to close the gap for all women, and academic women in particular.
 
Before entering university, gender socialization affects women’s career choices, and reinforces the lack of encouragement or support for entering certain fields (such as science, technology, and engineering). Confidence levels are affected by gender equity. Negative perceptions and lack of understanding of the nature of research careers, and the lack of role models – as researchers and leaders in the research community – also tend to push women away from opportunities in disciplines where women are under-represented.
 
Even after they have entered the academy, women may also face institutional practices that have not entirely come to grips with stereotyping and assessment biases that undervalue their research expertise and productivity. The “small but persistent university salary gap” also has cumulative effects over the longer term.
 
Life outside the academy has a significant effect on research productivity and the ability to progress up the academic career ladder. Women shoulder greater responsibility for child care and the “second shift” of domestic work. Apart from the implications these may have for criteria applied to career progress, the Council notes that an effective national child care program would significantly enhance gender equity not just in personal but in professional terms.
 
Council of Canadian Academies, Strengthening Canada’s Research Capacity: The Gender Dimension

This article originally appeared in the OCUFA Report. To receive stories like this every week in your inbox, please subscribe.

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