Data Check: Women still underrepresented in Canadian universities

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Female academics in Canada have made gains, but their progress remains uneven by discipline and rank according to new research.
 
The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) recently released an assessment of the factors influencing the career paths of women academics at Canadian universities. Part of the story it tells is similar to the one outlined in last year’s Statistics Canada report on doctoral students and university faculty. Overall, as women have come to represent a larger proportion of doctoral students and graduates, their share of university teaching positions has increased.
 
But they are still underrepresented, and there are noticeable differences between discipline. The CCA report draws attention to the fact that women comprised about 59 per cent of doctoral students in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Education (HSE) and 53 per cent of doctoral candidates in Life Sciences (LS) fields in 2008-09. In contrast, women accounted for only 48 and 46 per cent, respectively, of Assistant Professors in those fields. In the Physical and Computer Sciences, Engineering and Mathematics (PCEM) disciplines, the proportion of women in the ranks of Assistant Professors was virtually the same as the proportion of female doctoral students in these fields. The proportion of women working in every field falls relative to men in the higher academic ranks.
 
In other words, there are two different patterns in the under-representation of women. In one, women are not as likely as their male counterparts in the same field to move into a university teaching and research position. In the other, women are under-represented relative to their share of the general population throughout Canadian universities.
 
The CCA report also addresses reasons why these patterns may persist, to be discussed next week.
 
Council of Canadian Academies, Strengthening Canada’s Research Capacity: The Gender Dimension
Statistics Canada, Doctoral Students and University Teaching Staff, February 2011

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

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