Study: Gender still an issue in university research

A newly released report by the Council of Canadian Academies, co-authored by Western Organizational Behavior professor Alison M. Konrad and Anatomy and Cell Biology professor Lynne-Marie Postovit, says despite significant progress in the representation of women in the university research ranks, there are still gender equity challenges that must be overcome. Relying only on the passage of time, the study warned, will not be enough to ensure parity.

Strengthening Canada’s Research Capacity: The Gender Dimension provides an assessment of the factors that influence university research careers of women.

In general, the Canadian profile is similar to that of other economically advanced nations. Women’s progress in Canadian universities is uneven and dependent on discipline and rank; the higher the rank, the lower the percentage of women in comparison to men.

The key factors impacting the career paths of women start early in life with stereotypes that define roles and expectations. Those are followed by a lack of knowledge about requisites for potential career paths, and a lack of role models and mentors. These issues – combined with a rigid tenure track structure, challenges associated with the paid work-family life balance and the importance of increased support and coordination amongst governments and institutions – should be examined if Canada is going to achieve a greater gender balance within academia.

This assessment was requested by the Minister of Industry in 2010 after the notable absence of female candidates for the prestigious Canada Excellence Research Chairs program. In response, the Council convened a 15-member expert panel from Canada and abroad.

Read a copy of the report at the council’s website.