Evidence of meeting #36 for Status of Women in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was girls.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

—in which there would be reintegration further downstream.

I appreciate hearing that.

Now according to the sixth edition of Women in Canada, “The majority of...women continue to work in occupations in which they have been traditionally concentrated.” The report goes on to say that young women entering the workforce are choosing non-traditional industries.

Is it just a matter of time before we see some of these remaining gaps close, and have you been able to identify reasons why girls are growing up to enter more non-traditional industries?

5:20 p.m.

James McGill Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University

Dr. Claudia Mitchell

Well, I can't say that I have studied it directly, but I'm certainly familiar with some of the literature. In many high schools, there is perhaps more career guidance now than there might have been a few years ago. I don't know that this has necessarily happened everywhere.

Perhaps it is just that there are more non-traditional jobs available. If we just look at what's available, young women, actually, by virtue of what's there, are able to go into more of these non-traditional positions. Again, it may be that we're just seeing some areas in technology, science, and so on that we wouldn't have seen a few years ago.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

It could be technological innovation. It could be demographic. It's a very complex situation. Okay.

We were fortunate to have earlier the Girls Action Foundation. They appeared before us and made a few recommendations. I'll just share them with you briefly.

Number one was providing mentorship and diverse role models for girls when they are growing up. Second was educating boys and young men to think critically about gender expectations and to promote equality between the sexes. Third was implementing and expanding programs that reduce gender harassment, especially in educational institutions.

I'd like some of your thoughts on this approach. From your experience and expertise, are there any other factors, given those recommendations?

5:20 p.m.

James McGill Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University

Dr. Claudia Mitchell

I think I would like to maybe say a little bit more about the area of harassment. I'm not sure if you're speaking to any people who are working in the area of cyber-bullying and so on. I think there still is a great deal of harassment in institutions. At universities, unfortunately, such as my own, we have harassment committees.

I think it becomes more and more subtle. These are not areas people are easily able to report on. Once we get into areas of class, looking at perhaps elementary and secondary schools, I think harassment is still a great detriment to girls' experiences. We can't do enough to address that issue. It still remains in meetings among colleagues. People become a little more subtle as we go along. But I think that for a girl to walk across a room in a classroom, sometimes, and be in a minority, remains a really critical issue. I think we have to do a lot more than we currently are to make schools and institutions walk-safe areas.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Chair, how much time do I have?

5:20 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

You have one minute and thirty seconds.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

I appreciate talking about this.

From your last comments, it seems to me that technology changes, society changes, and sometimes the form in which harassment may take place—you mentioned cyber-bullying, for one—changes. We should also be looking at different ways of countering it or adjusting so that we deal with these circumstances. Is that correct?

5:25 p.m.

James McGill Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University

Dr. Claudia Mitchell

Yes, that's correct. It's an area that we think has passed, but we haven't passed it. We still have a lot to do. As soon as you add in race and class, these areas are still very profound in our institutions.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Thank you very much for your testimony today. Madam Chair, I appreciated the opportunity to work with the witnesses. Thank you.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Thank you.

As Ms. Sgro had to leave, we are going to move on to the second round of questions.

Ms. Bateman, you have about five minutes.

May 28th, 2012 / 5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you very much, madame la présidente. Thank you to both of our witnesses today. I very much appreciate the comments we've heard.

I just wanted to continue, Professor Mitchell, with some of your comments. I so appreciate that you came with concise and very clear statements of what you want to accomplish.

I want to zero in on one of those topics. You were talking about working with boys and young men. I have a daughter and also a son. I see the importance of their actually getting along and functioning productively in the world.

You spoke at one point about boys currently being outperformed in a number of situations by young women. Could you speak to that?

5:25 p.m.

James McGill Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University

Dr. Claudia Mitchell

Yes. Certainly in a range of subject areas, girls have outperformed boys in areas around reading and language for a long time. There have been many debates about whether this is nature or nurture, and whether girls are more socialized into language so that when they go to school they do much better in language-related areas. But there is some research that suggests that it isn't just around language. I cannot settle the nurture-nature issue here. But I do think girls are outperforming boys in many of these areas, but I think that they're also outperforming them in a whole range of areas in upper elementary and secondary school. There are many arguments about this, such as that the schools are perhaps too feminized and that we have more female teachers and need more male teachers as role models. There have been many different hypotheses put forward for why this is.

It doesn't mean that then there are no biases against girls; in fact, once they finish school, we still find that males are having higher salaries. But in the school milieu, girls are actually doing better in a lot of ways—albeit not all girls and not all schools. Overall, I think there has been a great deal of leveling in terms of what's happening. And some people are arguing then that we should be doing more to support boys. And, of course, I always think that's a good idea too. I want us to learn from what we have done about girls.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB

And on that point, you made another lovely comment in my view, that you didn't want to pit boys against girls or girls against boys.

5:25 p.m.

James McGill Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Could you speak to how? I think in your description you used the word “allies”. If you could speak to that, just enrich us on that point.