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Evidence of meeting #33 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 techsploration.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Tricia Robertson  Executive Director, Techsploration
Margaret-Ann Armour  President of the Board, Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Exactly.

With regard to the 38 sponsors you mentioned, I am curious about the funding. Do the sponsors...? Are they only the workplaces that the girls visit?

You mentioned in-kind donations. Do they also fund with dollars and that kind of backing as well?

4:15 p.m.

Executive Director, Techsploration

Tricia Robertson

Our sponsors are really involved in the program. Of the 38, it's all on varying levels. They all give us some kind of financial funding, but the really important thing is that we also receive role models from their workplace. We receive representatives from the employers to work on our committees and they provide role models for our different events, which is absolutely huge. And they give them time off with pay to do this in many instances.

When they're a smaller employer that's a little different. So they might give them the time off,ut we might end up giving them a $50 honorarium for working with us that day.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

Ms. Robertson, I have to interrupt you. Unfortunately, Ms. Ambler's time is up.

Ms. Sgro, you have seven minutes.

May 7th, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Thank you very much.

To both Ms. Robertson and Ms. Armour, thank you so very much for the great work you're doing on behalf of women and girls in Canada. I'm sure that much of the work you're doing is not just focused on engineering and trades and so on, but it probably encompasses so many other avenues that you are not even aware of. It has impacted many of the young women.

Ms. Armour, in particular on the differences between the education that our young women are getting on reserves versus what they would be getting in the local schools in Edmonton and elsewhere, could you talk a little bit about the amount of difference you've seen? You indicated earlier there was a significant difference in their level of education and the quality of education they had received on the reserves. Can you elaborate a bit on that?

4:15 p.m.

President of the Board, Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology

Margaret-Ann Armour

Yes.

So often in the schools in the city there is a specialized teacher for each area, so they're getting biology from someone who is well trained in biology and they're learning physics from someone who has a physics background. When you go to rural schools as well as schools on the reserve, it's usually one teacher who is teaching a very large number of subjects. There may be only one or two students who are interested in those particular subjects. The students are not having the chance to interact with one another and learn from one another. I think that's making a very big difference.

It's a difficult problem to overcome, because one realizes it's very difficult to have a large cohort of teachers in a relatively small school.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

That quite possibly leads to the fact that so many children end up leaving the reserves and going to the city. But if they don't do that it seems to be so much harder for those aboriginal children to really move forward unless they choose to do that.

4:15 p.m.

President of the Board, Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology

Margaret-Ann Armour

Yes, that's right.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Ms. Robertson, Techsploration sounds like a wonderful program. Actually even the name is a little bit interesting, to look at the name and think it would be intriguing for a young woman to ask what it's all about. So you started out with a particular name that I think they might pay attention to, to just try to get some extra interest.

Where else are you able to offer that program, or have you had a chance to partner with some other parts of Canada to try to get it in a variety of other areas?

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Techsploration

Tricia Robertson

Actually, last year I was in Newfoundland because Techsploration was celebrating its tenth anniversary in Newfoundland. A few years after Techsploration began in Nova Scotia, we assisted them with starting the program in Newfoundland, and it has been really successful.

We have several committees, and one of them is our expansion committee. We're seriously discussing how we can develop what we call a chapter package, so that if somebody wanted to start Techsploration on Monday morning in Ontario, they would know what information they would need, and what kind of memorandums of understanding we would have to have. We're in the process of looking into that.

We also want to put the information online. We have this fabulous new website and portal that will facilitate that now. That would also make it a lot easier for another province or organization to access our materials and resources.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

It would probably move along much faster as far as establishing chapters, in whatever form they would be presented, if it were available online.

We're very fortunate to hear from you today. It's certainly very encouraging.

Do you have an opportunity, Ms. Robertson, from what you are seeing in this Techsploration avenue you're working on to talk to the universities about how they could attract more women into university and the sciences and so on?

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Techsploration

Tricia Robertson

We have a really broad network.

We've just partnered with Mount Saint Vincent University. They looked at Techsploration “Women in Action” videos online. They liked them so much, they approached us to do a partnership. As a result, they'll be providing fifteen videos over the next five years in that area.

We have an industry liaison person from Saint Mary's University. They're actually one of the sponsors of Techsploration. We have a representative on our board of directors. We have the Techsploration-Saint Mary's scholarship. There is a lot of conversation going on there. We work with a lot of first nation committees and even the elders in the community to find out how we can help young women from that specific area.

We have a lot of diversity in all of our committees. There are women from diverse backgrounds. We also look into how we can provide more young women with opportunities that are very specific to their needs. They're all amazingly the same, though. They need encouragement. They need women who are role models, who take an interest in them.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Thank you, Ms. Robertson.

Ms. Armour, you mentioned about young women leaving their profession. Even though you get them into engineering, let's say, then they have a family, and then, for whatever reason, they end up having to quit the profession. Have you spoken to the engineering association, as an example, about the need for providing women with more flexibility and better opportunities to balance the family and pressures of work? Might that encourage them to stay in the profession longer?

4:20 p.m.

President of the Board, Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology

Margaret-Ann Armour

Yes, indeed. This is one of our major concerns. We're working with the provincial professional engineer associations, as well as Engineers Canada.

There are two concerns here. One is yes, women who have children sometimes leave the profession and don't come back. Moving to something else—

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

I will have to interrupt, Ms. Armour. Unfortunately, Ms. Sgro's time is up.

I will now give the floor to a member from the government party.

Ms. Bateman, you have five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you both so much, Ms. Armour and Ms. Robertson, for the work you do, for the remarks you shared with us today, and for the very concrete and positive steps you're taking and have taken to help young women.

In fact, Ms. Armour, I'm particularly impressed. You actually referred back to what we are trying to achieve as a committee here, the economic outcomes piece, and I appreciate that.

In your remarks, both of you spoke about how young women make choices. I believe, Ms. Robertson, it's one of the pillars you're...one of your programs—how to make choices—one of the criteria you're looking to explore.

I think it's fascinating. We had a dean from the business school of the University of Western Ontario, which is a prestigious business school. I guess it's called the Ivey School now. She said that sometimes women don't choose to even put their hands up. When you actually ask them what they think, they have something wonderful and concrete to contribute to the discussion.

I'd like the views of both of you, but Ms. Armour, perhaps we can start with you, in terms of how you see helping.... Take a moment to build on your remarks about choice, because I think that's the essence, and perhaps the opportunity for young women.

4:25 p.m.

President of the Board, Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology

Margaret-Ann Armour

I'm absolutely committed to allowing people to make choices. But they only make choices if they're informed. Obviously I would never have chosen to be a mechanical engineer, because I didn't know what a mechanical engineer did when I was growing up.

What we're trying to do is provide very concrete information in such a way that it intrigues young women, and they say “I want to find out more about this.” We're not saying that you should be an engineer, you should be a scientist, or you should be brain surgeon. We're saying here's what it's about; why don't you try this? And then when you come to choose your career, you have information; you have knowledge that you can base your choice on.

I would just mention that there are so many systemic barriers. You were saying that a young woman doesn't put up her hand to provide the information that she might have that could be very useful to the discussion. This is one of the problems, that we're still socialized a little differently. We don't always meet the expectations of society, when in fact we are doing extremely well in the choices and careers that we're making but we don't push ourselves forward quite as much. That's a stereotype, but we know that it's still true. And it's quite important, in the engineering profession particularly.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you so much for that.

Perhaps, Ms. Robertson, you could build on.... It was one of the pillars that you described as part of where you're going this next year: how to make choices.

4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Techsploration

Tricia Robertson

Sure. There are a couple of things in that regard. One is that if a young woman takes every advantage to participate in events with Techsploration from the time she's in grade nine right through to grade twelve, she will have met 140 different role models in various careers. That really helps her to make choices.

She also has the opportunity, as she goes through this process, to learn, for example, what she doesn't like. We had a Techsplorer alumna telling us last week—she was presenting at a workshop with us—that she had learned that she didn't like outside work. It was very important for her to know that before she decided that she might become an electrician, for example.

Another thing that's really important is that we need more women developing our curriculum. They understand what the systemic barriers are for the young women—why they're not putting up their hands and perhaps how a question needs to be framed differently.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Okay. You—

4:25 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

You only have 10 seconds left.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

I just want to thank you both so much. I look forward to talking about the role-modelling piece, perhaps another time.

Thank you.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

Thank you very much.

This ends the appearance by our two witnesses.

I would like to thank Ms. Robertson from Techsploration and Ms. Armour from the Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology. Have a good rest of the day.

We will now continue in camera to talk about future business. I will therefore suspend the meeting for a few minutes.

Thank you.

[Proceedings continue in camera]