This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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 work.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond  Representative, British Columbia, Representative for Children and Youth
Jennifer Flanagan  President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua
Claudia Mitchell  James McGill Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University
Jessica Danforth  Executive Director, Native Youth Sexual Health Network

4:30 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

You just told us how old your are too.

4:30 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua

Jennifer Flanagan

Yes, I was 18 when I started!

It was a very grassroots beginning. We were university students who thought there was a need for this type of programming. We thought it would be a great thing to do nationally, and started it that way.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

That's fantastic.

4:30 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua

Jennifer Flanagan

I have a science degree and got an MBA after that.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Fantastic. Thank you so much.

4:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua

Jennifer Flanagan

Thanks for asking.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Do I have more time?

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

You have one minute.

May 28th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Perfect.

I want to ask you about the all-girls model and why you think that's important. Even though it's not our jurisdiction specifically here at this committee or for this government, we have talked to other witnesses about all-girls models for education and other programs. Why do you think they're important?

4:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua

Jennifer Flanagan

That is based purely on internal research we've done. We asked the girls what they prefer, where they're more comfortable, and how they like to participate. Overwhelmingly, within the context of science and technology and engineering, they prefer an all-girls environment.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Even at a young age?

4:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua

Jennifer Flanagan

Yes. They will often do coed as well once they're in the program, but from the response from parents and the girls.... And in terms of the waiting lists, it's never a problem to fill all-girls camps. So there's definitely a demand.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

That's good to know. I found it interesting when you were talking about the grade levels, and where you found the switch happening between grade four and grade six.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

I must stop you here. I am sorry. Your time has expired. Thank you.

Ms. Sgro, you have about five minutes left. Please go ahead.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Thank you very much, Ms. Flanagan, and Ms. Turpel-Lafond, for the caring attitude you have to these issues.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond, would you please explain something to me? One of the issues of foster care that has always concerned me is what happens when they turn 19. How much preparatory work is done in advance of that young person being discharged from your jurisdiction in B.C., as an example?

4:35 p.m.

Representative, British Columbia, Representative for Children and Youth

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

One of the challenges is this transition to adulthood. The approach in British Columbia and most provinces is that it happens around 18 or 19. In British Columbia it's 19. But through research and experience with Canadian families we know that adolescence extends into the early twenties. Most people peg it closer to 24.

There's very limited work done before a child ages out of the child welfare system. In our surveys, in our work with children who are aging out of the case system, many of them don't understand the social service system. They're aging out of care into social assistance.

The types of personal and institutional supports that a child and a family would receive, let's say around supporting post-secondary education or supporting children who may have had poor starts in these things, don't happen for children in care. So there are some very significant gaps and inequalities around that. There are inadequate services provincially and, of course, nothing federally.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Is there much of a difference in the way boys are treated in foster care versus girls?

4:35 p.m.

Representative, British Columbia, Representative for Children and Youth

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

No, there isn't much of a difference. It's just that we have an elevated teen pregnancy rate, so the dependency ratio, the requirement that there be a young mother.... Mothering and not having achieved the education, then not having the personal support within a family context to be parent at a young age, if they keep the child, which young girls and women often do.... I think we see some really persistent issues around whether we have adequate programs for young people in care and whether we're adequately engaging them and listening to them and supporting them.

We also have a class of young people who live independently before they age out. At around 16 or 17 they may basically be given social assistance and live independently. In our work we see a lot of risk from that in terms of their safety, well-being, and lack of social connection. It's a deeply vulnerable group that, not surprisingly, has some of the poorest outcomes.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Yes, it would be very challenging. There's no question about it.

Ms. Flanagan, do you think that science and technology, from a young woman's perspective, is still looked at as very much a man's game? It's still probably 10 to 1; there are 10 boys to every girl who graduates in science or engineering.

4:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua

Jennifer Flanagan

That's very much what we find. That stereotype is still widely held, which seems almost unbelievable. One of the biggest challenges we have is actually demonstrating the need for our work, because so many people think, you know, that we've been working on it for so many years, how could it not have changed.

There have been improvements. As I mentioned, certainly within some fields of science and health-based fields, such as medicine, women have made significant advances. Unfortunately, that hasn't been as much the case in engineering and computer science careers.

When we get them in grade three, some of them already have that stereotype unless they've had a mom or an aunt or a dad who has turned them on to that.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

How do we get to them even earlier than that? I guess you go on to what the kids are seeing on television as far as who's doing what, I guess, in cartoons and all of that. Maybe we need to have more scientists and more engineers and all the rest of it.

4:40 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua

Jennifer Flanagan

I have colleagues who think we should start in prenatal classes, because a lot of it is educating parents.

There's no question that when we have the girls in grade two or grade three, their minds can be changed. Their perceptions about what they can and can't do can be changed. They have the perceptions already, but they can be changed. That's why we work so heavily with parents, because we know that they're still the primary influencers on the lives of girls.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Well, it would certainly mould the—

4:40 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

I must stop you. Unfortunately the time allotted to this group of witnesses has expired. I thank them for being here. Thank you very much.

I am going to suspend the meeting for one minute in order to allow us to welcome our next two witnesses properly.