Evidence of meeting #63 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was engineers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Nathalie Goulet  Director, Conseil d'intervention pour l'accès des femmes au travail
Ruth Rose-Lizée  Member, Conseil d'intervention pour l'accès des femmes au travail
Beatrix Dart  Professor, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, As an Individual
Jeanette Southwood  Vice-President, Strategy and Partnerships, Engineers Canada
Marie-Claude Guérard  Chief Financial Officer, Canadian Space Agency
Dominique Breden  Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive, and Senior Officer Responsible for Disclosure of Wrongdoing, Audit and Evaluation Branch, Canadian Space Agency

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

I have a second piece I want to follow up from your written brief to the committee. You said that women with children earn less than those without children, and that “This threatens women’s ability to earn as much as men over the course of their career, and could be exacerbated by the recent announcement in the 2017 federal budget that maternity leave could be extended to 18 months.”

Can you please describe a little bit more the unintended consequences of that budget 2017 announcement.

10:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Strategy and Partnerships, Engineers Canada

Jeanette Southwood

Certainly.

When we look at the pay track of women, from the time they start work—which is typically before they would have taken maternity leave—to the time they're much more senior in their careers, we see a gap right from the very beginning. That gap—already in place when a woman takes maternity leave—is exacerbated when she is on maternity leave, because typically the structure is such that she's not able to partake in pay raises that might occur while she's away, and she's not able to acquire the kind of experience that's needed.

As we take a look at how that impacts the pay track for women, we need to be cognizant of all the different factors, but particularly of the fact that even before a woman takes maternity leave, she's typically behind the pay of a male.

Thank you.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Right.

Thanks.

We've heard some testimony following on this parental leave question—the “use it or lose it” parental leave, which is offered to the non-child-bearing partner, usually the man. It's something that can get men participating in child-rearing and also maybe lock them into a lifetime of sharing more domestic care responsibilities and unpaid care.

Is that something you've heard talked about within your profession?

10:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Strategy and Partnerships, Engineers Canada

Jeanette Southwood

Yes, we have. There is strong encouragement in our profession for men to take leave also, for men to have the opportunity to be with their young child, and also for men to be able to be part of the role modelling for our future generations.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Excellent.

Now we go over to Ms. Ludwig for seven minutes.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you very much for your presentations this morning, and thank you, Madam Chair.

I have a series of questions.

Our previous witness talked about quotas. In your industries and sectors, I'm wondering how you feel about the implementation of quotas for women to work in the STEM fields.

Maybe I can start with the aerospace engineering area.

10:20 a.m.

Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive, and Senior Officer Responsible for Disclosure of Wrongdoing, Audit and Evaluation Branch, Canadian Space Agency

Dominique Breden

We don't really talk about quotas; instead, we talk about targets. That's the language we use in the federal government.

In terms of the representation of women, as I said earlier, the targets are based on the statistics. In that sense, then, it would be helpful to rely on the latest data sooner as far as workforce availability rates are concerned. We realize that many things have shifted over the past few years, whether in terms of visible minorities, indigenous people, women, or persons with disabilities. The statistics can vary greatly, so it would be helpful if the data were updated on a more regular basis.

That said, we don't want to limit our efforts to simply meeting the targets. In order to keep people in the profession, we need to exceed the targets. The activities we put in place and the programs where we want to attract—

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Sorry, could I just jump in? Maybe I wasn't clear on the difference between a target versus a quota. For example, our previous witness commented that we need to shock the system and put an actual quota in, so that's a “must do”. Let's say in the case of aerospace or engineering, we must have 50%, versus a target that we should work towards 50%. Do you support the notion of having an actual quota that has to be 50%?

10:20 a.m.

Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive, and Senior Officer Responsible for Disclosure of Wrongdoing, Audit and Evaluation Branch, Canadian Space Agency

Dominique Breden

You are talking about a 50% quota. Clearly, if we were to establish a quota of 50%, which is very different from the workforce availability rates, it would be really tough to meet that quota.

It is our view that the current rules and process—based on achieving targets that reflect representation in the workforce—make it possible to recruit women and ensure equity.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you.

Ms. Southwood.

10:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Strategy and Partnerships, Engineers Canada

Jeanette Southwood

We believe that the challenge with quotas is that they can often reinforce that someone is only there because of a numerical requirement, which then ties into the perceptions of women in the workplace. We feel that going in the direction of quotas and the investment that would be required by the federal government in such a system might possibly be better spent on taking action to address hostile, uncivil, and undermining behaviours in the profession, or incorporating career management into the way that women, but also others who are under-represented in the economy, are supported.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you.

On May 15, a witness testified that there was a drop in participation in the STEM field by women between the ages of 29 and 34. The average child-bearing age of a women for their first child is 30. Do you see a correlation between the number of years necessary to gain experience to get to a position where there maybe are opportunities for leadership and—almost coinciding or crossing paths with—the prime child-rearing years now for women and their choices? And what kind of services or wraparound services can we as a federal government recommend for women to work to support them for re-entry?

I'll start with you, Ms. Southwood.

10:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Strategy and Partnerships, Engineers Canada

Jeanette Southwood

Thank you.

There is U.S. based research on exactly this topic, and the finding that you described is echoed in that research, which indicates that “women experience a perfect storm in their mid- to late 30s. They hit serious career hurdles at the same time that family pressures ratchet up.”

One of the recommendations of the report is that companies that step in with targeted support at this time—and they call it a “fight or flight moment”—may be able to lower the female attrition rate significantly.

So there is some great work that's been done in the U.S. that could certainly assist in our better understanding what the challenges are, how this results, and then what actions might need to take place, understanding that it is from the U.S. context and that the research we encouraged earlier regarding Canada would be better able to reflect the Canadian context.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Great.

I'm just going to jump in with another question to add to this for the other witnesses here.

The examples that we've been given by different witnesses have been the long waiting times for child care spaces, and that many people are having to put a request in a year in advance and they're paying for certain spaces, which is very, very expensive.

In the case of aerospace engineering or engineering in general, the opportunity for labour mobility.... In other fields that I can compare it to, labour mobility often will lead to opportunities for leadership. If women and men are limited by waiting for child care space and knowing that it's prime time, could that perhaps limit their labour mobility within your sectors?

10:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Strategy and Partnerships, Engineers Canada

Jeanette Southwood

I can start. Yes, it certain can. In fact, I remember even when I was a young mother, having that concern whether there would be a space and where the spaces were. I found it interesting, when I was a young person, a young engineer, thinking ahead and wondering what the situation would be like when my child was in university, when my child eventually became a parent himself. And it's very interesting that things, in that way, haven't really changed. So, yes, I would see it as a barrier, definitely.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Okay, thank you.

10:25 a.m.

Chief Financial Officer, Canadian Space Agency

Marie-Claude Guérard

At the Canadian Space Agency, we are fortunate to have a day care at work. The number of child care spaces has doubled in the past few years. That means that younger professionals can reserve a spot as soon as they join the agency, allowing them to build a network in the scientific community. I think management has taken steps to give employees that labour mobility you mention.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Is that common in the aerospace—

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Sorry, that's your time.

We're now going to Ms. Harder, for five minutes.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you very much.

Thank you for giving us your time here today and being willing to chat with us about your industry.

My first question is for Ms. Breden. You talked about quotas, and I like what you had to say, that if we impose quotas on women it could be disconcerting to women and how they perceive it. One of the things that I've noticed about quotas is that they are somewhat demeaning, because they say that a women didn't earn that position based on her merit or her ability or her education or what she has to offer. Rather, rather it feels as if it were a bit of a patronizing appointment, if you will. Is it possible that women could perhaps feel demeaned by a quota system?

10:30 a.m.

Chief Audit and Evaluation Executive, and Senior Officer Responsible for Disclosure of Wrongdoing, Audit and Evaluation Branch, Canadian Space Agency

Dominique Breden

As I mentioned earlier, quotas and hiring targets are not the same thing.

With hiring targets, the first thing we look for is skill. We have assessment criteria, a statement of merit criteria; in short, we define the requirements of the position very clearly. We use tools to assess candidates in a way that is fair to everyone. We want to make sure that, at the end of the staffing process, no one feels that they were treated unfairly, man or woman. For each staffing process, we rely on neutral assessment tools that allow for merit-based assessment.

Once the assessment is complete, the skills of the candidates being equal, preference is given to women if hiring targets have not been met. That way, people won't feel that candidates were selected because they were women.

The Canadian Space Agency ensures that it follows appropriate processes. Having worked there a number of years, I can say that I haven't heard people claim that certain individuals were hired because they were women. We are mindful of that, and our approach is well received and clearly laid out.

I think it all depends on the level of communication, whether with all staff members or throughout the staffing process, as well as afterwards, once the process is complete. Making sure to communicate the approach and information clearly is also key.

Does that answer your question?

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Yes, thank you very much.

My next question is for Ms. Southwood.

I believe that all of us around this table likely have the same goal, namely to protect the freedom of choice that women have within the marketplace, whether in the education they pursue, the job they pursue, or the career they enter into, or maybe even in leaving their career to raise a family, which is also a woman's choice.

In order to protect the freedom that a woman should enjoy, does it make sense that we would go toward a quota system wherein we would seek to put the same number of men and women in place, or would it be better to protect choice by going after the barriers that exist that prevent women from being able to access the education they desire, out of their choice, and the career advancement they desire within their freedom of choice as well?

Which one of these seems to make more sense to you: take down the barriers or impose quotas?

10:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Strategy and Partnerships, Engineers Canada

Jeanette Southwood

This echoes back to the need for research that I described earlier. We know that there are levers. There are barriers that women are facing in workplace culture. In the Canadian context, we're not exactly sure what those levers are. Are those levers, for example, removing the barriers? Yes, I would say we can firmly state that we need to remove those barriers, but what are the key barriers?

Regarding quotas, do we truly understand, when we are advocating or holding back from saying that quotas need to be put into place, the implications of that?

Our feeling is that the challenge around quotas is that going ahead with quotas without understanding the impact on workplace culture, if it's a hostile culture, could actually disadvantage those who are the product of the quota. However, if the research uncovers that a quota system, along with creating a better and more supportive workplace culture, is a key way to go forward, then that's very important to understand.

I would say that within the Canadian context, we don't sufficiently understand the situation yet.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Now we're going to Ms. Vandenbeld for five minutes.

May 18th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Thank you very much.

We've heard a lot in the committee and also today about the attraction, recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in STEM professions. One thing mentioned this morning by our witness was the re-entry. If a woman takes, say, two to three years or more for family reasons out of the workforce, we heard that educated women actually have a harder time getting back into the workforce.

I would like to hear from some of you, because we all know anecdotally. I heard, Ms. Southwood, what you said about the lack of Canadian-specific data, but have you perhaps seen, in your organizations, that women who leave for family reasons have difficulty getting back into it, even when they're actually seeking employment?