Evidence of meeting #75 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 men.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Imogen Coe  Professor, Dean, Faculty of Science, Ryerson University, As an Individual
Andrea Nalyzyty  Vice-President, Governance and Government Relations, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
Kasari Govender  Executive Director, West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund
Zahra Jimale  Director of Law Reform, West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund

11:20 a.m.

Prof. Imogen Coe

I'm familiar with a little about some of the things that go on in Scandinavian countries. They have been very intentional around things like shared parenting, extensive parental leave, and some cultural changes in terms of making society more equitable.

Interestingly, I would say that those changes have not been absorbed by the university sector in Scandinavia to the extent that they should have been.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

It's harder to be a teacher in Finland than it is to be a doctor because they wanted to change the culture in their country. They focused on the education system to do it, starting with kindergarten on through. That's how they've focused and have made a cultural change in 20 years. Specifically that's Finland, not Scandinavia as a whole but Finland.

I think that goes to the culture you're talking about. If you want to change the culture, you have to start at four years old and five years old.

11:20 a.m.

Prof. Imogen Coe

Yes, but they're still coming up in a culture all around them that says we value girls for the way they look, where Kim Kardashian is the most followed person on Instagram.

If we had a culture that said it doesn't matter whether you're male or female, and we raised four-year-olds in that culture, we would see people achieving their potential, not saying, “I don't look like anybody out there. I don't look like the pathway ahead of me.”

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

I agree.

I would agree with you, as well, that incentivization is a piece that can work at that level. However, if you want to change the culture, I think university is a little late.

11:20 a.m.

Prof. Imogen Coe

No. We're talking about the fact that society has to change. We have to get away from focusing on its being a problem with the kids. It's not a problem with the kids. It's a problem with us. It's a problem with media. It's a problem when you look at who is in power.

When I walked into this building coming from Toronto, I'll tell you right now, it's a very white building. That struck me right away. If somebody is here and they have an aspiration to go into politics, that's great. There are a lot of people who might look like my daughter and who have that aspiration. There are not a lot of people who look like probably 75% of my class.

We have to look to ourselves, and we have to shift the responsibility and accountability back on to the people who control the culture and the context.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

That's a long range, then.

11:25 a.m.

Prof. Imogen Coe

Money is a very powerful incentive.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Yes.

11:25 a.m.

Prof. Imogen Coe

I think we have to get away from.... It feels really good to support little kids in science. We all get warm and fuzzy around that, but that little kid in science will grow up, and 20 years from now she's going to be asking for venture capital. You know what? The same corporate leader who funds that science camp is not going to give her venture capital because she doesn't look like she can handle a start-up. That's the change. That's the cultural change.

Frank Vettese is the CEO and chief diversity officer of Deloitte. He has taken it upon himself to be the person responsible. He's an older white male—the stereotype—but he says, “It's my job to do that.” That's what we need to be doing.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Thank you.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

Thank you very much.

We'll now go to Ms. Malcolmson for seven minutes.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you for your testimony and your work. The themes you're hitting on line up with what we're hearing from the OECD, which has been evaluating Canada's record on gender parity, and particularly where it intersects with women's success in the economy.

We note the report from this year, which says, “While women earn more bachelor’s degrees than men in Canada, there are lower proportions of women in STEM fields and in doctoral studies. Canadian girls and women perform worse than their male peers in mathematics as teenagers, and these gaps become greater as they move into adulthood”. It very much reflects the testimony you're giving.

Eleven months ago, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women gave an assessment of Canada in relation to how much it has fulfilled its commitments to the UN around gender equality. I'm going to read you just a couple of their concerns and then their recommendations. This is the November 25, 2016, CEDAW report.

Under “Education”, the committee notes with concern—this is in 36(c)—“That women are still concentrated in traditionally female-dominated fields of study and career paths and are underrepresented in vocational training and in certain fields of higher education, such as mathematics, information technology and science”.

The committee recommends, in paragraph 37(b), that Canada “Strengthen its strategies to address discriminatory stereotypes and structural barriers that may deter girls from progressing beyond secondary education and enrolling in traditionally male-dominated fields of study, such as mathematics, information technology and science”.

In 39(b), UN CEDAW recommends that Canada “Adopt effective measures, including skills training and incentives for women to work in non-traditional professions, and temporary special measures to achieve substantive equality of women and men in the labour market and eliminate occupational segregation, both horizontal and vertical, in the public and private sectors, and adopt quotas to enhance the representation of women in managerial positions in companies”.

In paragraph 39(e) the recommendation is to “Take into account the needs of disadvantaged groups of women, especially indigenous, Afro-Canadian, migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women, as well as women with disabilities, and consider the use of targeted measures, including temporary special measures, to create further employment opportunities for women belonging to such groups”. That's the end of the quote.

That, to me, all sounds very consistent with the testimony that you're hearing in your work as a teacher, for the most part. Does anything stand out for you, as far as of the alignment with what you've seen in your study?

11:25 a.m.

Prof. Imogen Coe

There's a very good study that came out in 2014 that looked at STEM through a gender lens. It looked at who was responsible for increasing participation, at which level, and what things worked. It came out of the U.K. One of the things it identified as not working was targeted programs for girls. If you look at the data and the evidence, you see that doesn't seem to be as effective as people think it is, but it does make us all feel good.

There was a very recent study that came out of the U.S., George Washington University, just last month, that looked at young women in universities and their perceptions of efforts to say, “We want to encourage you to get into this discipline.” Their perceptions were that by continually describing it as a discipline that we're trying to get them into, it made it seem more like a masculine-defined discipline. It actually backfired.

If you look at a country like Estonia or Croatia or others in eastern Europe, there is nothing strange or unusual about girls doing physics or women being engineers. Again, it comes back to a culture that says, if you love physics, go do physics. You're good at math. There's some great OECD data. If you look at Ireland, which is about the same size, you see that participation rates in math are really small for girls. If you look at Estonia, which isn't that far away, about the same size, you see the participation rates for girls are really high. It's not geography. It's not size, or the educational systems. It's about the culture and context.

The mechanisms that need to be put in place are complex. They have to be based on data and evidence and good studies, which we have in other places, not so much in this country. We can derive leading practices from other places. They have to look at both the support system that you put in place for the under-represented group and.... Women are not a diversity group. Women are a half of the world, so why we're a designated group I don't know. We're a half of the world.

Shirley Malcolm of the AAAS, last week in Washington, asked why we have targeted interventions for the majority, because we have targeted interventions for women, we have targeted interventions for black youth, we have targeted interventions for first nations, we have targeted interventions for marginalized communities, and we have targeted interventions for LGBTQ. That's most of what we have, so why do we have targeted interventions for the majority when it's actually white, middle-class, gendered men who are the predominant...? That's not a problem with everybody else in STEM.

The reverse is the case in nursing. I have a son and a daughter, so it's important that I empower my daughter. As it is, I teach my son to be a feminist and respect women. We want men to be caring. We want men to be compassionate. I'm also a survivor of domestic violence. As a single parent, I had to take my kids when my husband threatened to kill me, so I also realize that we need men to learn how to respect strong women. We need to have more men in nursing, and it's the opposite problem. It's not because we need to fix them. We need to change a culture that says, “This is not what boys do.” Again, by six, boys start to stop playing with dolls because they get messages.

Creating opportunities for women to gain access to full-time employment means removing the barriers and the systemic discrimination that we recognize already for other groups, such as people with disabilities. We know that we can't have two places for people of colour and white people. We recognize those things.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

That's your time. Thank you very much.

We have Ms. Nassif for our last seven minutes.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I will share my time with my colleague Emmanuella.

Thank you to Ms. Coe for your presentation on this important topic.

Taking a quick look at the hEr VOLUTION website, I noticed that the organization's board, advisory committee, and youth committee are all made up exclusively of women.

Does that stem from the fact that women are able to easily understand what women go through and can serve as mentors to women in society, helping to build strategies to reach out to and work with these women? Conversely, are men simply not interested in being involved?

11:30 a.m.

Prof. Imogen Coe

That's a really good question, and I know hEr VOLUTION quite well. The intent is absolutely wonderful and very strong. I tell young women that you need to build your network, you need networks of strong, supportive women who can help you achieve your goals. But until we engage men in part of the conversation, until we have men come in and participate and we do that intentionally, we're not going to see cultural change.

Her Volution is, itself, evolving as an organization, and I think it's doing it really well. I think we will see that happen, but I always encourage. It's essential that we engage men in the conversation around gender equity. Michael Kaufman, who runs the White Ribbon campaign in Toronto, does a fantastic talk on toxic masculinity and why gender equity is good for men. I think we'll see change with Her Volution, but I recommend that we engage men, allies, champions. Everybody needs to be involved in this conversation.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

During the first part of this parliamentary session, the committee studied violence against young women and girls. One of the issues the study focused on was the engagement of men and boys.

Do you have the same problem? In other words, does the lack of involvement by men and boys represent a challenge?

11:35 a.m.

Prof. Imogen Coe

In Canada it's a huge challenge. We still have a culture, particularly in the university system, that is somewhat antiquated. When I look to my colleagues in Australia and the U.K., I see very engaged, very active male leaders in all sorts of professions and sectors who will step up and speak to these issues.

Australia has a great organization called Male Champions of Change. It's men, leaders of all the industries—mining, banks, Qantas—who say, “We get gender equity and we are going to meet four times a year”. They release reports. They just released a report on gender equity in STEM. They have come together as male leaders to say, “We are going to speak to this. We're going to promote it.” We don't have anything like that in Canada.

The presidents of the universities just finally came out with a statement. It was okay. It wasn't nearly as bold as it should have been, so that's an area where we have a lot of catching up to do in Canada. We really need to see men have courage because there's a lot of backlash. I've received a lot of backlash, and men who stand up and speak to this issue receive a lot of backlash. We have to move beyond that. We have to engage men in the conversation.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Yes, I know you mentioned that, but do you have other strategies you could propose to get men and boys more involved?

11:35 a.m.

Prof. Imogen Coe

We have to actively invite them. We have to find allies who will speak to them. I ask my colleagues, and they tell me, “No, I'm a white male. I'm the last person anyone wants to hear from.” I say, “No, actually, you need to stand up because men listen to men.” We have to have male leaders. The university presidents are a good group that could stand up and speak to these issues very boldly. In all of our events, anything that's funded federally should require gender equity. You could have everybody sign a charter or commit to something as we're going to see with the gender summit next week in Montreal.

Depending on your sector or area, there will be something that men in that sector, area, business, or industry can do. Look to leading practices in other parts of the world as to what people do. I would love to see a Male Champions of Change organization start in Canada. If Australia can do it—macho culture, resource extraction industry, big country, small population—surely.... Where are the bank leaders? Where are the mining leaders? Where are the leaders?

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Do you think immigrant women or those who did their STEM—science, technology, engineering, or mathematics—training abroad have a harder time finding jobs than their male counterparts?

11:35 a.m.

Prof. Imogen Coe

It's a really interesting question. I deal with a huge population of immigrants. I'm an immigrant. I don't look like what people think an immigrant is. Some of them are coming from places where the expectation of daughters is that they're going to be an engineer, the expectation of daughters is that they're going to be a pharmacist, so they often are very successful. If you look at graduation at Ryerson from engineering, you see there are a lot of young women from the Middle East or southeast Asia who are graduating because it's an expectation there.

It's less the gender or the place from where they have come and more the socio-economic sector. If you're a wealthy immigrant from a particular area, you're going to do well. You have a good education, and there's an expectation that as a young woman, you're going to be an engineer. But if you're from a lower socio-economic group from a particular area, you won't have had access to education.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

How much time do I have left?

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

That's your time, Eva.

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

October 31st, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

My first question here is with regard to shifting culture, and I think you're certainly bringing up a good point in terms of shifting culture. I like that you're approaching the fact that men have as much need to be engaged as of course women do. In fact, I would say men even have more of a role to play, perhaps, in terms of allowing the door to be open towards women and treating them fairly, equally, and equitably within STEM.

In terms of shifting culture, you're talking about the possibility of putting legislation in place and attaching money to it to see a policy shift. I can see some point to that, but I guess what I'm wondering, though, is at the end of the day, culture is largely a mindset. I believe that's the way that we're using that word in this context. If we're talking about a mindset, often in teaching, rubrics are used so that a concrete set of data are looked at in terms of grading or marking so that it's fair. Now, if we were to create a rubric to know how we're going to shift culture, if we were to put factors in place that we wanted to see changed or implemented in order to shift culture in this direction, what would those be? What would we be measuring?