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.