June 1, 2002

Rene Durocher

Letter to Editor, National Post

Canada researches chairs' gender

The Canada Research Chairs Program was designed to provide support to the brightest research minds, male and female, in Canadian universities. It is true that, to date, only 15% of Canada Research Chairs have been women, although 26% of the Canadian professoriate is composed of women. The gender composition of Canadian university faculties is complex, with some disciplines having far fewer women than others.

It is important to note the success rate of women in the program is essentially the same as that of men. The distortion is a result of the nominations that have been made. Proportionally, the universities nominate fewer female candidates than male. This gender gap exists and it has been documented.

The chairs program has always been and will continue to be about excellence. The very best researchers, from Canada or abroad, whether male or female, have been and will continue to be awarded the prestigious title of Canada Research Chair. It is reasonable to believe there are proportionately as many excellent women researchers available to be nominated as men.

The gap that exists must be addressed. In addition to commissioning its own gender-based analysis of the chairs program (available on our Web site at www.chairs.gc.ca), the chairs secretariat provides updated statistics by gender after each new cohort of Canada Research Chairs is named. We continue to urge the universities participating in the chairs program to reflect upon the significance of these numbers and, more importantly, we encourage them to develop a plan to address the situation.

René Durocher, executive director, Canada Research Chairs Program, Ottawa.

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