Canadian science takes steps towards improving gender equality

By: Sam Garnett

July 15, 2018

A big part of the Liberal government’s platform was to focus on gender equality in Canada. Two recent initiatives in the science sphere have been announced to this end: better diversity data at CIHR and consultation on implementing an Athena SWAN charter.

CIHR has announced that starting this year all new grant applicants will have to fill out a one-time short survey collecting data on a number of different “equity dimensions”. Science Minister Kirsty Duncan has also announced that she will be holding consultations on a Canadian version of Athena SWAN. Athena SWAN is an equality charter system focusing on women in science that rewards schools that hit certain targets.

We look forward to the results of the consultation and are pleased to see the government taking steps to collect more data to understand the current state of gender equality in Canada. However, initiatives like this and including AthenaSWAN have been criticized in the past for being ineffective at the cultural change necessary to achieve real equality in the workplace. Our SPECafe gender report touches on many of these areas where women/gender-non-conforming people may face cultural barriers in science, along with some potential solutions. We hope these initiatives are just the start.

Stay tuned for updates on how you might participate in the AthenSWAN consultations.