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Ottawa, June 10 (Canadian-Media): Federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan has prioritized gender equity in science and is investigating scientists employed by the federal government, media reports said.
Kristy Duncan. Image credit: Facebook page
"We know that diversity and research excellence go hand in hand," Duncan said. "We need different ideas, different perspectives."
Science-based departments in the federal government had been asked by Duncan to collect demographic data about their staff, Duncan had said in an interview.
42 percent of female federal scientists, engineers and researchers who responded to the survey by the union highlighted that gender bias was a a barrier in the career advancement and 27 percent believed that men were favoured in opportunities for leadership roles.
The survey was released in March by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which represents more than 15,000 federal scientists, engineers and researchers in 40 science-based departments and agencies.
But Duncan said that she was not going to rely on the union's own study.
"I think we have to know what the data is," she said.
Ian Stewart, the new head of the National Research Council (NRC) was then consulted by Duncan about the status of the stats.
The NRC had since completed the study but is asking for similar data from the deputy ministers of all other science-based departments.
Scientists at the NRC were one of two groups, the other group consisted of researchers many federal departments.
Data released from NRC group scientists suggested as having the lowest representation of women compared qualified women from its member database and from government science hiring competitions.
The analysis also found that the presence of women was diminishing compared to men occupying higher-level positions in science departments.
The analysis is part of a report about gender bias that also includes results from the voluntary survey, conducted online by Environics Research between May 29 and June 27, 2017.
Susan O'Donnell, a member of the PIPSC science advisory committee and lead author of the PIPSC report, said that union was happy the minister ha asked for further research.
"Because it's clearly an issue that's not going to get better until the government devotes the attention and resources to it."
With older scientists retiring, Duncan suggested that data about the makeup of the federal science workforce will also be important for planning for the future.
Gender equity is something Duncan, a former medical geographer who studied diseases like the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, has already shown she is passionate about.
Duncan considered encouraging universities to attract more female research chairs
"I need the data," she said of the survey. "Are women progressing through the ranks at the same rate as male colleagues or Indigenous people or people from minority backgrounds or persons with disabilities, and are they making equal pay?"
More recently, equity rules for the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program were implemented by Duncan.
"To the [science] community's credit, there are changes being made," she said.
The program aims to attract researchers from abroad with offers of either $350,000 or $1 million a year for seven years.