Author Archives: cfuwadvocacy

Reflections on Recruiting and Retaining More Women in “Non-Traditional” Occupations

On Tuesday, March 25, 2014, CFUW participated in a forum on Best Practices for Supporting Women in Non-Traditional Sectors, which involved an array of speakers and organizations sharing their programs and initiatives to engage women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and trades (STET). The forum was held by Status of Women Canada and the Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada.

Speakers included:

  • Zoe Yujnovich, the first female Chair of the Mining Association of Canada
  • Chanel Grenaway, Director of Economic Development Programs at the Canadian Women’s Foundation
  • Marie Dumontier, Forestry Products Association of Canada
  • Jane Wilson, Director of Women Services and Resource Development at Microskills Development Centre
  • Sheelagh Lawrance, Manager of Community Investment at Hydro One
  • Dr. Catherine Mavriplis, NSERC/Pratt & Whitney Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering
  • Dr. Maragret-Ann Armour, President of the Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology
  • Lally Rementilla, Information Technology Association of Canada
  • Vanessa Anastasopoulos and Nimita Wadhwa, Canadian Space Agency
  • Heather Ednie, Women in Mining Canada
  • Kelly Lamontagne, Temiskaming Native Women’s Support Group, Aboriginal Women in Mining Program
  • Tracy O’Hearn, Executive Director of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada
  • Sarah Roach-Lewis, Executive Director of Women’s Network PEI
  • Brenda Gilmore, Program Manager for the School of Trades and Apprenticeships at Conestoga College

Some speakers lamented the slow progress that has been made in recruiting and retaining more women in STET fields over the last few decades; women still represent less than 25% of professionals on average, and even fewer women hold leadership positions, particularly at the board level. In some industries, such as mining and forestry, women’s participation is as low as 16% and 15% percent.

Many remarked that bringing more women into these fields would be a “competitive advantage” for companies, and help address current skilled labour shortages particularly in fast growing industries. A few speakers commented on the need for companies to set measurable targets and integrate diversity initiatives, including gender, into their strategic plans. Buy-in from leadership at the highest levels they said, is very important to success.

Some speakers also spoke about the fact that even though girls are doing well in sciences and math at the high school level, many are not choosing to continue their education in those fields. According to one speaker, the transition between high school and post-secondary education needs to be a focal point, and some of the panelists spoke about the need to change the “image” of industries in general, by demonstrating the social value/usefulness of STET careers to girls and women.

Others commented on how developing programs specifically for women, particularly living on low-incomes, can have a positive impact on their economic security, the caveat being, that support is required for 3-5 years to help women transition, and long term funding is hard to come by.

There was some, but little discussion about the subtle and overt biases that women experience in some of these industries, including negative career and gender stereotyping, sexual harassment, and lack of flexible work options that can lead to workplace cultures that are not inclusive of women and hamper their participation in these fields.

In 2012, CFUW’s membership supported a policy resolution urging the Government of Canada to take a leadership role to remedy women’s underrepresentation in “non-traditional” occupations by working in partnership with provincial and territorial governments, along with business, labour, and industry stakeholders to develop and implement a national strategy that seeks to create workplace cultures that are inclusive of women and addresses the barriers to their successful entry and advancement in the skilled trades and other non-traditional occupations. We believe that a national strategy should include, but not be limited to:

  • Identifying and providing the necessary supports to encourage women to enter and remain in non-traditional fields throughout their education, training and careers;
  • Encouraging behavioural/cultural change within workplaces, driven by industry leaders including trade and business associations;
  • Encouraging all employers to review their HR policies to identify and address any systemic barriers to the employment and retention of women, including altering workplace policies, if necessary, to create more inclusive, welcoming environments (e.g. ensuring “family friendly” and pay equity policies are in place);
  • Encouraging educational institutions and related stakeholders to identify and address barriers for girls and women in non-traditional fields of study;
  • Developing mechanisms to support the implementation of these policies; and
  • Providing sustainable funding to ensure implementation.

The lack of affordable child care across most of the country is also a barrier to women’s participation in all industries, but particularly many of these “non-traditional” sectors and fields, where work schedules can deviate from the norm. CFUW has long supported the need for a nationally regulated, affordable, child care program, which we believe would also help support women’s participation in non-traditional sectors.

What can you do? CFUW has resources on our website to help you get in touch with elected representatives at the federal and provincial level to urge them to enact a national strategy to recruit and retain more women in skilled trades and non-traditional occupations.

All across Canada, people are celebrating Adult Learners’ Week!

Joint Press_ALW-2014Fredericton, March 25, 2014 – Adult Learners’ Week (ALW) is being observed this year from March 29 to April 6 and championed by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCU) with support from some of Canada’s leading lifelong learning organizations including Copian: Connecting Canadians in Learning, Réseau pour le développement de l’alphabétisme et des compétences (RESDAC), the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network (CLLN), CAPLA and the Canadian Federation of University Women.

Across Canada, organizations are busy promoting lifelong and life-wide learning and encouraging Canadians to participate in this year’s themes that address the concepts of participation, inclusion, equity and quality in adult learning. Many slogans are being used including I’m still learning, How about you? Where do you learn? and 1001 Ways to Learn.

ALW celebrates all kinds of training, whether it aims to enhance professional skills, employability or personal development. It’s important to remember that informal learning happens everywhere and ALW gives us an occasion to reflect on the importance of learning, wherever and however it happens.

Adult Learners’ Week in Canada provides an occasion to reflect on the future of adult education and training, as well as on recognition of prior learning (RPL). According to the Organisation for

Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), skills are the new global currency. To stay competitive in the new economy, all of us – governments, employers and employees alike – need to make investing in skills development a priority.

For information on what is taking place during ALW, visit the following online centres: COPIAN, CCU, SQAF, and the joint RESDAC/CLLN/COPIAN Facebook page dedicated to ALW. Do not hesitate to jump in and promote ALW. Tools and resources are available for you to use.
Have a happy Adult Learners’ Week.

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For more information:
Marie-Claire Pître
Research and Communications Officer
Copian: Connecting Canadians in Learning
Office 506.457.6900 # 107
Toll free 1.800.720.6253
Direct 506.444.4526

The Latest in Victim-Blaming

By: Kelsey Sunstrum


This coming Thursday is the International Day Against Victim-Blaming (IDAVB). IDAVB marks the first SlutWalk in Toronto, on April 3, 2011, which was organized in response to a representative of the Toronto Police insisting “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”. The SlutWalk movement quickly spread to cities and communities around the world to fight against victim-blaming as a pervasive experience of sexual violence.

According to The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, victim-blaming is when the victim of a crime or unwanted action is held responsible for said crime or action either completely or partially. Individuals who blame the victim are likely to do so because they hold misconceptions about the situation, or do not completely understand what the victim is enduring. Victim-blaming is harmful because it perpetuates problematic attitudes that impede change and can also make it difficult for survivors to cope.

Victim-blaming is particularly pervasive in cases of sexual violence. Women and girls who experience sexual violence are commonly questioned about or criticized for what clothing they wore, how much they had to drink, their sexual histories, general demeanour (e.g. was she being a flirt or a “tease”?) and other behaviour. Harmful victim-blaming attitudes range from the extremes of “she deserved it” or “invited it”, to “she could have prevented it, if only she had or hadn’t done ‘x’”.

Daisy Coleman of Maryville, Missouri is one example of the detrimental effects of victim-blaming. Last January, the 14-year-old was raped by a high school football player and left in her front yard in the middle of the night. Though evidence such as a cell phone video of the assault apparently have not proven the boy’s guilt and charges against him have been dropped.

After her attack, Coleman reported her rape to her family and the authorities. From this point, she was socially ostracized by her peers. She was called a ‘skank’ and a liar. She was suspended from the cheerleading team because of her ‘involvement’ in the incident. Her classmates urged her to commit suicide, and on two occasions, she tried to follow their advice. Today, Daisy continues to bravely speak out to bring awareness to not only her own case, but to the fact that many other girls and women are in situations just like her.

Many messages and products are geared towards not so subtly telling women and girls they need to take responsibility for avoiding rape and other forms of sexual assault. Some examples include:

  • “Don’t walk alone at night”
  • “Don’t dress too sexy”
  • “Know how to defend yourself” (i.e. take a self defence course)
  • “Carry pepper-spray or a whistle”

One of the latest additions that contribute to this narrative, are the creation of anti-rape garments, by the company AR Wear and touted as one solution to protect women from rape and sexual assault. AR Wear has fashioned underwear, shorts, and yoga pants designed to be completely resistant to cutting and tearing. They even managed to raise $50,000 on the crowd-funding website, Indiegogo.

The products were developed by two women who believe that the pesky garments could cause delays for the attacker, which could hopefully offer more time for bystanders to notice and respond or for the woman to escape.

While the clothing may work in those ways, it is concerning that yet another product is shifting responsibility for preventing rape on to women. A more proactive approach may have been to use the money they raised through Indiegogo to fund research on rape and gender violence, or programs designed to address misguided societal attitudes towards women, gender roles, and sexual violence.

This comes amidst other questionable messages disseminated in the media as of late. This past June, Dr. Ken Flegel wrote an editorial for the Canadian Medical Association Journal expressing his belief that alcoholic beverages should bear a warning to young girls about the hazardous effects it could have on them. One of the hazards he cites is unwanted sex. This is in response to alcohol companies targeting younger and younger audiences, particularly girls, in their advertisements. Other, perhaps more effective alternatives could be stronger regulations for advertisers, and educating men and boys about consent and respectful treatment of women and girls, intoxicated or otherwise. A good example, of the latter is the “don’t be that guy” campaign.

Jezebel’s response to Dr. Flegel is right on point. They argue that warning labels would be yet another way of blaming victims, and what would they say? Probably not this:

“WARNING: drinking too much, as a young women, may result in someone sexually assaulting you because they feel entitled to your body. It may also cause authorities to not take your case seriously when you attempt to get help or take legal action. It may furthermore cause your peers to blame you for your own attack and then re-victimize you. Also, please be careful about your liver.”

Until society can face the facts that woman are not to blame for violence committed against them and take the steps to remedy why this is the case, rape and gender violence will continue to be a threat to women. Victim-blaming is harmful and counterproductive, so lets stand in support with women and girls today and every day and press for solutions that address the root causes of sexual violence, instead of slapping warning labels of alcoholic beverage and encouraging women to wear modern day chastity belts.

Political Leadership Needed to End Violence against Indigenous Women Says CFUW on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Today on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CFUW calls on political leaders in Canada to intensify efforts to end violence against First Nations, Métis and Inuit women and girls in Canada.

Ending racial discrimination and violence against indigenous women and girls must be a shared responsibility of government institutions, political leaders, grassroots organizations and citizens. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights chose the theme “The Role of Leaders in Combatting Racism and Racial Discrimination” this year to highlight the key role that leaders must play in mobilizing political will.

Tragedies such as the recent homicide of Loretta Saunders, and the growing number of missing and murders indigenous women clearly point to the need for transformative solutions that address the root causes of violence.

Like other organizations, CFUW hoped that the Special Committee on Violence against Indigenous women, convened by the House of Commons, would illuminate such solutions. Unfortunately, the recommendations offered in the Committee report released on March 8, 2014 fall significantly short of what was expected, and received broad criticism from indigenous and human rights organizations for merely “staying the course” on current government initiatives.

The special committee report did not indicate that the Government of Canada is willing to initiate a public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, or develop a national action plan to address violence, which the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations maintain are steps that must be urgently taken.

The United Nations has also criticized Canada repeatedly for its underwhelming response to violence against Indigenous women and girls. In 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued recommendations in its Concluding Observations (pp.8-13) to Canada’s Nineteenth and Twentieth Reports of Canada on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples urged Canada in the fall of 2013 to initiate a Public Inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and Canada’s 2nd Universal Periodic Review of its Human Rights obligations culminated in calls from multiple countries to initiate a public inquiry and develop a comprehensive national action plan on violence against women and girls, with a particular focus on indigenous women and girls. The report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review can be accessed here.

The violence indigenous women and girls experience in this country is connected to the broader discrimination that First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada continue to face. In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) issued 440 recommendations calling for sweeping changes to the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and governments in Canada. Today, the majority of these recommendations have yet to be implemented.

It is clear that current approaches are not working, and Canada needs our political leaders to step up to the plate today and every day to implement and build on the recommendations from the RCAP, UN and Indigenous leaders to end discrimination and violence against indigenous women and girls.

UNCSW 58: Perspectives on Technology, Safety, and Violence Against Women and Girls

By: Alice Medcof, CFUW Delegate at the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

I attended the parallel event “Perspectives on Technology, Safety, and Violence Against Women and Girls”, conducted by the Director of National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), who works closely with the creators of Facebook and is an expert in internet technology.

At the session, participants were told about Spyware, which can be loaded onto anyone’s computer or handheld device without the owner knowing.  For example, if an estranged husband has been ordered to stay away from his children the following can happen: the husband can download a spying application onto her phone without her knowing, read all emails and texts, listen in to all conversations, search her device’s calendar, etc, and then leave her a message saying “I know what you are doing today.” …..and you can imagine the rest….

NNEDV trains police officers, lawyers, judges, politicians when invited to do so.  This programme is based in the United States and has affiliates in Australia, United Kingdom and elsewhere.  It has also done work in Canada.

For more information see the website

CFUW at the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

Susan Murphy, CFUW President

Today is day 4 of the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and most of CFUW’s 14 delegates have now been in New York since Saturday for the occasion.  For many in our group it is a new experience, and a very confusing one. What is a parallel session? How about a side event? What really happens here at the UNCSW?

I have not been here for long, but during my first trip to UNCSW last year I was so fortunate to room with Mary Scott, a Past President of the University Women’s Club Winnipeg, and the representative for the National Council of Women Canada (NCWC) who has been attending for a number of years and is very knowledgeable.  Mary is very generous in sharing her knowledge and I soaked up as much as I could.

This year’s priority theme of the session is the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the  Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls, that are coming up on fifteen years; eight goals were announced in 2000 with high expectations of alleviating poverty by focusing on these MDGs.

Faith and BlaisTo kick off an exciting two weeks, CFUW was pleased to attend the reception at the permanent Canadian Mission to the United Nations on March 10th. This gave some of our delegates the opportunity to meet other NGOs from Canada, as well as the official Canadian Delegation, including Minister Blais, Status of Women, New Bruinswick, pictured here with Faith Matchett of CFUW Moncton. The Minister of Status of Women Canada, Kellie Leitch was the guest speaker and Irwin Kotler MP from Montreal and human rights activist attended. Some of our delegates were able to sneak a photo with the Minister.

CFUW with Minister LeitchThese two weeks are devoted to conversation circles, panel discussions, presentations, official statements and negotiations on Agreed Conclusions focused on the priority theme that governments can support. Today the formal negotiations begin on the Agreed Conclusions among Member State negotiators, and CFUW with NCWC, has offered a second set of suggestions on priorities this morning to Status of Women Canada. I will attend the European/North American Caucus this afternoon, where the draft Agreed Conclusions will be a topic of discussion.

Hally and LeliaYesterday was CFUW’s and WG-USA’s joint parallel session entitled Universal Primary Education by 2020: In Peril for Girls? Hally Siddons and Leila Metcalf (r) are pictured here just before the session and the second photo of Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs and her assistant responding to a question. They were joined by a woman from UNICEF and one from the Permanent Mission at the UN. It was an excellent workshop, one that CFUW can be proud of.

Minister Fawzia

The Deputy Minister of Womens Affairs Fawzia Habibi and her assistant as she responds to questions from the audience about the coordination that her Ministry provides in Afghanistan to all other Ministries regarding women and girls.

So far this has been a very interesting and exciting, as we meet women from all over the world. The other evening I met a woman from Kabul University in Afghanistan who knows both Dr. Simar and Nasima by chance, as I spoke to another new friend from San Francisco who belongs to Women Graduates-USA and is very involved with making cities CEDAW friendly….not the right term…but better for women and girls.  I will check this out more when I get home.

I am really happy to be working with our colleagues from IFUW while we are here – all for a good cause. The IFUW group has delegates from England and Wales, WG-USA, Nigeria, Finland, Australia, NZ, Bulgaria, and Rwanda.  Such different perspectives and all so interesting and committed. 

UN women ED

Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, speaks to the important role of men and boys in the rights and equality of women.

Shaila Mistry from WG-USA and Susan Murphy, CFUW President, on Wednesday morning at the briefing by UN Women.  Shaila is part of our delegation and a long standing participant at CSW.

Shaila Mistry from WG-USA and Susan Murphy, CFUW President, on Wednesday morning at the briefing by UN Women. Shaila is part of our delegation and a long standing participant at CSW.










If you’re not a member of CFUW’s Facebook group yet, make sure you join to get updates from UNCSW in real-time. We will also be compiling a newsletter when we return from UNCSW, so keep an eye out for that!

Susan Murphy, President of CFUW

Fun and Games on IWD 2014

Mary Butterill

Editor, CFUW-Ottawa Capital Carillon

facebook bannerOn Saturday evening, March 8, 2014, over 300 people (mainly women of all ages, some men and a few children) attended the 6th annual International Women’s Day event held in the auditorium and foyer of Library and Archives Canada at 395 Wellington. With a theme inspired by The Hunger Games books and movies, the free and fun event was co-hosted by CBC’s Lucy van Oldenbarneveld (in English) and WUSC’s Alexandra Baril (in French). It featured a Feminist Activism Fair, a short cross-country video of feminist champions, a “What the F!” skit to review the feminist year, and the 2014 Femmy Awards. Claudette Commanda (Executive Director of The First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres and part-time professor at the Institute of Women’s Studies and the Aboriginal Studies Program at the University of Ottawa)gave the traditional opening and welcomed guests to the unceded Algonquin territory. As well as free child care, the event generously offered a wide array of delicious sweet and savoury refreshments (some provided by Thyme & Again), beverages, and a cash bar.  Music was provided by DJ Jas Nasty and DJ Daisy.

CFUW (National) partnered with Amnesty International Canada, Inter Pares, Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), Oxfam Canada, Planned Parenthood Ottawa, Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), and World University Service of Canada (WUSC) toorganize the event. Additional sponsors included the CBC, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), MATCH International Women’s Fund, Nobel Women’s Initiative, and Suzy Q Donuts.

The 2014 Femmy Awards honoured four local individuals and one organization for their contributions to women’s equality: Dillon Black, Marian De Vries, Denise Jessica Freedman, Hollaback! Ottawa, and Diane McIntyre.

IWD 2014 at LAC 03 (4)

Janice, CFUW Member Services, Tara, CFUW Advocacy Coordinator, and Nancy DeVillers, CFUW Ottawa President

CFUW-Ottawa members Mary Butterill, Nancy DeVillers, and Charlotte Rigby helped Tara Fischer, CFUW Advocacy Coordinator, and Janice Pillon, CFUW Membership Services, at the Feminist Activism Fair, answering questions, taking photos, and handing out promotional material. New at the Fair this year was a concerted effort by participating organizations to engage with attendees on feminist issues. In keeping, CFUW highlighted and encouraged dialogue on publicly funded child care. Child care outside the home became an issue in Canada in the 1960s. The 1970 Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommended a public program to encourage greater gender equality. Since 1972, CFUW has adopted several policies in support of affordable, accessible, quality child care and early learning.  Proponents of publicly funded child care such as Quebec’s seven-dollar-a-day program, claim that the resultant increase of women in the work force increases the income and consumption taxes collected in government coffers and strengthens the economy.  As well, studies indicate improved educational, health, and social outcomes for children in such programs.