Monthly Archives: April 2014

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.

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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
http://www.copian.ca
Office 506.457.6900 # 107
Toll free 1.800.720.6253
Direct 506.444.4526

The Latest in Victim-Blaming

By: Kelsey Sunstrum

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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.