Author Archives: cfuwadvocacy

CFUW Grants Close to $1 Million in Scholarships and Bursaries for Women

Waterloo, June 20, 2014 – Close to $1 million in scholarships and bursaries was awarded by the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) Clubs across the country. Susan Murphy, National President of CFUW, announced that “This is an annual contribution Clubs make to demonstrate their commitment to the education of girls and women. We know that these scholarships and fellowship have an impact on thousands of lives every year.”

At the CFUW Annual General Meeting & Conference, being held in Waterloo, Ontario, Ms. Murphy praised the work of CFUW members. “This is an organization that believes in the education of girls and women. We consistently demonstrate our willingness to ensure that education is a possibility for our promising women.”

As well as the funds that are raised and distributed on a local basis, CFUW also last year gave $83,500 from their CFUW Charitable Trust for postgraduate funding for women, funding that is available to Canadian citizens or permanent residents studying in Canada and abroad. CFUW received 389 applications for these 15 fellowships and awards.

“We have made learning our priority. We believe in the power of education. We believe that an education is one of the most effective ways for women to achieve equality, maintain their voice, and understand and exercise their rights.” Murphy stated. “The need has never been greater for independent self-funded groups such as CFUW to be visible, with strong community based activities.”

Supporting education is only part of the mandate of our Clubs. Clubs across Canada hold hundreds of different fund raising events, sustain endowments and undertake hundreds of activities that keep members engaged in promoting and supporting their communities. As well, Clubs support women’s shelters, day cares, work with aboriginal women and advocate on important issues such as financial literacy for girls and women. Murphy said “We believe in Action, Advocacy and Education and the women of CFUW continue to show community, national and international leadership.”

CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization with over 100 CFUW Clubs, located in every province across Canada. Since its founding in 1919, CFUW has been working to improve the status of women, and to promote human rights, public education, social justice, and peace.


For more information, please contact:

Robin Jackson, Executive Director, Canadian Federation of University Women, 613-282-1758 or


University Women Concerned New Prostitution Legislation Continues to Criminalize Women

OTTAWA – June 5, 2014 – The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) is concerned that Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act will continue to punish and criminalize women for selling sex, and fails to address the social, economic and racial inequalities that push women into prostitution.

“While CFUW agrees with the aspects of the bill that focus on criminalizing the purchase of sex and targeting demand, we are concerned by the provisions that will make it illegal to sell sex in some public spaces”, said Susan Murphy, President of CFUW. “We agree with the government’s assessment that prostitution is harmful to women, but criminalizing them is not the answer”.

Since 2010, CFUW has supported the adoption of a legal framework similar to Sweden, where women are fully decriminalized and comprehensive exit services are provided. Sweden also has a more robust social safety net, which allows women to enjoy a higher degree of economic and social equality in comparison to women in Canada.

“Bill C-36 continues to treat prostitution as a public nuisance, and will likely replicate some of the safety issues that arose with the previous communication law struck down by the Supreme Court”, said Ms. Murphy. “Far too many women are forced into the sex trade as a result of poverty and inequality. The funding earmarked for exit services is laudable and a step in the right direction, but more is needed to address root causes”.

With the rising cost of post-secondary education and students having difficulty finding summer jobs, even some young women are turning to prostitution using the internet to pay for their university and college education. CFUW finds it egregious that the Government of Canada would criminalize these young women trying to make ends meet. Instead the government should address rising tuition fees and improve access to decent jobs for young people.

CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization with over 100 CFUW Clubs, located in every province across Canada. Since its founding in 1919, CFUW has been working to improve the status of women, and to promote human rights, public education, social justice, and peace.


For more information, contact: Robin Jackson, Executive Director, Canadian Federation of University Women, 613-234-8252, ext. 102,

University Women Call for Increased Access to Education for Girls and Women in Detention and Prison

OTTAWA – June 1, 2014 – Women and girls in detention and in prison generally have little education, are poor and have low employment prospects, say the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), based in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) on the occasion of IFUW Day on June 1st. IFUW and CFUWcall for increased education programs, including financial, health, human rights, information technology (IT) and language literacy training. Such programs for incarcerated girls and women would help upgrade their skills and improve their employability. “Education has the power to break the link between crime, poverty and poor employment skills”, says Susan Murphy, President of the Canadian Federation of University Women.

Women are most often imprisoned for activities carried out for economic purposes such as theft and fraud. Approximately 80% of women who are federally incarcerated in Canada were unemployed at the time of admission, and have lower than average education levels. For instance, an estimated 50% of incarcerated women have less than grade 9 education, and 40% are considered functionally illiterate. Aboriginal women and other women with multiple barriers such as poverty, mental or intellectual disabilities, addictions, and histories of trauma are over-represented in the female prison population.[1]

“Secondary and tertiary education for girls and women can provide them an alternative source of income to crimes of poverty,” said IFUW President Catherine Bell. “It has been proven that girls and women who are trained in prisons and detention have lower recidivism rates.”

While prisons in Canada offer education to grade ten levels and/or General Educational Development (GED), vocational training and post-secondary education[2] some of the barriers for women to succeed include a lack of qualified instructors and lack of continuity between prisons if they are transferred. Very few vocational education programs in prisons qualify as viable entry requirements for accredited positions outside of prison. Correspondence programs for university level courses are also expensive and difficult to complete because they often lack enabling study space, equipment and access to adequate academic research.[3] Eliminating these barriers to educational success, will go a long way to paving the way to a life without crime for these women.

CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization with over 100 CFUW Clubs, located in every province across Canada. Since its founding in 1919, CFUW has been working to improve the status of women, and to promote human rights, public education, social justice, and peace. It is the largest affiliate of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), located in Geneva Switzerland, the leading girls’ and women’s global organisation run by and for women, advocating for women’s rights, equality and empowerment through access to quality education and training up to the highest levels. CFUW and IFUW hold special consultative status with ECOSOC and maintain official relations with UNESCO.


For more information please contact:

Robin Jackson, T: 613-234-8252, ext. 102; Email:

Nina Joyce, T: +41 22 731 23 80; Email:


[1]CAEFA. (n.d.) Criminalized and Imprisoned Women. Retrieved from:

[2]Corrections Services Canada. (2011). Education and Employment Programs.

[3]CAEFA. (n.d.). Areas of Advocacy, Educational and Vocational Areas. Retrieved from:

Gender Differences in Academic Pursuits and Career Outcomes

By: Kelsey Sunstrum

Soon students across Canada will be accepting offers of admission to universities, colleges and trade schools. Young women are considering their futures carefully, making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.

How young women are guided towards their futures influences these important choices. In the October 2013 issue, American Cosmopolitan included an article about women and postsecondary education. While it seems positive that women’s magazines are offering more in-depth, relevant advice, this article takes a different direction.

The article, entitled “Working the Ratio” focuses almost exclusively on how to choose the best school (or city, or profession) to find a mate. It is saddening that despite women’s enormous contributions to academia, their participation is downplayed. Instead, women are assumed to be more preoccupied with their chances of romantic, not academic, success. This messaging perpetuates the gender divide still present in post-secondary institutions, particularly in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, at the graduate and doctorate levels, and in faculty.

Educational Attainment

Women have made tremendous gains in terms of educational attainment, and certainly have much to celebrate. Currently, in both Canada and the United States, young women outnumber young men at the undergraduate level. There are also higher percentages of women (28%) in tertiary-type B institutions, which includes community college, nursing certificates, and university degrees below Bachelors.

However, women remain less likely to pursue education in traditionally male-dominated fields such as STEM, as well as the trades. While advances for women have been made in the Natural Sciences and Engineering (NSE) fields, the proportion of women was still only at 37% at the undergraduate level in 2008-2009, with their participation dropping further at the graduate level.  The decrease of women’s enrolment in the STEM areas at higher levels is described as the ‘leaky pipeline.’ This trend worsens the problem of women’s under-representation in academia and research in these fields.

The most recent National Household survey in 2011 puts women’s representation in all STEM fields at 39%. However, women are mostly concentrated in science (e.g. biology) and technology, according to the survey.

Tuition Fees

While attaining a degree certainly increases a young woman’s earning potential over a life time, more and more young women are taking on debt to do so. Young women for instance have higher take-up of the Canada Student Loans Program, and are more likely than men to take upward of a decade to repay these debts. This not only affects the overall “price tag” of a degree (i.e. higher compound interest), it also has an impact on the disposable income of young women, and the likelihood of owning a home, having savings and/or investments.

Women from minority backgrounds encounter further challenges in this regard. Tuition fees represent a higher percentage of income for racialized women (21%) compared to 17% of non-racilaized women’s pay, and just 11% of the average income of a non-racialized man.

Immigrants are also much more likely to seek assistance in the form of loans (45%), while only 31% of non-immigrants seek financial aid to pay their tuition fees.

With the rising cost of post-secondary education, we can only expect these gendered and racialized impacts of student debt to become more pronounced.

Each year CFUW administers more than $1 million in scholarships and bursaries to young women to help reduce the financial burden of post-secondary education, while continuing to advocate for lower tuition fees.


Women continue to work in highly “feminized” fields, including in the education and health sectors. According to the latest statistics from the NHS, the two most popular professions for women today are teachers and nurses; the same as in the early 1990’s. The statistics also show that women remain overly represented in clerical and administrative roles.  Not surprisingly  women still comprise a mere 22% of the NSE labour force, and remain under-represented in the skilled trades. In each of the top five male-dominated trades – construction, precision production, transportation and materials moving, and engineering technology – women made up equal to or less than 10% of the workforce.

A number of factors are responsible for this lack representation. Girls and women are pushed towards other fields and not given adequate information about less “traditional” career paths. In the same vein, as evidence demonstrates that women are less likely to move to leadership positions, young girls do not often see female role models in these careers. Furthermore, sexist institutional practices and barriers to a satisfactory work-life balance deter women from more non-traditional pathways.

In academia, women constitute only 22% of full-time professors teaching at Canadian universities, while only 16 out of 95 University Presidents are women. Female faculty members in NSE disciplines are not surprisingly, relatively uncommon. Of full-time NSE professors, women comprise 12.2% of the group, while there are 27.8% of women employed as assistant professors. Women are also more visible towards the lower academic ranks.

An important element of any individual’s career in academia is the number of publications to their name. Women are less likely to author published works in all academic niches. The numbers are lowest in the fields of Mathematics, Operations Research, Economics, Philosophy, and Law.

Women on the tenure track in academia often must adjust their life plans to achieve their career goals. In 2004, Mason and Goulden found that women aiming for tenure are more likely to have children between the ages of 36 to 40 whereas men on the same path generally had their children between the age of 22 and 36. This indicates that women are more often waiting to begin a family because of the constraints of a difficult work-life balance.

Pay Gap

The discrepancy between the pay given to men and women in similar professions is persistent, and slow to change. As of 1998, women with tertiary education (college or university degrees) made only 61% the earnings of their male counterparts. A decade later, this number has increased only slightly to 63%.

One explanation for this difference is that women are more likely to occupy lower-paying positions and/or work part-time hours while they are less likely to secure permanent employment. In many careers, women are less likely to advance to leadership positions, which are generally higher-paying.

There is good news, too, thankfully. In 2005, women entering the workforce with higher levels of education (defined as a post-graduate or doctorate degree) made very close to men with the same level of education at 96% of their earnings.

The pay discrepancy between women and men in the academic setting is also much narrower than other fields, although women are still commonly earning less than their male colleagues. Full-time female professors earned 95.1% of the earnings gained by male full-time professors; associate professors at 97.2%; and assistant professors at 98%.


Unfortunately, there is no “silver bullet” that can address ongoing employment and pay inequities. However, governments, academic institutions and other employers can be more pro-active.

For instance, cross-country studies conducted by the OECD and others have found that subsidized child care boosts women’s participation in the work force across fields. Among industrialized countries Canada currently has one of the lowest child care access rates and invests significantly less in child care than most OECD countries.

Institutions also need to change their policies to enable women to achieve a better work-life balance and reach their academic and career goals without sacrificing their personal aspirations, such as having children.

In addition to a federally funded Universal Early Learning and Child Care program, institutions could also establish new, creative options to alleviate the unpaid care workload in women’s lives. Some examples include integrating employment benefits that offer child care and/or elder care. To attain greater female representation in traditionally male fields or non-traditional career paths, CFUW has proposed a national strategy to encourage women to pursue these pathways and to address employment inequities. This would involve collaborating with the different levels of government, as well as business, labour, and other stakeholders to remove barriers and develop workplace practices that are more inclusive of women and considerate of their needs.

Pro-active pay equity legislation could also help close the pay gap between women and men. A Pay Equity Taskforce made this recommendation, among several others, in 2004; however it has never been implemented.

Addressing student debt is also extremely important, especially as tuition fees continue to increase in most parts of the country. Federal, provincial and territorial governments ought to work together to re-evaluate the post-secondary education system, including working to reduce or entirely eliminate tuition fees. In the meantime, organizations like CFUW are working hard to raise funds for scholarships and bursaries to help reduce the financial burden for women. While there has certainly been a lot of progress for women in academia and all corners of the workforce, we can and should be doing more to ensure that all women can fully realize their potential and are compensated equitably. It is imperative that Canada’s public and private sectors take steps to offer women the same opportunities and advantages in their school and career paths while recognizing that this may require a modification of current policies and practices.

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.

- 30 -

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.