Post-Secondary Institutions Across Canada are Hiring More Female Faculty Members

The national average has risen to 40 per cent, while KPU has consistently stayed above 50 per cent

(Leah Rosehill)

According to an article by Times Higher Education, the number of female professors in post-secondary schools is higher than it has ever been, having risen by nine per cent over the last six years.

The data, gathered by Statistics Canada, says that women accounted for almost 40 per cent of full-time academic teaching staff at Canadian universities in 2016/17. This was largely the result of a 28.3 per cent increase in the total number of full-time professors and an 18.2 per cent increase in female associate professors since 2010/11. The findings also reveal that the salary gap between male and female educators is relatively narrow, with women in academia earning between 95.3 and 97.7 per cent of their male counterparts.

Abby Thorsell, Associate Vice President of Human Resources at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, says that—since the university started monitoring gender in 2014—more than 50 per cent of the its faculty members have been women.

“As a part of KPU’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, as also evidenced with our President’s support through [The President’s Diversity and Equity Committee], we strive to hire the most qualified candidates and best talent in support of student success,” wrote Thorsell in an email to The Runner.

While KPU’s commitment to gender diversity is apparent, Sarah Hickinbottom, a part-time faculty member in the school’s Educational Studies department, says that the 50/50 gender ratio is common amongst college and teaching institutions. Instead of focusing on university instructors, she would like to see what the balance is in research institutions, which she says harbour a greater imbalance among male and female professors.

“Research institutions are considered more prestigious and competitive, so women with PhDs, historically, have ended up at colleges, which have now become teaching universities in Canada,” says Hickinbottom. “That has often been seen as a marker of gender inequality.”

The article in Times Higher Education was based off of various university rankings across Canada. Romy Kozak, KPU Director of Diversity for The President’s Diversity and Equity Committee (PDEC), says that the statistics consider Canadian post-secondary institutions as a whole, including both research and teaching-intensive schools.

“Even if you’re specifically looking at faculty, it’s important to look at positions that involve teaching and those that involve research,” says Kozak. “I’d be more interested in hearing about what’s going on in research-intensive universities regarding gender equity.”

Katie Warfield, a faculty member in KPU’s Journalism and Communication department, has mixed feelings about the increase in female professors. As happy as she is to see more women teaching post-secondary classes, she still hopes to see more progress in the educational system.

“I think that the systems that are involved in getting more women … not just in academia, but in positions of seniority, require a lot of time,” says Warfield. “There needs to be a whole systemic change.”

Both Hickinbottom and Warfield agree that women leading college and university classes sends a positive message to students and provides young women in post-secondary education with someone to model themselves after.

“When women come into the classroom and [the students] see that their professor is a woman, it’s like a model for something that is possible,” says Warfield. “It speaks to some of these invisible affordances that enable younger people to feel like they can achieve that too.”

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