Debates of the Senate  
  2nd Session, 39th Parliament,Volume 144, Issue 40.
    Thursday, March 6, 2008
Labour Shortages- Participation of Women in the Workforce
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, March 8 is International Women's Day, and I draw to your attention the fact that the training and hiring of more women could alleviate critical labour shortages in the skilled trades and technologies, the physical and engineering sciences and in the faculties of Canadian universities.

Honourable senators, as you are aware, Canada has a critical shortage of skilled workers. It has been estimated that in the next two decades, 40 per cent of new jobs will be in the skilled trades and technologies. Women comprised only 3 per cent of the construction and 7 per cent of trades-related workforce in 2001. Similarly, only 11 per cent of engineers were women, and only 30 per cent of university faculty members were women. Clearly, an increased participation of women in these areas could alleviate current labour shortages and mitigate looming shortages caused by the retirement of the baby boom generation.

The Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology, CCWESTT, has developed partnerships to increase the training and employment of women in the trades and technologies. Currently, CCWESTT has focused on developing tools to strengthen the recruitment and retention of women by employers in four sectors: oil and gas, construction and trades, post-secondary institutions and information technology. These are the fields in which there is both a severe shortage of skilled workers and a marked under-utilization of women.

Honourable senators, for several years now, female students have outnumbered male students at the undergraduate level in Canadian universities, but men still greatly outnumber women in engineering, computer science and physics. Women do not, however, outnumber men at the faculty level in Canadian universities. In 2001, women comprised only 30 per cent of all full-time faculty, only 10 per cent of the engineering faculty and only 13 per cent of the mathematical and physical sciences faculty. It is expected that the retirement of faculty members who are part of the baby boom generation will create faculty shortages in the near future. Clearly, increasing the participation of women at the doctoral level of study, and ensuring that they remain on their professorial career path, especially in the engineering and physical sciences, will help fill the anticipated gaps in faculty numbers.

In its future plans, CCWESTT intends to establish a Canadian centre for women in science, engineering, trades and technologies. The centre would collect best practices before the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in these fields. CCWESTT, through its WinSETT project, addresses two critical national labour issues: first, the shortage of skilled labour in the trades and technologies; and second, the anticipated shortages of skilled researchers and university professors.