Debates of the Senate  
3rd Session, 40th Parliament,Volume 147, Issue 3.
  Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Question Period: Science and Technology

  Gender Parity

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last week, the Finance Minister released this government's budget, which included science, technology and research. Yesterday, we celebrated International Women's Day. Across our nation, there exists a major gender gap between men and women in the science, engineering and technology fields. This gap not only excludes women from achieving economic and social independence but is detrimental to a diverse work environment in these critical fields of innovation.

Research chairs and scientists in both the private and public sectors, as well as full-time tenured professors in said fields, are still predominantly male. In many European countries, women account for nearly 40 per cent of active scientists almost parity while in Canada women account for 20 per cent of active scientists. Canada is lagging behind the world not only in science innovation but also in the advancement of women in science.

Since the government has made significant budget commitments in science and technology for the upcoming years with regard to fostering greater research capabilities, can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell this house if the government has any concrete plans to help women scientists overcome persistent barriers and encourage their participation in science, engineering and technology research, or will women once again be ignored in these non-traditional science and technology fields?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for the question, which is similar to the question she asked previously.

As the honourable senator pointed out, the government has made significant contributions to science and technology. The government believes in the full participation of women in Canada's economic, social and democratic life.

Senator Dyck referred to the sciences. The situation with regard to various post-secondary education institutions attracting women into their science programs is perhaps not what we would like to see. Having said that, I think Senator Dyck will agree that there has been vast improvement in this area. One need only look at the enrolment in the various university medical schools to see that there are many women now entering scientific and medical fields.

The government has provided an incredible sum of money for science and technology. I am pleased that the reports on the budget from our universities and other post-secondary education institutions and the scientific community have been universally positive. Of course, it is to be hoped that the various universities and the various provincial governments, who are primarily responsible for education, will do everything possible to put forward initiatives to attract more women into the sciences, which I believe is happening.

As we have discussed, women have a wide range of career choices. We hope that they will consider the sciences as a career choice and that universities and other post-secondary education institutions will provide programs that will attract and keep women involved in their various science programs.