One of the wonderful things about Canada is the rich range of granting programs offered through government granting agencies and councils to support research. Unfortunately, women are sorely under-represented among the recipients of many of the most prestigious awards. Take today’s news, for example, in which the Killam winners were announced with the headline, “Eight Research Leaders Garner 2011 Killam Research Fellowships”
Of the eight men who received these awards, two were in the humanities, five in the natural sciences, and one in the social sciences. The press release indicates that they were selected from 74 applications. Since the press release doesn’t seem to notice that their all-male roster warrants comment, it’s not clear what proportion of the 74 applicants were women.
Canada has a dismal track record on this, as we’ve already pointed out on this blog. The Canadian federal government faced a successful human rights challenge when its Canada Research Chair program lacked adequate representation of women. Subsequently, the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program awarded 19 chairs, all to men. An investigation and report ensued, discussed on this blog here, and recommended a number of ways of addressing the lack of women among the successful applicants. These include: “introducing a “rising stars” category, as well as one as for “established leaders,” a move that would change the aim of a program billed as a magnet for top talent. They also recommend broadening the areas of the search and introducing an “open” category. Limited time was also a factor, they say. With very short deadlines, the old boys’ network was more likely to play a role in who was considered. They also recommend a shorter list of nominees as women may be reluctant to take part in a nomination process in which the odds of success are around 50%.”
From the results, it doesn’t seem as if the Killam program made any attempt to address these issues. No doubt the successful recipients are worthy leaders in their fields. It’s just hard to believe that not a single woman deserves such a recognition this year. It’s disappointing, demoralizing, and frankly embarrassing to see no change on this front despite the attention this issue has generated of late. Implicit bias, anyone?