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CAUT Bulletin Archives

April 2005

Federal Report Paints a Mixed Picture of Women's Progress

A study released by Statistics Canada in February shows that female professors have made strong gains in closing the gender gap at Canada's universities in the past decade, but still have a long way to go.

The new analysis of faculty data - The Rising Profile of Women Academics - notes a 50 per cent increase in the number of women working as full-time university teachers between 1990 and 2003. Overall, the report shows women accounted for 30 per cent of all full-time academics in the 2002-2003 academic year - up from 20 per cent a decade ago.

Women also made gains in tenure status. Women now represent 26 per cent of all tenured faculty, up from 14 per cent in 1990.

While the gains appear impressive, the numbers fall short when compared to the rest of the workforce, where women account for nearly 49 per cent of positions in business and finance, 52 per cent in medicine and dentistry, 60 per cent in social sciences and religion and 63 per cent in teaching.

CAUT president Loretta Czernis says the report paints a mixed picture of the progress made by women in the academic world because of the small numbers of female faculty in certain non-traditional disciplines.

"The vast majority of women remain clustered in disciplines like nursing, humanities and education," Czernis said. "Only 13 per cent of all full-time faculty teaching mathematics are women and women make up just 10 per cent of faculty in engineering and applied sciences."

Czernis also notes that women still earn less than their male colleagues. In 2003, the median salary of female faculty members was about $13,000 lower than that of men.

While much of the difference can be attributed to women being disproportionately placed in the lower academic ranks, the StatsCan study found even when the median salaries of men and women of equal academic rank are considered, women's salaries still lag behind - from $6,100 at the full professor level to $2,600 at the assistant professor level.

"Women are making gains, but there's still a long way to go," Czernis said.

The study also found:

  • The share of new appointments going to women increased from 35 per cent in 1990 to 39 per cent in 2003, but at the full professor level only 15 per cent of new appointments in 2003 were women, up marginally from 12 per cent in 1990.
  • Only 8 per cent of all full professors in 1990 were women, but that figure had increased to 17 per cent by 2003.
  • Almost half of all male faculty members with doctorates were full professors in 2003, but only 26 per cent of their female counterparts held such positions.

"One of the biggest reasons for some of these persistent gaps is the tendency for women to experience more work interruptions because of maternity leave or periods of part-time employment while raising children," Czernis argues. "This unfairly affects their opportunities for promotion."