National Post

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Saturday, January 08, 2000

Academics attack funding program as discriminatory
Schools get 'girl money': Enticing women science professors called unfair to men
Richard Foot
National Post

A group of Canadian academics is attacking a federal agency for paying universities what it calls "girl money" to hire female professors instead of men.

Since 1998, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has spent close to a million dollars a year encouraging Canadian universities to hire women into entry-level science professorships, by paying most of their salaries for the first five years of employment. Women supported under the University Faculty Awards program also receive a large research grant.

Tim Nau, a council spokesman, says the program is designed to boost the representation of female professors in science and engineering, fields in which men traditionally dominate.

However, Doreen Kimura, president of Canada's Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, says the program flagrantly discriminates against men.

"These things are not available to men and there are no equivalent scholarships that men can apply for," Dr. Kimura, a professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, says. "This is more than affirmative action, this totally excludes men."

Dr. Kimura and other members of the Society for Academic Freedom are circulating their letter of complaint on academic e-mail networks. Dr. Kimura says the council's role is not to promote the interests of women but to encourage excellence in scientific research among all citizens.

The council distributes roughly $500-million in federal funding each year, mostly as research grants to male and female scientists in Canada. This year it is also spending $806,000 supporting the salaries of 22 women hired as professors under its University Faculty Award program.

Mr. Nau says any women hired under the program have already been granted research funds after a separate peer review process.

Mr. Nau says only 6% of all engineering and applied science professors in Canada are women. He says if there were more women role models in these fields, there would be more female students.

"If you don't have any women professors and you're a woman student looking for a career in these areas, it probably is a bit of a turnoff," he says. "But I can't prove it."

Dr. Kimura calls it nonsense. "The fact is that women just show less interest in these programs," she says. "They apply to these fields in much smaller numbers than to other ones."

Studies consistently show that Canadian universities hire a greater proportion of women into faculty positions than the percentage of women who apply for the work. Andrew Irvine, a University of B.C. professor, found that in the mid '70s women made up 27% of applicants for faculty jobs at universities across the country but received 42% of all appointments.

A study of hiring practices at the University of Western Ontario between 1984 and 1999, said 10% of all female applicants were hired into faculty positions compared to 5.4% of all male applicants.

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