April 14, 2016
To the G7 Sherpas:
The Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, based in Vancouver, BC, has been inspiring girls and promoting women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM fields) for 35 years. As such, we are one of the partners in a nation-wide Status of Women Canada initiative to measure gender-based participation in STEM and to create tools for change.
Because the G7 addresses worldwide economic issues and opportunities, we would like to offer our thoughts on a major issue and suggest tools and techniques to address it.
The G7 is tasked with not only addressing the challenges related to climate change, the information economies, natural resource management and global health crises, but also with “accelerating the international momentum for women to take on roles in a wide range of areas in the natural sciences and technology.”
By increasing women’s involvement worldwide, solutions to global issues will become more easily attainable.
The complex, globally interconnected problems of the 21st century and beyond will require new, diverse strategies of thinking as well as solid foundations in science. Fortunately, there is an untapped reserve of human capital, STEM-educated women, whose increased involvement across borders and cultures can bring the needed diversity of thought to solve global problems.
We suggest that the G7 invest in its entire, educated human capital: the studies are unanimous – the more women at the leadership level, the greater the success of the organization. The obvious answer then, is to provide women with access so that they can contribute to global solutions.
To make this achievable, there are two necessary components: a public education system that values the sciences, and women educated in the sciences to bring the needed diversity to problem solving.
Thus the goals are to attain demographic representation at the levels of policy, leadership and the workforce, such that the people affected by decisions and policies are represented in the decision-making process; and that highly skilled, educated women are fully engaged in the sciences and technologies.
To reach these goals, public policies must facilitate involvement and input to engage the totality of the available human capital.
- Ensure the supply:
- Invest in an educational system strong in the sciences that focuses on creativity, innovation, collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking (when described like that, the sciences become attractive to girls).
- Ensure that the investment in STEM education translates to the full participation of women in the workforce, including at the leadership level.
- Streamline the transition from education to the workforce:
- Create public policies to support a shared distribution of family care;
- Ensure that workforce policies are holistic, fair and flexible;
- Assure women’s equal access to pay and funding;
- Invest in international support networks and mentorship.
- Accountability is paramount: metrics are needed to define baselines and to provide evidence of change:
- Gather gender-based data and analyze using social science and statistics tools,
- Disseminate this gender-based data to the public to inform and facilitate evidence-based policy changes,
- Apply a ‘gender lens’ prior to enacting government legislation.
- Assess societal barriers and cultural norms as well as workplace climate to recognize and mitigate implicit bias at both the personal and organizational levels. As other countries have done, we recommend the implementation of a “carrot and stick” approach:
- Adapt and apply tools used in the UK – the Athena SWAN charter, that advances “gender equality: representation, progression and success for all.”
- As done in Australia and the EU, mandate “40:40:20” [40% men: 40% women: 20% as needed],
- Apply the concept of “comply or explain” where women are not represented proportionately,
- Apply tests such as the Harvard Implicit Bias Test to organizations and individuals to mitigate barriers to women’s advancement,
- Learn and apply language and evaluation methods that are gender-neutral and skill-based.
- Finally, use the media as a powerful tool and agent to influence the representation of women, and the cultural perceptions of women
- Report the gender-based analysis data for public accountability;26
- Encourage gender-neutral and subject-specific reporting.
In summary, in a global economy, with global challenges, we will prosper together when we apply all of our human capital. So as the G7 addresses the big issues of climate change, information economies, natural resource management, or global health crises – ignore the cries that “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!” – remember the ancient proverb that says, “women hold up half the sky”.
SCWIST is committed to participating in discussions addressing the global status of women in science and technology. We propose that Canada share internationally, the ‘best practices’ that are being developed.
 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/; http://www.crosscollaborate.com/2010/05/diversity-improves-collaborative-problem-solving/; http://www.ur.umich.edu/0405/Nov22_04/23.shtml