Photo C/O Kyle West

McMaster University is currently taking its second employment equity census to evaluate the diversity of McMaster’s staff and faculty.

The voluntary census is open to all McMaster employees and identifies the representation of five target groups: women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and LGBTQA2S+ employees.

The census comes three years after the first census, which was taken in 2016 and produced the first employment equity report and led to the development of McMaster’s employment equity framework.

According to the report from the 2016 census, 43.07 per cent of all McMaster staff and faculty participated. Of that 43 per cent, only 2.12 per cent across the institution self-identified as part of the LGBTQA2S+ community.

In a number of high participation-rates groups, less than two per cent per cent identified as Aboriginal, 10.18 per cent indicated they were members of visible minority groups and less than four per cent indicated that they had a disability.

61.93 per cent identified as women.

According to the report, the representation of women was above representation in the overall Canadian labour force statistics, while internal representation of Indigenous individuals and individuals with disabilities fell below them.

The visible minority representation was far below external representation.

One recommendation from the first census was that McMaster form an employment equity implementation team to promote the employment equity framework.

Since 2017, May-Marie Duwai-Sowa, the university’s employment equity specialist, has been working closely with Arig al Shaibah, the associate vice president (Equity and Inclusion), to improve McMaster’s employment equity.

According to Duwai-Sowa, over a thousand faculty members, chairs and directors have undergone training for equitable hiring and recruitment practices. The EEIT will also run Indigenous cultural competency training for many McMaster employees on March 8.

One pilot project that has been implemented by the EEIT is a self-ID survey for interviews within certain faculties, where applicants were asked to identify their background.

“If you have candidates from diverse backgrounds that meet the requirements, there should be no reason why they should not make your long or short list,” Duwai-Sowa said. “The focus is still obviously hiring excellent candidates that meet the bar of excellence and meet the requirements that are in the posting.”

Duwai-Sowa also pointed to McMaster’s efforts to reach applicants from different backgrounds. For example, McMaster is ensuring its jobs are posted on Indigenous Link, a website to help Indigenous communities find employment.

“It is really about making sure our workforce is diverse now so we are meeting the needs of our students because our student population is also diverse,” Duwai-Sowa said.

One key recommendation from the 2016 report yet to be implemented is a systems-wide review of current hiring and retention practices and policies. This is expected to begin soon and be released by the end of 2019.

Noticeably absent from both the 2016 report and the upcoming 2019 employment census is race-specific data.

Many major Canadian universities still do not collect data on the race of their faculty and students.

“We are currently working on incorporating disaggregate breakdowns of radicalized groups and Indigenous peoples for both the employee census, applicant self- ID survey and student self ID survey, which is planned to be initiated this fall,” said Duwai-Sowa.

The equity and inclusion team is hoping to release the results of this year’s employment census in the upcoming fall.

 

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By Sabrina Macklai

On Oct 2. 2018, Donna Strickland became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics in 55 years. Strickland graduated McMaster University in 1981 with a degree in engineering physics and has since been responsible for greatly advancing the field of laser physics while at the University of Waterloo.

She won the prize for introducing the technique of chirped pulse amplification, which has broad-spectrum applications in laser microsurgery and micromachinery. Prior to Strickland, Maria Goeppert-Mayer received the prize in 1963 for generating evidence in support of the nuclear shell model – which today is still the most widely used and accepted theoretical model of the atomic nucleus. The only other woman to ever win the Nobel Prize in physics is Marie Curie in 1903, for the discovery of radioactivity.

While surely women have come a long way since 1903, the fact remains that women in academia, especially in the male-dominated field of physics, are at a serious disadvantage. Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded 112 times to over 200 individual recipients. The fact that only three women have won this prize out of the 200 recipients is alarming.

Gender bias in science is not a new concept. Goeppert-Mayer spent most of her career largely unpaid, despite holding the title of a Nobel Prize laureate. According to the American Institute of Physics, while women earn around 20 per cent of all bachelor degrees in physics, women earn less than 10 per cent of doctorates in physics. Among physics faculty members, women are only represented by 15 per cent.   

There are many reasons for the lack of women that have little to do with a lack of interest. Navigating academia is difficult. There is a large disparity between the number of doctoral graduates who aspire to become professors versus the number of available positions. The likelihood of becoming a professor varies depending on the field of study, but in general, less than 10 per cent of all doctoral graduates actually continue in academia. And of those few who remain, the chance of obtaining a tenure-track position is even slimmer.

Women who dare to enter academia often face discrimination in addition to the above limitations. They may hold their doctorate degree and contribute greatly to their field, but still be overlooked for tenure and other ways to advance their careers in comparison to their male counterparts. While this is true of almost all academic fields, women in physics seem to be at an even greater disadvantage. In comparison to other physical sciences like chemistry, which have near-equal representation of men and women at the undergraduate level, there is something about physics that leads it to having one of the worst gender gaps.

The lack of women in physics is only one problem. It’s no secret that being male and being white is characteristic of physics majors. Being a person of colour, particularly being Black, adds a whole new layer of systematic barriers against success in the field.  

There is growth, however small. The American Institute of Physics reports that in the United States between 2003 and 2013, the number of bachelor degrees in physics earned by Black, Indigenous and Hispanic women increased by 40 per cent. This number is significantly lower than the 59 per cent total increase in bachelor degrees in physics. It is also much lower than the 65 per cent increase in total number of bachelor degrees achieved by Black, Indigenous and Hispanic women. For whatever reason, women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in physics.

How do we move forward from here? I don’t know. What I do know is that the issue of diversity in physics is a problem of the system and thus requires those with the power to change the system to act accordingly. Create support networks for minorities in physics. Acknowledge harmful departmental climates. Have selection committees that are truly representative of the population. Consciously work towards to creating equal employment and advancement opportunities.

Women and minorities have so much to contribute to their fields, including physics. Their advancements could very well lead to novel solutions for problems that seemed out of reach. By not addressing the systematic barriers against these groups, we all sit at a disadvantage.   

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By: Helene Caron

The tragic events in Paris had many frantically looking for friends and family currently in the cité des lumières and prompted a number of us to post “Je suis Paris” on our Facebook page out of solidarity. However, our links with France may be much closer than we think and I’m not referring to the latest events. I’m going way, way back. In early 17th century, Samuel de Champlain officially met a Huron-Wendaat chief in Toanché (now Penetanguishene).

Did you know that 2015 marked the 400th anniversary of French presence in Ontario, with celebrations happening throughout the province? And that Hamilton is an officially designated bilingual city with many francophone community organizations? If you didn’t, don’t feel bad. I moved here from Montréal in 1996 and I didn’t know either. A brief Google search at the time yielded very little on the French community whereabouts in Hamilton and I went on with my life until, one fateful day in 2002, I walked downtown Hamilton and saw a French-written sign in a window. Seconds later, I was chatting with Claudette Mikelsons, now president of Collège Boréal in Hamilton. “Oh yes, there is quite a large French-speaking contingent in Hamilton and area,” she told me. According to ACFO-Régionale Hamilton’s current website, about 45,000 people speak French in our area. “Quoi? But where are they?” I asked, stunned. Outside my workplace, there wasn’t a speck of French — many would lovingly try, but there was no French connection there.

Believe me, I wanted and needed to connect with French-speakers in Hamilton; I felt like assimilation had wrapped its fingers around my neck. Without kids and not being a church-goer (schools and churches are recognizable institutions within the community), I somehow fell in a Frenchless vacuum until that day in 2002. That chance encounter led me to understand the breadth of the greatest issue facing French Canadians outside Québec: invisibility. Franco-Ontarians are a minorité invisible. We don’t look different and heck, many of us don’t even sound different.

The community is not visible in mainstream English media either, even if French is this country’s second official language. Kudos to CFMU (I started the “French Toast” radio show there in 2010) and The Sil for taking a national leadership role and willingly offering a space where we can talk about all things French.  Take note, Spectator and other mainstream media.

Anyway, after my encounter with Claudette, I started volunteering on the Board of Centre Français, which organizes fun and entertaining cultural events in French in Hamilton. By getting involved, I met dynamic French-speaking people who wanted to contribute to our city’s vitality by ensuring French cultures’ (yes, there are many French cultures even in Steel Town) solid and vibrant place in an inclusive manner.

I help organize the logistics for Mac-O Franco Ontario, an event about the rich cultural heritage of French presence in Ontario that will involve just under 200 McMaster students. They will showcase a wide range of French-Ontarian heritage aspects on Dec. 7 in the student centre’s Marketplace area, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Seven francophone community organizations will also be there to talk about the services they offer in addition to interacting with McMaster students.

Finally, one last reminder – our heritage unites us all one way or another.  Nous sommes Paris.  Nous sommes Franco-Ontariennes et Franco-Ontariens.

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By: Sasha Dhesi

With cultural diversity growing in the West, our media is slowly but surely also becoming more diverse. Minorities have carved out their spots in most forms of media, whether it be music, dance or television, but there is one part of the art world where diversity has plateaued: the modelling world.

Diversity in the modelling world is abysmal: the FashionSpot, an online fashion magazine, reported that during February’s New York Fashion Week, the shows were overwhelmingly white, at 77 percent. Of the remaining 23 percent, 8.7 percent of the models were black, 8.5 percent were Asian, 3.5 percent were Latina and the remainder were composed of other ethnicities too small in percentage to list.

Even when ethnic minorities are included, they tend to be gimmicks, something to lure consumers in by their momentary diversity only to fall back into their usual homogenous white blur the next season. More often than not, companies will throw in one non-white model and consider their job done, because apparently every ethnic group darker than “NW15” is the same. Ethnic minorities are considered a monolith that can be used at random to improve a company’s PR at the drop of a hat. Consider H&M’s recent fall campaign, which included a woman wearing a hijab. While it is a huge achievement in our current society, I found it a little too convenient that the company decided to do this now following scandal after scandal that they endured over their incorrigible working conditions in a mostly Muslim country.

And this isn’t a trend exclusive to racial minorities. Despite being over the so-called “heroin chic” of the 1990s, the modelling world is still hesitant to use anyone who doesn’t fit this waif criterion. There has been the occasional editorial where a plus-size model will be used, but once again, it tends to be a gimmick meant to reflect well on the company over actually celebrating body diversity. For the most part, companies still manage to only use women with flat stomachs and hourglass figures. The stereotypical model is still thin, white and young. Anything else must be explicitly stated: the trans model, the plus-size model, the model of colour.

You may ask, why any of this is important? Does it really matter? And my answer is yes, it does. Modelling is a big part of how we establish beauty standards, and by continually using a very specific mould, companies insinuate that there is only one “look” that is noteworthy. Even when fashion houses decide to use a minority en masse for a campaign, it tends to be in an insultingly obsessive way, like the way the fashion world is currently uncomfortably obsessed with the genitals of trans models. Although helpful in representation, the obsession does not equal celebration.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t variance in the modelling world: after all, some of the most popular supermodels have been women of colour. But they are exceptions to the rule, who often had the good luck of being in contact with the few progressive designers that are willing to hire them, which was the case for model Naomi Campbell, who credits her career to Yves St. Laurent’s willingness to use black models during the 1960s and 1970s.

Lucky for us, things are slowly changing. Although mainstream designers like Chanel and Dior stick to their blur of lily white waifs, up-and-comers like French brand Koché are making waves through their mix of high couture and sportswear, and use a mix of minorities in their shows to reflect the diversity of Paris’ underground scene, away from the Disney illusion that North Americans have come to know. And who could forget Kanye West’s Yeezy x Adidas collection, or his more recent surprise Yeezy 2 collection, both of which included an array of minorities in nude bodysuits? The rules of modelling are slowly being challenged, arguably not fast enough, but challenged just the same.

Models like Neelam Gill, Fei Fei Sun and Joan Smalls, to name a few, are examples of the elegance that is left untapped by our society because some are uncomfortable changing their notions of beauty. But to do so, minorities have to be used in shows and campaigns in a genuine manner, and not as tokens so the brand can improve its street cred, something very doable. A celebration of the beauty should be inclusive of all beauty, not just one. Once established, the fashion world can grow and change like the rest of the world.

Photo Credit: AFP Photo/Joshua Lott

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