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Breaking down barriers for women in science

Just last week, the School of Rehabilitation Therapy shared the news that Heidi Cramm was honoured by Esprit de Corp for her work towards understanding and improving Canadian military families’ access to healthcare services. Heidi was named among 25 women in Canada’s defense sector for “Breaking Down the Barricades”

I’m sure that it was more than just a coincidence that the timing of the recognition was juxtaposed with Wednesday’s International Women’s Day. And these two events had me reflecting on all of the successes we’ve had in the Faculty of Health Sciences that can be attributed to the work of women. Indeed, we have much to celebrate.

But, as one of my female colleagues recently reminded me, we have to be conscious that there is still work to be done to break down barriers for women in the health sciences. It may be 2017, but women are still an equity-seeking group in Canada. In fact, in a recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Oxfam Canada, Making Women Count, it was noted that the gender wage gap has regressed from 74.4% in 2009 to 72% today.1

Although there are some professions, like the three in our faculty, where student population is equal or predominantly female, we still have an imbalance of women on our faculty compared to the general population, especially in leadership roles.

In thinking about why that is so, I took to google to explore some of the barriers that are keeping women out of careers in science. The most predominant themes were family considerations; the years when women have children often coincide with prime years in her career, and built-in or subconscious bias against women in science; this story about a man and woman switching names in the workplace went viral last week and illustrates how bias can be present in any profession. In survey results published by BioScience asking women to identify the most significant barriers that they faced, grants and funding, balancing life and career, gender biases, scarcity of job openings, having and rearing children, low pay, access to mentors, lack of role models, child care support, laboratory space, and elder care were all on the list.2

Last week’s International Women’s Day was not simply cause to celebrate. This year’s theme, #BeBoldForChange was a call to action to refocus our efforts to break down these barriers and continue to work towards equality.

Please share your thoughts by commenting on the blog, or better yet, drop by the Macklem House…my door is always open.


  1. http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/wage-gap-oxfam-1.3478938
  2. https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/61/1/88/305102/Women-Face-M…


Thank you to Jen Valberg for her assistance in preparing this blog.

Bill Moore Meds ''62

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 14:31

Richard/Jen, thanks for featuring Heidi Cramm’s recognition and your focus on women in the scientific-medical workplace. I hope Queen’s will exert its leadership in this difficult area without preconceptions or bias and am confident that it can be done. If I recall correctly, my Medical class started with only three women and one not only survived but finished at the top and went on to a distinguished career. It is clear from my most recent Queen’s Medical Reunion and current information that talented women are applying, being accepted for admission and attending Queen’s despite such current, intense competition. I think all of us want them to succeed and excel in whatever family or helping-career they choose, and that they will rise to positions where they can help other women enter and succeed in the scientific-medical workplace.

Bill Moore Meds ''62

Thanks Bill,

Your comments, as always, are appreciated. I couldn’t agree more that things of changed massively, and now as he would know, there are more women registered and health professional programs in Canada then there are men.

Where we haven’t done as well, is promoting women to major leadership roles. I certainly know that in our faculty, this is one of my goals.

Again thanks for commenting.


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