University Affairs has published interesting excerpts from the memoirs of UPEI’s first female president. Read about it here.
All gender or women only residence?
While Ryerson University is innovating with new all-gender housing, the University of Waterloo is going in another direction with its women only residence. Ryerson’s initiative is being applauded by many who militate for gender inclusivity and Waterloo is being criticized by some. But both universities are going at this with the same goal: Ryerson is aiming to offer a welcoming a safe space to their non-binary students and Waterloo is aiming to offer a welcoming and safe space to their engineering female students. For both, it is about offering an environment in which students can thrive.
However, the University of Waterloo’s new program to help support incoming female students in engineering does not draw unanimous support as some fear it may reinforce the isolation and ostracization some female students may face in male-dominated classrooms and projects. But the support students can gain through the program to face such behaviour along with covert and overt sexism seems invaluable. The gender gap has traditionally been really bad in STEM. The proposed program is intended to offer a support network for females entering those male dominated fields. It will be interesting to see how these students fare compared to others who do not have access to such programs. Likewise, the Ryerson initiative will be interesting to monitor to see if its intended effect unfolds.
Policy for lactating students, faculty, and staff?
Brock does not have a standalone policy covering the needs of students, faculty, and staff who wish to continue breastfeeding beyond their return to their studies or work. A study by Bostick et al. provides interesting reflections, albeit from an American context. Something to mull over for us?
Pushing Onward – Human Rights Task Force report
The President’s Human Rights Task Force that was struck a year ago following distressing incidents of sexual violence and racism has completed its work. The report has been made public and is available here. This is an important document and the recommendations it formulates will help Brock move in the right direction, provided they are implemented. A few concerns arise however.
- By choosing to prioritize certain experiences and issues, for example, there is a potential risk of obfuscating other human rights issues that are equally important. We hope that equity-seeking groups do not end up pitted against each other as a result.
- Putting in place good policy is crucial and some policies at Brock have been flawed for way too long. However, beyond good policies, there is a need for all people at Brock to not only abide by said policies, but to wholeheartedly embrace them and their principles. It seems we have a long way to go with that and at all levels.
- While the report addresses sexual and gender violence, it fails to capture the cultural problem we see at Brock which can be referred to as chilly climate. Sexual and gender discrimination is a fact at Brock and the glass ceiling has been thickening for members of equity-seeking groups in the last few years. It seems that more than a good hiring equity policy will be needed to reverse this process and ensure that people are encouraged, trained, and mentored to be successful in undertaking leadership roles at Brock.
Thank you to the members of the Human Rights Task Force for undertaking this. Here is to hoping that actions follow, sooner rather than later, and that the university stops being merely reactive to crises but rather embraces a proactive stance that will prevent such crises from occurring in the first place.
A baby-friendly Brock?
Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding is a touchy subject that very few people actually want to raise. The decision of how to feed one’s baby is ultimately left up to the mother, but there are a number of factors that will determine whether or not a woman is able to exclusively nurse her child long-term, including the support networks she has in place.
In saying this, it is extremely important to consider how the workplace supports a nursing mother in her return to work and how universities are supporting students and staff with young children. Continued breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization up to the age of two and beyond, and with the majority of women returning to work full-time after one year of giving birth, it is critically important that employers have policies, practices, and facilities in place to support female employees and their families.
A few universities in Canada are leading the way. Queens, UBC, U of T and Trent, just to name a few, all provide great examples of how Universities can support their staff and students with young families.
The Presidential Advisory Council on Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility (PACHREA) at Trent has a breastfeeding Sub-Committee which focuses on five areas to support, accommodate, and educate faculty, staff, and students. Queen’s University offers over half a dozen breastfeeding spaces and baby change-tables on campus, while UBC offers private and semi-private spaces in multiple buildings on multiple campuses. Moreover, at U of T, a designated Family Care Office offers resources about childcare, family leaves, and support programs, as well as over two dozen Baby Change Stations and Breastfeeding friendly spaces.
At Brock, I personally know of many women who have either chosen not to breastfeed their babies so that they could return to work early or who wean their children at one year so that they do not have to schedule pumping into their workday. Of the women I have spoken with and who have made these choices, many lacked private office spaces and did not feel comfortable asking their supervisor for accommodations for them. Ultimately, the decision to wean their infants was made because of a perceived lack of support at the University.
Keeping up milk supply while you are working full time is no easy feat. It takes planning, work, and dedication. For someone who doesn’t have the luxury of a private office space, this means approaching a supervisor to make accommodations for your pumping needs, a conversation I know very few women are comfortable having.
While the recently appointed quiet room, located in WH 102A, is well appreciated, it is only convenient if your work space is located close by, if you know that it exists, and if you have the courage to reach out to get approved for an access code by Human Resources. Another downfall of the room is that it does not provide much for women who need to feed and change their babies on site, as there is no change table nearby.
A welcome addition to Brock would be more flex rooms that are clearly labelled and set up for students, staff, and community members who need to provide milk for their children. The rooms don’t need to be fancy or have to have lock codes; they can be multi-purpose rooms that departments recognize as being a breastfeeding friendly space, with reminders that women are welcome to nurse their infants anywhere on campus. And conversations need to take place with senior management and their staff about the resources Brock can put into place to accommodate female staff and students who are working, studying, and raising families.
With that, there is a small group of likeminded students, staff and faculty members who meet regularly to discuss making Brock a more baby friendly campus. It is the mandate of the committee to facilitate change on campus by engaging key stakeholders in conversation, develop internal and external partnerships, and raise awareness about women’s rights. If you would like to join the conversation, please like Baby Friendly Brock on Facebook and send a private message!
Of glass ceilings
One day after the news broke out that a very large group of faculty members called out a dean’s appointment as sexist at the Université de Montréal (see here), University Affairs published an entry on how 4 women broke through the glass ceiling to become presidents.
Implicit Bias – Invited Speaker
On March 20, Dr. Samantha Brennan (Western) gave a lunchtime talk on “Implicit Bias and the Problem of Micro-Inequities.” Many people were in attendance and the discussion that followed was quite generative. If you missed the talk and would like the slides, please contact Christine Daigle.
The bullying culture of academia
This article published in The Guardian discusses workplace bullying: see here. It will surprise no one that women and other minority groups stand to be the targets of bullies. Calling out the bullying is one strategy to address it but bullying is a very complex issue. All players must be intent in addressing it and eradicating it from the workplace. In a workplace like Brock, it can take many shape and form given all the different people involved. One first step in addressing it is to acknowledge its existence, call it out, and work to fix it.
Meeting of the Steering Committee
The steering committee will meet on February 27 to discuss next steps and an invited speaker for the spring.
31 persons met on November 18!
31 persons gathered to meet and discuss plans for the Caucus of Women on November 18, 2016. A steering committee was formed and great ideas were exchanged.