2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Samantha Lucy

Diversity hiring must be enforced

The Canada Research Chair Program (CRCP) is dedicated to producing world-class researchers at facilities across the country. The University of Calgary — whose 2011 Eyes High initiative set the goal of becoming one of the top five research universities in the country — is a member of the program.

One thing the CRCP encourages is equity hiring, meaning that a certain percentage of research chairs at each member university must fall into four groups — women, visible minorities, Aboriginal Peoples and people with disabilities. But on April 28, the CRCP sent an open letter to 15 member universities who failed to meet certain quotas. Only two schools didn’t meet a single target. One was the U of C.

Diversity hiring is important because there are systemic barriers for many groups of people that prevent them from progressing in certain fields. And one such example seems to be research chair positions in the CRCP. As of February 2016, only 29 per cent of chairholders in the program were female. But the average success rate for each gender in the role is equal, at 91 per cent. The quotas aren’t put in place to give marginalized groups token roles — they exist because there are wide subsets of qualified individuals who aren’t given a fair chance at occupying these positions.

Although these quotas exist, they are useless if there is no enforcement or punishment for schools that fail to meet them. When the U of C initiated their Eyes High program five years ago, one of the goals they pledged to meet by 2016 was to “strengthen [their] commitment to Workplace Diversity and Employment Equity.” Though it was a good piece of publicity for the school at the time, we still failed to meet a single one of the guidelines set in place by the CRCP.

Opponents of hiring quotas argue that people shouldn’t hold leadership positions just because they’re a part of a marginalized group, claiming that under-qualified individuals will end up in these roles. But institutions and governments that have implemented gender parity rarely face criticism for placing unqualified people into positions.

It’s not unreasonable to expect a greater proportion of these underrepresented groups at our school. For women in chairholder positions — the one category that the U of C has provided statistics for, — our school clocks in at 18 per cent, well below both the CRCP and the U of C’s 30 per cent goal.

More importantly, these numbers fall far below the demographics of our country. Fifty per cent of people living in Canada are women and 19 per cent are visible minorities. University research chairs should reflect these statistics.

Universities must comply with the same gender quotas they often cite for positive publicity in press conferences, and there needs to be more consequences than a slap on the wrist if they don’t. If the U of C truly wants to become a top five research school in Canada, we need to start meeting these hiring guidelines.

Jason Herring
Gauntlet Editorial Board

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