Under Representation: A Tired Refrain

April 2000

[Monique Frize, who holds the NSERC/Nortel Joint Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (Ontario), University of Ottawa and Carleton University, wrote a response to Doreen Kimura’s criticisms of the NSERC Faculty Awards being restricted to women. (Dr. Frize did not state where she read Kimura’s views. It may have been Kimura’s letter to NSERC committees.) Kimura has submitted this reply to the magazine. – Ed.]

It is disappointing when someone holding a chair in science and engineering puts more reliance on personal anecdotes than on objective evidence (“Women role models do make a difference” University Affairs, April 2000). Though I don't doubt there are individual instances of sexual harassment in some universities, this has not prevented women from increasingly entering fields of science other than the physical sciences. If Dr. Frize wishes to enlighten herself on some of the reasons women tend not to enter engineering and physical sciences, I will be happy to provide her with references to published studies (not my own). Neither she nor anyone else has satisfactorily explained why women need exclusive access to awards (University Faculty Awards) which ought to go to the best qualified candidates, NOT just to the best qualified women. NSERC's tired refrain that women are “under-represented” in these sciences is simply an ill-informed description of a situation, it is not an explanation. When these awards were open to both men and women, women received at least their proportional share. Why then would bright qualified women object to a fair competition?