Equity & Diversity on Campus

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This week, Ken Steele’s conversation continues with Maureen Adamson, president of Fleming College in Peterborough Ontario. Maureen was formerly Ontario’s Deputy Minister responsible for the Status of Women, so this week Ken asks her thoughts on gender equity and increasing diversity in higher education.

When it comes to equity of access and success of women in higher ed, “we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Maureen admits bluntly. We know that high-performing organizations require balanced boards of governors, and yet we still don’t see that in many industries. We need to start teaching young people about being leaders and volunteers in the community, and that leadership needs to start at PSE campuses. In particular, she says, “we need to debunk the theory that women don’t want to go into trades and technology because it’s dirty work. It’s not!” Fleming College will be focusing on cultivating interest in these critical areas for our future economy, at a very young age.

Maureen also emphasizes that the pay gap between women and men to this day remains “alarming.” (In Canada, it is often cited that women earn 87¢ for every dollar earned by men. In the US, women’s earning ratio has risen slowly from 61% in the 1960s to about 78% in 2013.) Maureen also observes that even at the highest levels, women serving on boards and as CEOs still don’t earn the same as men. “There’s a gap in the labour market, and this is one that colleges have a responsibility to fill.”

In higher education, although the number of female college and university presidents has been increasing, leadership in the sector remains male-dominated, but “we’re making strides,” Maureen observes. (A quick survey of Ontario college presidents finds 11 females and 14 males, or about 44% female.)

Campus student populations are becoming more and more diverse, as institutions recruit increasing numbers of international students, and encourage participation by under-represented groups like visible minorities, students with disabilities, and indigenous students. As colleges recruit more international students in particular, Maureen observes, we need to ensure those students are socially and academically integrated so that all students benefit from the richness of student diversity on campus. (A recent CBIE survey found that 74% of international students in Canada report some difficulty getting involved in campus life.)

“We have to make it front and centre to be an inclusive and diverse college and culture,” Maureen asserts. Especially in smaller communities, without widespread diversity in the population, colleges have to pursue international exchanges and partnerships to create a diverse experience for students. The global student today is “super-global,” Maureen explains, and colleges have to respond to that. Global perspectives are crucial to prepare our students to be global citizens, and employees or entrepreneurs who can be successful in a global economy. It has to be “front and centre” as a priority, Maureen insists. “It has to be accomplished through active participation. We can’t just sit around and say we’re going to be inclusive and diverse, but without action.”

Maureen Adamson is president of Sir Sandford Fleming College, in the region of Peterborough Ontario. She has 25 years of leadership experience in PSE, healthcare, government and the not-for-profit sector. She has previously served as President & CEO of the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences and of Cystic Fibrosis Canada, as VP Corporate Services at Mohawk College, and as Deputy Minister of both Tourism, Culture and Sport and of the Status of Women for the government of Ontario.

A sincere thank-you to Fleming College for arranging the onsite videography for this episode.

Next week, Ken’s conversation with Maureen Adamson concludes with her thoughts on how to nurture a culture of innovation on campus by investing in our people. To be sure you don’t miss it, take a moment to subscribe at http://eduvation.ca/subscribe/

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