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  • February 16, 2016, Victoria Kaspi, director of the McGill Space Institute, became the first woman to win Canada’s top science award – the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal.
  • October 10, 2013, Alice Munro was the first Canadian woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
  • In 2001, the percentage of women who successfully completed undergraduate programs exceeded 60%.

Over the last two decades, Canada has seen a significant increase in the number of women in higher education – both as students and faculty members. The proportion of women enrolled in undergraduate programs has not quite reached 50% but the percentage of those that have graduated from undergraduate programs has been above 60% since 2001.

While female faculty figures have not shown the same rate of growth, female university teachers have made significant progress in attaining tenured and tenure track appointments over a similar timeframe. In 2012-13, 33.9% of full-time female university teachers held tenured university positions, while 46.3% of full-time female university teachers were in tenure track positions.

 The University of British Columbia (UBC) has put in place a number of initiatives to hire more female faculty, to encourage more female faculty to take on leadership positions, and to raise the proportion of female students in non-traditional subjects (e.g. engineering). Using UBC as a case study, I will consider the effectiveness of these initiatives to impact gender in the classroom.

 In 2015, the Canadian government announced that ‘gender identity and gender expression’ would be added to the Canadian Human Rights Code. While this is still working its way through the Parliament, British Columbia immediately amended its Human Rights Code to include these additional grounds.

 As an institution, we are now moving beyond a binary discussion of gender, bodies and biology, to a more complex and fluid understanding of gender and gender identity. To conclude, I will consider the following questions:

  • What does this change in the human rights code mean for gender in the classroom?
  • How does it impact our students and our faculty?
  • What are the tensions both inside and outside of the classroom in becoming a trans-inclusive institution?