Academic journal article The Canadian Geographer

Focus: Equity for Women in Geography

Academic journal article The Canadian Geographer

Focus: Equity for Women in Geography

Article excerpt

The 1984 Royal Commission Report on Equality in Employment, or the Abella Report, set out the principles and practice of equity in employment (Abella 1984). In the Report, Commissioner Rosalie Abella identified four groups of persons in Canada that have been historically disadvantaged in employment policies and practices--Native people, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and women. Since that time, the federal and provincial governments have initiated and implemented equity policies that promote non-discriminatory employment practices. These four groups of persons continue, however, to be disadvantaged in employment because of the residual systemic exclusions already in place in many institutions, including universities. To work toward equity means to engage specific employment strategies that will systematically remove barriers that have prevented the advancement in the labour market of persons in these four designated groups (Kobayashi 1992; Bakan and Kobayashi 2000, 46). Barriers include those that sustain unfair workplace practices as well as those that deny access to resources.

Equity in Canadian universities and in geography entails creating just policies and practices that apply to both workplace environments and access to employment resources, including the job market and education. Depending on the particular history of a university, measures to achieve equity vary. In some places, equity efforts focus on visible minorities, while in others, on Native people. In the discipline of geography, the equity focus thus far has been primarily on women, probably because women and feminists have led the struggle for recognition within the discipline (see, e.g., Zelinsky et al. 1973; Christopherson 1989). Even though equity as a subject of research has not been prominent within feminist geography (McDowell 1999; although see, e.g., Bakan and Kobayashi 2000), the groundwork for such work is being laid by feminists and other critical geographers (see e.g., Rose 1993; Chouinard and Grant 1995; Sanders 1998; Elder 1999; Kobayashi 1999; Moss et al. 1999; Professional Geographer 2000).

The history of this equity collection began at the Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG) Meeting at Brock University in May, 2000, where Pamela Moss, with assistance from Lawrence Berg, organised two working sessions on equity sponsored by the Canadian Women and Geography Study Group (CWAG). These sessions were designed as a follow up to the discussions at the CAG meeting in St John's, Newfoundland, in 1997, about the 1996 CAG Equity Report (available by request from the CAG office). In her contribution to this collection, Gisele Yasmeen recounts her experience as a member of the committee that produced the report. She raises questions that need to be addressed within debates about equity for attracting and keeping women and visible minorities in geography departments in Canada. What Yasmeen's argument indicates is that achieving equity within universities as places of employment generally and in the disciplinary practices constituting the geography departments as workplaces involves thinking about equity for more than one marginalized group at a time and about contradictory policies that shape exclusionary employment practices.

The purpose of these working sessions at the meetings at Brock University was to review the advances made since the publication of the equity report and to discuss specific strategies to achieve equity for women within geography in Canada. The people attending the sessions agreed that putting together a collection of articles about equity as part of a FOCUS section in The Canadian Geographer would be an effective way to make public, within the wider geography community within Canada, the types of topics we discussed. If these arguments were to be located within the pages of the flagship journal for the national Canadian professional association for geographers, then we, on behalf of CWAG, would be contributing to heightening awareness about equity issues across all fields in geography. …

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