Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 18

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Graduate Scholarships

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: The Canadian Federation of Students has raised concerns about graduate funding initiatives announced in the budget. They say these measures put women at a disadvantage. New graduate funding in the budget is targeted specifically at business-related fields, the makeup of which is 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female. This puts women graduate students at a major disadvantage in procuring funding.

Can the minister please tell us what the government is doing to remedy this gender imbalance to ensure that women have equitable access to graduate scholarships?


Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I do not know whether the honourable senator is suggesting that women do not have the potential to become business people. As I pointed out yesterday, the current statistics are quite different from when Senator Milne and I entered the workforce.

Senator Milne: The percentage of women in my faculty has gone up from 1 per cent to 4 per cent.

Senator LeBreton: If Senator Milne were to look at our universities today and who is winning scholarships and the balance between young men and women graduating out of our universities in law, science and medicine, she would see that there is a pretty equal balance. As a matter of fact, Senator Keon could probably tell us this, but I do believe last year at the University of Ottawa, more women graduated out of the medical school than did men, and I believe that was also the case with regard to law.

Senator Jaffer, our government has increased funding for scholarships at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council by 50 per cent to $75.2 million. More scholarships are available to more graduate students in all areas of study. My granddaughters are both in university and, as far as I know, all areas of study are available to them. The stakeholders asked us to make more scholarships available to business students, and we have done that, and that is for both young men and young women. The Canada Graduate Scholarships program will continue to fund social sciences and humanities studies as well as business and finance. Yesterday, honourable senators heard me lament the fact that there were not enough women at the board of director level. Perhaps if we start encouraging women into business and finance, we will see more women in these positions.

In the past three budgets, we have increased annual funding for Canada’s three granting councils by a total of $205 million, providing more opportunities for scientists and researchers across the country to do more research. In Budget 2009, the government is also investing $87.5 million in the Canada Graduate Scholarships program to help develop, attract and retain Canada’s and the world’s best researchers.