By Aldis Brennan Feature Editor
Centennial College prides itself on embracing diversity, equity and inclusion as a fundamental aspect of education. It says so in almost all of its official distributed material, including course outlines. But how do we know if they’re accomplishing these lofty goals? The college has a research division known as the Institute for Global Citizenship and Equity that is responsible for just these sorts of topics. Dr. Margaret Brigham is the dean of the institute. She started a project to collect information about the composition of the college.
“I just think that it’s valuable to monitor the composition of things and the way that we look at diversity. It shouldn’t just be an empty statement,” Brigham said. “We need to have data, we need to have commitment and we need to have people actually using it. It needs to be something that is up-front and on top of how we do business.”
The 2010 survey found, among other things, that across the board there are more females at Centennial College than males. That means not only students, but faculty, administrative staff and support staff as well.
“That was the reason we did the survey, so that we could ensure that people in their decision-making were headed towards some kind of balance,” Brigham said.
This trend holds true over time as well. Going back as far as 1990, only in the last two years have there been more males enrolled at the college than females.
Going further back in time, it is more difficult to establish whether Centennial College succeeded at obtaining gender equality. But, there is some anecdotal evidence that gender discrimination was not the norm. Marilyn Wocks, for example, worked in the payroll department at the old Warden Woods campus.
“The girls I worked with, I still associate with them even though I’m not working there anymore. I’ve kept the friendships up,” Wocks said. “I was treated really well. My experience there was very good.”
A former student from the Warden Woods campus, Sheila Pattison, also didn’t have any problems. She took night classes at the college starting in 1966 and was completely comfortable travelling around the campus late at night.
“I didn’t notice any discrimination against women. But it was mostly women taking the classes. There were one or two men there,” Pattison said.
While these two experiences are not sufficient to claim that Centennial College has always been a school with gender equality, they do raise an interesting question.
Both women were predominantly working with or learning with other women. A recent study done by the Ontario Colleges Application Service shows this kind of experience to be a trend for women learning among other women. Programs like early childhood education and nursing are almost exclusively female, while courses on automotive mechanics and computer science are male dominated.
If Centennial College is serious about using statistical data to inform their policies, the problem of gender inequity within certain programs is the next step in the promotion of equality.