March 6, 2019
Victoria Haldane, a first-year PhD student at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, is passionate about using health services research to transform patient care. As a researcher she is also focused on the landscape of equality in both health care, and within the academic institutions that many researchers hold in high regard.
The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, recently published a special themed issue on advancing women in science, medicine and global health, providing Haldane with an opportunity to contribute to a study with female researchers from other universities worldwide, where they examined the rates of disparity evident among women and ethnic minorities in senior level academic positions.
Examining the top 15 global universities in social and public health based on the US News 2018 ranking table, their investigation showed clearly in terms of both numbers and representation that there is a significant absence of ethnic and non-ethnic minority women in senior academic positions despite the existence of policies and action plans aimed at reducing these gaps.
“We could see that there was a downward trajectory in career progression among women and even more so among ethnic minority women,” said Haldane. “As a result of our findings we urge institutions to take action and address these disparities, with full knowledge and transparency.”
As a contributing researcher, Haldane conducted a qualitative analysis dissecting the different policies, strategies and guidelines pertaining to diversity and inclusion found at each educational institution. This type of content analysis was intended to establish the kinds of environments within these institutions that could be underpinning the levels of equity and diversity found within senior academic leadership.
“There were actually a wide spread variety of programs available and it illustrated that there were ways in which universities are currently trying to address the issue, but more can be done,” said Haldane. “As researchers working in public health and health care, it is important to see these institutions we hold in high regard also upholding standards of equity and diversity particularly in the fields of science, medicine and public health.”
Within her content analysis, Haldane found that the University of Toronto, which was included in the study as one of the top ranked institutions, offered programs and workshops that support efforts to close the gaps in its representation for ethnic and non-ethnic minority women on staff. The Rose M. Patton Leadership Program, supported by the VP of HR and Equity, offers mentorship training by pairing staff with senior leaders in their career field. The university has also recently put out a call for Research Chairs in Equity and Diversity as part of its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, and has an established New and Evolving Academic Leaders Program, all as a means of addressing disparities and providing mentorship and opportunity. While it is significant that many such programs exist across U of T and some of the other academic institutions examined, the study’s authors want to see standards of academic and staff gender and diversity reflected in the way future ranking decisions are made worldwide.
“We know we need to be more inclusive and diverse, and I think that there is always room for improvement,” said Haldane. “This paper I was involved in and working with this fantastic team of brilliant women researchers, cemented for me that we need to pay attention to our research environment and ensure that our institutions support our values. We need to cultivate ourselves in supportive and inclusive environments that are also accountable.”