University of Regina president speaks at Laurier

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Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Regina, came to Wilfrid Laurier University last Tuesday, October 11, to speak to students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

Her talk, “Women’s Leadership in Academia: Everyone’s Challenge,” presented the concerning statistics regarding women in leadership roles, specifically those in academia.

“There is a real issue that we need to unpack. When you look at the number of women presidents, vice-presidents of academic, vice-presidents of research, etc. we’re still only in the 20 per cent range,” said Timmons.

Timmons spoke about the multitude of reasons that she feels might explain why women have not been promoted or encouraged to step into higher leadership roles.

“A point that she was trying to make was that this is not an issue just for women. It’s everybody’s challenge to find ways to address this,” said Deborah MacLatchy, Laurier’s provost and vice-president: academic.

As an individual who has moved up from being a faculty member, to being in administration, to eventually being president of the university, Timmons was able to express some of the challenges she has faced from being a women in the academic world.

“When I was a young woman, I knew that it was harder to get ahead. Our mothers and grandmothers fought for the right. But I would have thought by today that my daughters wouldn’t have that same experience,” said Timmons.

Timmons also explained that the statistics of women in leadership roles in universities are specifically troublesome.

“Of all places where we should be leading in terms of equality and equity in society is in universities. And we’re not leading, we’re lagging.”

MacLatchy explained that hosting a talk such as this one is important to the Laurier community, as this subject has been a large topic of conversation.

“We’ve been talking more and more about diversity and ensuring that the Laurier community better reflects the community at large. We certainly want gender equality.”

Timmons believes it is the responsibility of women leaders in universities to encourage and support other women, as well as to openly talk to and educate others about this prevalent issue.

Although 60 per cent of students on Canadian university campuses are female, the percentage of female research chairs or senior women on campus is approximately 20 per cent.

“There obviously is marginalization of women in leadership ranks in universities. And of all the places, it should not happen within a university,” said Timmons.

As the first female university president in Saskatchewan, Timmons was named one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women in the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

As an advocate for the growth of women in leadership roles, Timmons is also well known as a national and international expert in literacy research and inclusive education.

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