UAlberta marks International Women's Day

(Edmonton) Unsure how to celebrate International Women’s Day this year? The University of Alberta is home to a pair of events marking this important day. From a panel on women’s leadership in academia to undergraduate researchers presenting their work on issues of feminism and gender, both events will engage attendees and provide opportunities for learning and discovery with a distinctly U of A design.

Tonight, the TELUS Centre will play host to a panel of women academic leaders from the U of A. Moderated by Malinda Smith, a U of A professor of political science, the group will discuss and reflect on the successes and ongoing challenges facing women in the institution.

Citing the number of women in leadership roles across the university—including the president and two vice-presidents as well as deans of arts, education and extension—and leading, award-winning academics such as Margaret-Ann Armour and Janine Brodie, Smith says there is a great deal to be proud of in terms of the university’s accomplishments in this area. But there is still ground to cover, and the challenges are not unique to the U of A.

“Only 23 per cent of full professors are women; it’s been an ongoing concern for the last 24 years, but that’s not unique in Canada. It’s the same across the board,” she said. “The panellists will address ideas like mentoring and providing child care.”

Along with looking at the challenges, Smith says, it is also a time to come together and talk about best practices and lessons learned from their experience, including exploring what information faculties can share with each other on their successes in attracting women to their disciplines or on the process involved in developing strong women leaders. “It’s an important opportunity to take stock, to celebrate achievements, to recognize the work that is yet to be done and to think constructively—to learn lessons from each other about going forward,” she said.

On March 8, undergraduate researchers will present their papers on issues related to feminism, gender and sexuality at an interdisciplinary conference in Assiniboia Hall. The students cover topics as diverse as medieval women, indigenous issues, body image and size, and the contributions of Sylvia Plath and Alanis Morissette to feminist thought.

Organizer Susanne Luhmann, a professor of women’s and gender studies, says this work is a showcase for some of this year’s top research work by undergrads in gender and sexuality studies. The students were nominated by faculty from across the institution, and were selected by organizers to present at this conference.

“It really represents the outstanding work that our undergraduate students are doing in their academic studies,” she said. “We’re looking at women, but there are also some questions on masculinity. We’re looking at women, gender and sexuality.”

Although the topic and tone of the U of A events may be distinct from what is happening across the country—from theatre presentations and fashion shows to gala dinners and marches—Luhmann says that a conference befits both the department and the university.

“We wanted this event to be on International Women’s Day because we do research. And these are junior researchers working in these fields,” said Luhmann. “It seemed like a fitting contribution from an academic institution on International Women’s Day.”

Lise Gotell, chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, echoes these thoughts in the context of the university’s mission and its commitment to undergraduate research.

“The University of Alberta has such great strengths in feminist gender and sexuality research, and the university has a commitment to nurturing undergraduate research and improving the undergraduate experience,” said Gotel. “This conference is really about putting those two things together.”

Related links

Find out more about the panel discussion

Find out more about the conference