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Feminist Success Stories - Célébrons nos réussites féministes

Karen A. Blackford
Marie-Luce Garceau
Sandra Kirby

Part I: Education — Partie I : Éducation

The Unfinished Story: SSHRC’s Strategic Grant Program on Women and Work

Linda Christiansen-Ruffman, Francine Descarries et Mary Lynn Stewart

Texte intégral

Once Upon a Time…

  • 1 The first draft of this paper was written for presentation at the Canadian Sociology and Anthropolo (...)
  • 2 It is true that some empirical researchers such as Paul Lazarsfeld insisted that “sex” (or what we (...)
  • 3 This article was first published in the Monthly Review, XXI (New York, September 1969, 13-27.). It (...)
  • 4 The first edition was published in 1973 by New Press, Toronto, and the second, revised edition in 1 (...)
  • 5 Most people do not realize the power of the taken-for-granted societal assumptions. In a 1996 book (...)

1Once upon a time — what seems like a long time ago but is really only yesterday — women were invisible — theoretically, academically, and politically.1 From the vantage point of the early 1990s, it is hard to remember — and difficult to imagine — the scholarly world without books, journals, newsletters, or courses that even mentioned women.2 It is hard to recapture the enthusiasm that greeted Maggie Benston’s article on the Political Economy of Women’s Liberation3 and Marylee Stephenson’s edited book, Women in Canada, in 1973.4 It is difficult to describe that taken-for-granted world without women5 and the sudden “clicks” of recognition at first seeing data on discrimination, perceiving our problems as public issues, and understanding the potential intellectual significance of feminism. During the late 1960s and 1970s, it was exciting to rediscover a thriving women’s presence at other historical times and places, but frightening to realize how quickly women’s previous struggles and gains had disappeared from our view with hardly a trace.

  • 6 Support for Canadian research is administered through one of three granting Councils: SSHRC, MRC, a (...)
  • 7 For a discussion of the patricentric nature of scholarship, see Linda Christiansen-Ruffman, “Inheri (...)
  • 8 When women were considered, they were primarily discussed as exceptions or deviants. They were not (...)

2These were times before strategic grants, even before the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), when academic research in the social sciences and humanities was supported through the scholarly programs of the Canada Council.6 Scholarship was blatantly and unapologetically patricentric, grounded in the experiences of men.7 For example, women’s paid and unpaid work experiences were not seen; they were outside of conceptual frameworks. Researchers conducted surveys of labour force participation that either did not disaggregate for sex or were restricted to male samples. The assumption that work was male permeated research design, data, and conclusions. The invisibility and hence undervaluation of women’s work had direct research and policy implications in every field — business, politics, religion, science, and technology.8 A vicious circle of invisibility, undervaluation, and silence on the subject of women perpetuated itself.

  • 9 In response to the Royal Commission and the Women’s Movement, women friendly bureaucrats (femocrats (...)

3Women at the time were not accepted in the ivory tower — as scholars or theoretical actors. Times began to change as a result of the women’s movement in the late 1960s, the rapid expansion of universities, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, and efforts by Canadian femocrats.9 Within the context of International Women’s Year, 1975, it was risky, but far more legitimate than previously, to participate publicly as women. On behalf of the newly formed Women’s Caucus at Saint Mary’s and with other women university representatives from Halifax, Linda Christiansen-Ruffman presented a brief to the Canada Council describing the minimal participation rates of women at the Canada Council; discrimination was denied, perhaps not even recognized, by the Chair. In that same year, Lynn McDonald, Susan Clark, and Linda, with contacts around the country, planned a negotiated grant proposal to the Canada Council to produce books on women. The grants officer, however, said that it was premature and that research was needed in the field first. Canada Council did support the national conference held in Halifax in November 1976 entitled “Research on Women: Current Projects and Future Directions.” This first major national conference on women’s research, also financed by Canada’s Employment and Immigration and Secretary of State, mushroomed from a proposed 30 participants to hundreds. Exactly a year later, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW) held its first annual conference, and its mandate to promote research by, for, and about women has been instrumental in developing feminist research in Canada. CRIAW conferences have also received some support from Canada Council and its successor, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, but the major granting councils in Canada have a long way to go before fully supporting women’s research.

In the Beginning... Initiation of the Women and Work Strategic Grant Program

4The 1970s brought a growing awareness in Canada of discrimination against women within academia, of the biases against women in scholarship, and of the need for research by, for, and about women. The CSAA Women’s Caucus, one of many status of women organizations, was among those that focused occasionally on the Canada Council and, after 1978, its successor, SSHRC.

5“Strategic research” in Canada was initiated in 1978 when the Canadian government granted $10 million of additional funds to the three granting councils for the purpose of carrying out research in areas of national concern; $2 million was allocated to SSHRC. While many CSAA Women’s Caucus members, out of concern that political interference would shape the scholarly agenda, outspokenly opposed the new policy-oriented initiative of Strategic Grants, the Caucus and its members also saw potential for a strategic grant focused on women: not only would it increase research on women, but its combined policy and scholarly focus would support new theories and methodologies in Women’s Studies and develop feminist praxis.

  • 10 For a history of the CSAA Women’s Caucus, see Janice Drakich and Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale, “Feminist (...)

6In identifying strategic themes, the Council consulted “widely” in the research community, including the presidents of all universities, the Canadian Federation for the Humanities, the Social Science Federation of Canada, presidents of all learned societies, and about 75 non-university research institutes and foundations. Because of demographics, few women were actually consulted, but we made our voices heard. From this process, eight broad themes emerged, one of which was Women’s Studies. After examining these themes, Council asked the Planning and Evaluation Division to sponsor workshops on four themes, not including Women’s Studies. When the Strategic Grants Division was officially created in 1980, it ran programs on three themes: Population Aging, the Human Context of Science and Technology, and Family and the Socialization of Children.10

  • 11 It was seven years later, however, as a result of the Paquet Report and the Focus on Strategics, th (...)

7This is only one indicator of the chilly climate for women that characterized SSHRC in its early days. Working within this climate and being pressured by women from outside was Maureen Woodrow, the SSHRC officer who became responsible for the development of Women and Work. It was a long planning process that involved a major conference in British Columbia in 1981, then a series of nine regional workshops, and then a meeting of workshop sponsors. In the course of this process, the theme changed from the impact of education on the role of women in the labour force to Women and the Canadian Labour Force (the theme of the BC conference), to Women and the Canadian Economy (the recommendation of the BC conference), to Women and Work. These changed tides were attempts by women and feminists at the time to ensure that the topic was as free as possible of patricentric and androcentric presuppositions and that it did not isolate women’s work in the labour force from women’s work in the family. Indeed, many feminists were enthusiastic about the potentially innovative research that might be generated by exploring the idea of work from women’s experiences and inviting a critical reinterpretation of the concept of work. The successive tides also increasingly favoured multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaborative approaches and were seen to allow increasingly for innovative policy and scholarly research. A number of recommendations from the BC conference and the regional workshops were radical at the time although they prefigured later policy initiatives within the Strategic Grant program for interdisciplinary, genuinely collaborative, user-relevant research based on partnerships between academics and non-academics.11

  • 12 The minutes record the following policy concerns about women’s equality and interest in specifying (...)

8The development of the Women and Work grant within SSHRC, however, was characterized by caution. At the January 1983 meeting with organizers of regional conferences and SSHRC decision makers, for example, feminist proposals were cast in terms of guidelines for existing strategic themes: those in attendance were strongly supportive of full participation of community-based research groups and private scholars as well as collaboration between university and community based researchers. The minutes report that they recommended that a statement similar to that found in the guidelines for Family and the Socialization of Children be used. As part of encouraging interdisciplinarity and fresh approaches to the material of traditional disciplines, scholars in the humanities were to be invited to make proposals by including the paragraph to that effect from another themes guidelines, Population Aging, the 1983 guidelines invited scholars in the humanities to take advantage of the program “through critical studies of history, literature, philosophy, or art.” There seemed to be a concerted attempt to avoid any hint of innovative scholarship associated with this theme, to stress how this focus on women would fit in to existing research agendas,12 and to avoid “rocking the boat.” The minutes report that the participants “agreed that Council should adopt a policy of non-sexist research for all of its programs.” However, they “ultimately...agreed that it was premature to make a recommendation on the matter at this time.”

9Despite these cautionary processes, the Women and Work Strategic Grant Program inaugurated in 1983 was consistent with some recommendations from the British Columbia conference and regional workshops. As stated in the 1983-89 Guidelines for the theme:

The overall objective of the program on Women and Work is to foster and encourage research and scholarship which is non-sexist in language and methodology... In addition to supporting individual research, the program is designed to encourage the following:

  1. Cooperation and collaboration of researchers inside or outside the university.

  2. Projects of a multidisciplinary nature.

  3. Cooperation and consultation between researchers and organizations which will potentially benefit from the research.

  4. The compilation, synthesis, and national dissemination of research carried out in different parts of the country.

  • 13 The 1983 Guidelines contain the following list of suggested topics: the status of different kinds o (...)

10Despite statements of policy endorsing the humanities, private scholars, and the community, the message about the program was ambiguous. The critical interpretation of the concept of work and its potential for affecting policy envisaged during some of the regional consultations and reflected in the change of name and in the explicit inclusion of the humanities was not encouraged by the concrete list of topics.13 In fact, humanists read the list as explicitly excluding their concerns. The list disregarded innovative formulations and suggestions from many of the feminist planners, and thereby diminished the themes analytic potential. Even potentially transformative concepts such as unpaid work were framed in conventional language that did not draw scholars into questions or reflections related to underlying theoretic assumptions, but favoured empirical work within existing (sexist) paradigms. When the Guidelines were revised in 1990 after the Paquet Committee report, they reflected an increasing specificity and focus on work in the paid labour force. The potential for understanding the powerful but unquantifiable “obstacles” created by cultural prohibitions and inhibitions was thereby reduced. The language of “obstacles,” “careers,” and “contributions” suggested simple problems with simple solutions; it discouraged analysis of systemic biases and intersecting systems of oppression and opportunity.

So What’s the Story?

11Women and Work had become the longest surviving Strategic Grant Program when in early 1991 Carmen Lambert, first Chair of the Women’s Issues Network of the Social Science Federation of Canada, discussed a peer review plan to evaluate this program with senior SSHRC administrators, including Louise Dandurand, and with the Network, representing women from each member professional association. After these discussions, Carmen convinced Linda Christiansen-Ruffman to lead an evaluation team that would include a representative from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and from Quebec. With Carmen’s help, Linda put the team together and then wrote a quick proposal to SSHRC which received a special grant from SSHRC’s President, Paule Leduc. The study began in April 1991 and a final report was submitted to SSHRC’s Council in April 1992. In 1993, both English and French versions were jointly published as Women and Work: Feminist Research in Progress by the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW), the Social Science Federation of Canada, and the Canadian Federation for the Humanities. One important recommendation for a new theme on Women and Change was implemented.

12To better understand the differing assumptions and empirical findings from the sociologists and historians within our team, we developed an analogy of understanding and describing a tomato. One can smell, touch, taste, or look. Each approach gives a different and equally valid sense of the tomato, but each is also incomplete. Slicing the tomato in different ways discloses additional information. Each slice reveals a distinct pattern of seeds and flesh, some with more seeds and some with fewer. It goes almost without saying, as well, that a tomato also looks differently on the vine, in the store, in the salad, or in the spaghetti sauce, and thus its description must be contextualized.

13From this point in history, Women and Work may be analyzed in many different ways. As with any complex event, various credible stories may be told, depending upon one’s framework for analysis.

  • 14 The pre-eminence of these two large Québec universities may reflect greater emphasis on attaining o (...)

14Women and Work had different faces in different locations. We found, for example, considerable geographic variation in the number of research grant projects funded. Between 1983 and 1991, UQAM with its 21 projects had a high profile as did Laval with 9 projects.14 The larger anglophone universities — the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia — each had 8; Queens University had 6. In contrast, only 11 successful projects came from the Prairies and 8 from the entire Atlantic region.

15Besides regional distributions, we also examined the accomplishments of the program and its funded projects. For the purposes of this paper, we have grouped some of our findings under three headings which each give valid characterizations of Women and Work from its inception: accomplished success; gains — won and lost; and unaccomplished potential.

Accomplished Success

  • 15 Of the 160 successful applications for research grants, our qualitative review found that 19 of the (...)
  • 16 Data furnished to us by the Evaluation and Statistics Division of SSHRC (November 26, 1991) indicat (...)

16Women and Work focused research projects and research money toward the study of women and women’s experiences. From 1983 to 1991, Women and Work awarded 160 research grants,15 82 seed grants, 20 research workshop grants, and 3 partnership development grants. Research grants were awarded at an average rate of 18 per year. In 1989, however, the number fell to 9 and in 1990 rose to 26. Over the period studied, $7,736,031 was distributed in the research grant program, $2,099,663 of which was distributed in the 1990 and 1991 competitions.16 Overall, Women and Work supported research projects at an annual average of $859,559, reaching over a million dollars twice (in 1988 and 1990), with a relatively uneven pattern of awards ranging from $642,636 in 1987 to 1.2 million in the following year of 1988 and back to $657,962 in 1989.

Increased Research on Women

17The Women and Work grant program itself was extraordinarily successful in increasing research on women. The first year of Women and Work resulted in an almost seven-fold increase of projects focused on women or gender within strategic grants and a doubling within SSHRC overall. More specifically, within Strategic Grants, the number of projects focused on women or gender increased from 3 to 53, or from 3.3% to 21.8%, while the overall percentage for all projects within SSHRC increased from 3.8% to 7.5%, (28/729 to 82/1090).

Increased Research by Women

  • 17 The low participation rates of women in Managing the Organization in Canada show that themes do not (...)

18Women and Work was also successful in attracting and supporting women researchers. Within strategic grants, the theme was atypical in that the majority of applicants to all other themes were men. Women were between 2 and 5.4 times more likely to have applied for either strategic research or seed grants under the women and work theme than under other themes: 80.6% of the applicants to Women and Work compared to 40% in the Family and Socialization of Children and 15% in Managing the Organization.17

Increased Multidisciplinary/Team Research

  • 18 See pp. 78-102 of Christiansen-Ruffman, Descarries, and Stewart, 1993.

19Within the objectives of the strategic grant program, Women and Work was exceptionally successful. It achieved the organizational objectives of the program both by encouraging team research and multidisciplinary research, and its performance improved over time. Moreover, in both these research areas, Women and Work far exceeded the other strategic grant themes. Outstanding performance involving these objectives was empirically found at both the level of the individual research project and the program as a whole.18

Importance of a Different Style of Research for Women

20Women and Work also had an important and generalized impact on valuing a different style of research that challenged the extant ivory tower mentality. More than scholars in other fields, Women and Work researchers saw policy and scholarly objectives, as well as non-sexist research, as interrelated. As the first program within any of the granting councils to focus on women, Women and Work also had an important symbolic role in legitimizing research on women. The program assisted in the development of Women’s Studies in Canada at a time when there was considerable discrimination against women and women’s scholarship within the ranks of academia and in society itself.

21Women and Work symbolically encouraged and financially supported research that would not have been possible at the time in discipline-based committees (and that is still not possible in many of them). It provided financial support for some of the few SSHRC-supported projects in which graduate students participated in research on and about women. Moreover, this program helped Canadian researchers and scholars develop what has rapidly become a dominant field of research and theory in Women’s Studies. The programs research results contributed to making a formerly unrecognized segment of Canadian society visible and, in doing so, have valorized women and the multiple forms of work they do.

Gains — Won and Lost

22Two major components of Women and Work might have been considered achievements — the policy of support for private scholars and the stated objective of non-sexist research. Both had been prominent in the planning stages. Pressure from women within the academy led to the institutionalization of both these policies within Women and Work and to some progress more generally within SSHRC. Both initiatives, however, were cancelled shortly before we started research on this evaluative review.

Non-Sexist Research Objective

  • 19 The review of the applicant files did not generally find a problem with sexist research. Neverthele (...)

23This strategic grant program on women had an explicit objective of non-sexist research. Generally, the research within Women and Work did live up to its non-sexist objective, and, to this extent, the program has made an important contribution to non-sexist scholarship in Canada. From a questionnaire addressed to all researchers who applied to Women and Work, we also learned that almost all respondents strongly affirmed the importance of non-sexist research, indicating that they always or almost always conducted their own research in this manner.19 Nevertheless, the criterion of non-sexist research still had a strong impact within Women and Work. Over 30% of the respondents to our questionnaire reported that their research practices were changed in some way by the programs objective of non-sexist research. A number of scholars were enthusiastic about new insights and intellectually invigorated by new realms of scholarship.

  • 20 It is not a good idea to force either men or women to study a particular gender if they have no int (...)

24Internationally and nationally in comparison with the other granting councils, SSHRC was at the forefront of recognizing the problem of sexist research. The initiation of this strategic area signalled the beginning of SSHRC’s attempts to correct the long-term, taken-for-granted sex biases in research.20 Feminist scholars had lobbied SSHRC to adopt non-sexist policies for all its programs, arguing that sexist and racist biases created bad research and unethical research. Rather than adopt a non-sexist policy, however, SSHRC Council decided to publicize non-sexist research guidelines. They commissioned Margrit Eichler and Jeanne LaPointe to write On the Treatment of the Sexes in Research and freely distributed copies to researchers across Canada.

  • 21 Among the dominant ideas that animate Canadian public policy is its continued commitment to equity (...)

25Although some of the discrimination in society and in scholarship which gave rise to non-sexist policies has remained, the utility of and favourable reception to non-sexist policies were not heeded. In 1990, when the objectives of all strategic grants were changed, the objective of non-sexist research could have been added as an overall objective within strategics and, indeed, within SSHRC itself. Instead, the objective of non-sexist research was dropped from Women and Work. Its absence gives conflicting signals to potential applicants concerning the mandate of the Council and its commitment to non-sexist values in funding, research, and national public policy.21

Support for Private Scholars

26The policy of support for private scholars grew out of discussions in Women’s Caucuses that recognized the need for support of new Ph.D.s without jobs, many of whom were women, in a time when jobs were scarce. Pressure from women within the academy led to the temporary institutionalization of a policy allowing private scholars to apply directly to SSHRC for funding of research, including stipends.

27While the objective of non-sexist research was only implemented within Women and Work, the policy of supporting private scholars was implemented across SSHRC programs — and reiterated as an objective at all stages of the development of Women and Work. The 1983 guidelines for Women and Work explicitly stated that the program was “open to researchers outside the university community as well as to university-based scholars.” Council has also made special reference to researchers “beyond the university community” in encouraging multidisciplinary approaches.

  • 22 Between 1979 and 1988, Managing the Organization in Canada funded no private scholars: Population A (...)
  • 23 See Tables A-1 to A-6 and Table 7 of Hanson, 1989. Human Contact of Science and Technology had 6 aw (...)

28Private scholars played a comparatively significant role in Women and Work22 Between 1979 and 1988, the 22 grants to private scholars within Women and Work (10 research, 11 seed, and 1 workshop) comprised more than half the 42 grants made to private scholars in all five strategic grant programs during that period. As SSHRC researcher, Robert Hanson (1989:18) commented, only Women and Work at 10% is a success.23

29The program, although more successful than the others, might have been more generous to private scholars, especially in the area of research grants. If we look at another period from 1983 to 1991 in Women and Work, only 12 research projects proposed by 8 private scholars won research grants totalling $703,449. This number represents only 8% of the total percentage of successful applicants. Private scholars were better represented among the holders of seed grants: 11 grants or between 14 and 15% of the total. Of course, this accounted for only a very small amount of the funds expended. In their evaluation of applicants, some university-based scholars were intolerant of the more policy-based research designs submitted by private scholars.

30Interestingly, none of the private scholars receiving seed grants reappeared as private scholars among the holders of research grants. However, one or two of the same persons reappeared with university affiliations. This is indicative of the fluidity of status among young scholars in difficult economic times and of the fact that seed grants did support the research of unemployed scholars until they got permanent academic positions. The private scholar policy, as well as the non-sexist research objective, also had a significant generalized impact in shaping the research conducted under the program in important policy-oriented directions. For example, private scholars were likely to be especially supportive of the policy-oriented partnership goals of the Strategic Grant Program. In 1983, the only private scholar to receive a grant also had a formal partnership with the Economic Council of Canada, 1 of only 2 formal partnerships; in 1984, 2 of the 3 successful private scholars arranged the only 2 formal partnerships: 1 with the Canadian Labour Congress and the other with the Vancouver Centennial Bibliographic Project.

31Ironically, given the recent decision to eliminate funding for private scholars, the research undertaken by the successful private scholars was important in terms of its subject matter as well as its scholarly production. For instance, private scholars received 1 of only 9 grants awarded for projects focusing on pink-collar work and 1 of only 3 grants for projects on the important subject of the impact of new technology, specifically computerization of clerical work, in this “feminine” sector. In 1986, 1988, and 1990, another private researcher received 3 of only 10 grants given to study unions and unionization.

32The tight economic and job situation within universities has forced some researchers into the position of private scholar. If the situation has been hard for all private scholars, it has been particularly difficult for women because of the persistence of systemic, cultural, and structural factors, including lack of affordable daycare and restricted mobility resulting from family obligations that make it more difficult for them to get regular appointments. Nevertheless, in 1991, the private scholars policy was cancelled, partly because it was unique to SSHRC among granting councils and partly as a cost-cutting measure. When challenged about this restrictive, sexist, and elitist policy, senior staff at SSHRC argued that private scholars could easily affiliate with universities as adjunct professors for grant submissions. Factors unique to women such as the chilly climate and resistance of old boys’ networks to feminist scholarship, as well as the more significant effect of this policy on female scholars, were ignored in this policy change.

Unaccomplished Potential

33In its subject matter and conceptual frameworks, its organization of research and its contribution to Women’s Studies, Women and Work was not as creative as it might have been. Its feminist potential was never realized and researchers who worked for its development still harbour unaccomplished dreams.

The Subject Matter

  • 24 A qualitative review of 157 successful research grant files funded by Women and Work found 138 were (...)

34Rather than emphasizing conceptual and methodological innovation and developing feminist knowledge, the subject matter of the research in Women and Work tended to reproduce the mainstream, male-conceptualized world of work. As demonstrated by the qualitative review of subjects funded during the period from 1983 to l991, over two-thirds of the projects studied specific occupations.24 This focus on occupations was consistent with the proposed topic of various kinds of women’s work in the guidelines from 1983 to 1989 and the even more particular reference to women’s careers and career patterns in the 1990-1991 guidelines.

  • 25 One workshop was funded in 1985 with a focus on “Women in Women’s Work: a study of the work environ (...)
  • 26 As the gender-typed label indicates, these jobs employ more women and are gender-typed as being fem (...)

35Not only was the occupational focus on paid work; it also favoured women in traditionally male occupations. Nearly twice as many projects examined women’s non-traditional jobs compared to conventionally feminine jobs or occupations (60 versus 34). More research could have been funded on the so-called “caring professions”25 and on traditional “pink-collar” and service occupations where women are concentrated in the labour force.26 Women and Work missed the opportunity to reassess the social, cultural, economic, and political dimensions of occupations and professions where women have accumulated knowledge and experience. Such women-centered research would have been especially important in adding the standpoint of women’s occupations to the scholarly literature.

36Researchers planning for Women and Work had developed innovative and challenging conceptions of the content of the theme, especially the nature of work, and of the collaborative and community-based ways in which research might be organized in the newly emerging discipline of Women’s Studies. These were slow in being picked up because the program and its research agenda were defined in more traditional terms than had been envisaged by feminist planners. In addition, this feminist understanding of the program’s potential was not necessarily shared by SSHRC staff, by scholars to whom SSHRC staff sent projects for assessment, or by members on the adjudication committees; they tended to apply standards consistent with their well established disciplines rather than one that was quickly growing, needed to draw on fresh insights, was multidisciplinary, had a policy orientation, and embraced a changing conceptual framework. More innovative and qualitative projects were apt to receive mixed reviews. Moreover, pressures were felt by some scholars and committees to legitimize the newly emerging field according to traditional, “objective scholarly” criteria.

  • 27 The Canadian Census, prior to 1996, did not take account of work that was unpaid. Unpaid work was n (...)

37Given the orientation of many research projects to quantitative research and measurement, it is surprising that no projects were geared to the design of non-sexist measurements for use in the Census and in national accounts.27 Such studies would clearly have been appropriate to the scholarly and policy goals of Women and Work. They would have corrected some of the legacy of distortions that remain because sexist concepts formed the basis for scientific measurements in the past.

38Despite the explicit interest in Aboriginal and rural women while planning this strategic grant program, minority women were under represented among the funded topics. Only two studies privileged immigrant women (Labelle 1983 and Giles 1991) or First Nation women (Lange 1984 and 1985). Only one privileged the experiences and strategies of women with disabilities in the workplace (Dyck 1991). Bakan’s (1991) study of women and citizenship focused on women of colour. Some better way must be found to encourage research on different ethnic, class, racial, and cultural groups so that research does not so clearly replicate the prestige structure of society.

  • 28 Slightly more notice was given to employment equity in the mid 1980s (Agocs 1985: Harvey 1985; Harv (...)

39The anticipated policy research for the advancement of women also failed to materialize. We were perplexed by the relative inattention among funded projects to critically important policy issues. Daycare was considered in several successful research grant applications, but formed the core of none. Almost as surprising is the fact that only one successful project focused on sexual harassment (Smith 1990), taxation (Lahey 1986), and pensions (Black 1986).28 The relative absence of policy studies in important areas was confirmed by another analysis comparing major research themes in funded and non-funded research projects between 1987 and 1991. We found that policy projects were unlikely to be submitted. Of the 13 topics identified, studies of (1) social inequality and (2) social policies, including employment equity programs, accounted for only 17 and 15 projects respectively, for a total of 32 out of the 254 submissions during this time period, less than 4%. Even more startling, however, is their lower acceptance rate. Only 4 of the 17 projects on inequality were approved and only 5 of 15 projects on social policy. In these two topic areas with the clearest focus on policy, 72% of the projects submitted did not receive funding compared with an overall rejection rate of 55%. These data on project themes also confirm the dominant focus on occupations and are another indicator of the way in which the description of topics has limited the scope of Women and Work. The discovery of such an imbalance in a strategic grants program should stimulate thought about ways of generating and evaluating more innovative and critical projects.


  • 29 Fifteen project summaries mention informal collaborations with women’s groups as diverse as the La (...)

40Both the planners and the strategic grant guidelines promoted “partnerships,” and we expected to find many partnership projects. We were surprised. Only five formal partnerships can be found among the funded research grant recipients in the first seven years. After the guidelines changed to give more weight to partnerships, the numbers jumped to six in both 1990 and 1991 (over 23% of all the successful recipients in those years). Before 1990, the partners included the Women’s Skills Development Corporation in Vancouver, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the Vancouver Centennial Bibliographic Project. After 1990, partners were the Law Society of BC, a Ministry of Social Affairs, a multiple sclerosis clinic, the Canadian Congress for Learning Opportunities for Women, and Hydro Québec.29

41Partnerships were supposed to encourage policy relevant research outside the university, but the Vancouver based Women’s Research Centre experienced SSHRC’s unwillingness to support projects based in groups outside the “academy.” The Women’s Research Centre applied for a national working session on alternatives to job evaluation based pay equity — a subject virtually unexplored in the research grants. Women across the country in women’s groups, unions, government, and academic institutions had endorsed the need for such a session, and the Centre was well suited to develop background research, given its previous study and publication on the subject. Still, SSHRC rejected the application because it interpreted the funding guidelines to exclude projects falling within the “existing mandate” of the Centre. While this interpretation was technically correct, the Centre could not afford to mount the conference. The relatively poor financial resources of this potential partner meant that this valuable research was not done; we lost the unique contribution of knowledge only available from the perspective of the community.

42The contradictory dimensions of the idea of partnership were a frequent source of discussion during the review process. From many quarters, there was strong support for the concept of collaborative research relationships between academics and women’s groups. In such discussions, concern was expressed about the financial component now explicit in the SSHRC guidelines, since most women’s groups do not have the financial ability to contribute. Given this criteria, researchers expressed concern that their proposed studies with women’s groups might be judged less important than those with well-funded organizations. Some focus groups recommended that SSHRC drop the explicit reference to financial resources and recognize the contribution of groups in terms of their knowledge and experience. Researchers were reluctant to go through the process of developing a working partnership and building expectations and trust unless there was a relatively good chance of receiving funding. As one potential applicant explained:

I considered working with a group, but... I figured that I had a better chance doing the project alone, despite the formal criteria of partnerships. Everyone knows that the partnership idea is to bring in money. This project would take rather than give to the slim resources of this group.

43Those familiar with the incredibly scarce financial resources of women’s groups, the busy agendas, and difficult work of such groups, recommended that groups should not have to invest money to pay for their collaboration. Feminist research models promote a non-hierarchical, non-exploitative, egalitarian relationship between researchers and research collaborators, and several current features of the SSHRC guidelines and process were seen to undermine this relationship. Some feminist researchers noted a problem with SSHRC’s concept of the ownership of intellectual property, a concept that grants the rights of cultural interpretation and ownership of intellectual property to the researcher. This leads to cultural appropriation and violates the collaborative arrangement necessary for a true partnership. Another problem with the relationship between researchers and women’s community members is the imbalance in power relationships and the potential for the time, agenda, and scarce resources of community groups to be exploited by researchers. Historically, this has been a problem with research on marginal and relatively powerless groups, a problem that has contributed to a public suspicion of researchers in some communities. For example, in Labrador and Northern Canada, specific research protocols were developed to protect the needs of local people and prevent exploitation of their resources and culture by outside researchers. One creative solution for this problem would be to allocate funds for the use of community groups to hire the researchers they think they need to address their policy needs. If SSHRC encourages partnerships with disadvantaged groups, it is imperative that there be protection against entrepreneurial researchers infringing on the rights of local communities.

44In light of these considerations, we recommended:

That several types of partnerships henceforth be recognized and that one type be designed for community-initiated projects and community-needs assessments. Community-based partnerships should be designed to acknowledge the contribution and expertise of community-based partners in the creation of new knowledge and to avoid relationships that drain resources from community-based groups. A special fund for partnerships with community-based groups should be established that would allow researchers to buy the time of community-based staff or volunteers so that they could participate as full members of the research team without negatively affecting the work of the community group.

45We also cited the UQAM/Relais-Femmes protocol as an interesting example of collaboration between universities and women’s groups. It encourages “action-oriented” research, premised on the assumption that interaction between the parties concerned contributes to the analysis and eventual solution of real socio-economic and cultural problems that preoccupy the participants. Relais-Femmes is an umbrella organization bringing together the majority of women’s federations and associations in Québec on the basis of their communication, education, and research needs. It signed a protocol with UQAM in 1982 with the explicit objective of making “certain human and technical university resources, especially in the areas of non-credit instruction, research, and consultation accessible to Relais-femmes and its members.” This agreement provides a unique channel through which women’s groups gain access to university-based resources, on the one hand, and researchers gain access to the activities of women’s groups, on the other.

Innovative Methodologies

  • 30 This was exacerbated because universities began to equate the amount of grant money with scholarly (...)

46As described above, Women and Work was more successful than other strategic grant themes and research grant guidelines in developing a collaborative, multidisciplinary team approach to research. Some scholars, however, criticized Women and Work for promoting only one research model, a quantitative approach based in the physical sciences.30 Feminists felt that their methodologies and innovative approaches to knowledge creation were, by and large, discouraged. Some feminist applicants wrote projects in traditional, positivist terms in order to receive funding. This practice led to distortions in feminist knowledge creation, discouraged feminist substantive and methodological innovation, and undermined the feminist planners’ vision for this strategic grant program.

47The challenge for SSHRC is to acknowledge and foster diversity in its policies and to appreciate fully that real differences exist in research models and paradigms. Policies designed to perpetuate the hegemony of patriarchal knowledge refuse to accept diversity and lead to decisions that allocate resources unwisely and unfairly. Consistent application of decision-making to unequivalent conditions undermines rather than maximizes the skills and interests of researchers working under diverse conditions and within divergent intellectual frameworks. Social sciences and humanities within contemporary Canadian society are too diverse for one model. Yet, within the present context of limited resources, it is all too easy to seek solutions to identified problems by increasing consistency and favouring one model rather than inventing policy and program solutions cognizant of excellence in its diverse forms. For example, although the guidelines foreshadowed an alternative research model promoting knowledge discovery through the interaction of scholars and community partners, assessors favoured standard research proposals aimed at measuring variables and testing hypotheses in the quantitative scholarly tradition, a tradition in which a partner has nothing to contribute except money.

Women’s Studies/Feminist Research

  • 31 Although only five research projects were funded to principal investigators in Women’s Studies depa (...)

48Women and Work played an important role in shifting research resources to the study of women and in providing symbolic legitimation for this field of study. Although Women’s Studies scholars and feminist researchers were instrumental in the definitional stage, their vision was not taken up by the new program. Throughout the 1980s, while the two grew together, mutually reinforcing each other in many ways,31 they also grew apart. Innovative projects were not encouraged by guidelines and were actively discouraged by adjudication committees. Well known feminist scholars, including some of the best known researchers in the field of women and work, had their applications rejected. Knowledge of such decisions dampened enthusiasm for the program.

49What might have been a supportive relationship between Women and Work and Women’s Studies does not seem to have worked out in practice. The policy guideline on non-sexist research was dropped rather than expanded. Assessors and members of adjudication committees did not necessarily have knowledge and expertise in Women’s Studies/feminist research. High-quality and innovative studies from the perspective of Women’s Studies/feminist research were often rejected because they did not fit the mould; their qualitative objectives and methodologies were not valued by researchers guided by positivist paradigms and assumptions of quantitatively-oriented disciplines.

50We were initially surprised by the concerns about SSHRC’s reception of feminist scholarship during the consultative part of the Review. Women’s Studies scholars reported that they felt that self-censoring was necessary in order to respond appropriately to what they perceived to be Council staff and committee members who preferred traditional disciplines to Women’s Studies. The questionnaire confirmed that one-third of the successful women applicants (one-quarter of the sample) considered it prudent to reformulate their research proposal so that their feminist perspective would not be as explicit or evident. This perceived and actual institutionalized threat to the academic freedom of Women’s Studies scholars and feminist researchers is an on-going problem.

51Women and Work might have been used to contribute to the infrastructural development of Women’s Studies in Canada during the 1980s. The program’s objectives could have fostered this developmental support; two of the three consistently stated objectives of the Strategic Grants Program were as follows:

  • to support areas where the research capacity is currently limited and requires special stimulus for development;

  • to improve the capacity for research in Canada through support of the infrastructure for that research.

  • 32 Perhaps the difference between Women and Work and these other two fields lies in the fact that both (...)

52As well, there were precedents for stimulating special types of research and supporting the infrastructural development of special fields. The first strategic theme on aging did receive special infrastructural support for research centres and infrastructural development. Extra resources and programs supporting infrastructural development were also part of the other Strategic Grant Program established in the same year as Women and Work, guidelines for Managing the Organization in Canada included a special type of grant, Research Initiatives, that provided up to $75,000 “for projects on any aspect of Management or Administration which do not fit within the provisions of the programs defined, but which fall within the terms of reference of the Council.” The lack of needed infrastructural development within Women’s Studies was a lost opportunity.32

  • 33 During the 1980s, the Canadian Women’s Studies Association was established and grew. It received SS (...)
  • 34 For example, most universities have Women’s Studies courses and programs. The findings of Smith’s C (...)
  • 35 Our analysis of disciplines points to some possibility of research support for some types of women (...)

53SSHRC did not give resources to Women’s Studies nor contribute to its development.33 Despite widespread support for this emerging field of study,34 SSHRC has still not even recognized its existence. It was not persuaded by our study to do so. Our recommendation of a Women’s Studies Research Committee would have enabled research begun under Women and Work to continue its development.35 It would have prevented the patricentric paradigms of existing disciplines from stunting the growth and distorting the development of this newly emerging field and its innovative methodologies. A separate field of scholarship is needed to counter the strength and power of patriarchal knowledge and to prevent an undermining of research by, for, and about women. We note, for example, the ease with which Women’s Studies can become appropriated as Gender Studies and then transposed to produce an androcentric perspective on gendered roles.

54The recommendation for a separate body of Women’s Studies knowledge is sometimes construed as a segregationist position in opposition to an integrationist position, or mainstreaming that sees the incorporation of a perspective on women as necessary in every discipline. The frequency with which this debate is raised is an indicator of the dominance of the either/or syndrome in contemporary consciousness. The fruitlessness of debating this false dichotomy is clear when we recognize the importance, and interdependence, of both the need for a concentrated and focused field of Women’s Studies and the need for this topic and developing perspective to enter all disciplines. Successful incorporation of women into contemporary scholarship requires a field of Women’s Studies to create, gradually, a more well rounded understanding of society and to minimize the dominant patricentric approach to all knowledge in this patriarchal world. The minuscule amount of research focused on women needs to be expanded across the broad spectrum of areas and programs.

55In this spirit and with this understanding, delegates to the symposium on “Women, Research and Strategies,” held October 18 and 19, 1991, were united in presenting a package of interdependent motions. The Review Team joins the executives of the Social Science Federation of Canada and the Canadian Federation for the Humanities in endorsing this set of recommendations:

  • that Women’s Studies/ Études féministes be recognized as a discipline by SSHRC and have a place among the discipline committees;

  • that in the Strategic Grants Program a specific theme on women be maintained and defined in order to focus on women’s perspectives in the organization and institutionalization of knowledge;

  • that all strategic themes include pertinent reference to women;

  • that discipline committees recognize and encourage feminist scholarship within the disciplines and that SSHRC monitor these committees for that recognition and encouragement.

56It is incumbent upon Women’s Studies scholars to work toward these goals and to do the monitoring as well. The failure to implement all but the second of these components, either during the last decade or as a result of our report, points to the unfinished nature of this story.

The End/Beginning of this Unfinished Story

57The end of the Women and Work Strategic Grant Program was announced after our report was tabled in Spring 1992. And the end became the beginning of the new strategic grant program, Women and Change. The story of Women and Work turned out to be only the first chapter in a continuing saga of feminist research and scholarly activity. The future of this unfinished story will be formed in part by the staff and senior management in the major granting council for the social sciences and humanities. Their decisions in naming assessors and forming adjudication committees will shape the story. Decisions by these groups and projects submitted by Canadian researchers will form its new character. Time will tell how its future will be built by feminist academics in Canada and framed by our colleagues within the women’s movement around the globe.


1 The first draft of this paper was written for presentation at the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association meetings in Ottawa, June 4, 1993. It is based on research funded by SSHRC and submitted as a Report to SSHRC in April 1992. A slightly modified version of the report has been published by the Social Science Federation of Canada, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, and the Canadian Federation for the Humanities in 1993 in both English and French. The English title is Women and Work: Feminist Research in Progress. For further information about this research, please contact Linda Christiansen-Ruffman, Department of Sociology, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 3C3.

2 It is true that some empirical researchers such as Paul Lazarsfeld insisted that “sex” (or what we would now call “gender”) was a basic socio-economic or demographic variable and that it should be included on all questionnaires, but the dominant theoretical paradigms provided no sets of questions or analysis. The few times that male and female roles were examined, they reproduced the sexual stereotypes that helped to maintain patriarchy and women’s inferior position in society.

3 This article was first published in the Monthly Review, XXI (New York, September 1969, 13-27.). It was widely circulated in mimeographed form, and in readers (e.g., pages 119-128 of Nona Glazer-Malbin and Helen Youngelson Waehrer (eds.), Women In a Man-Made World, Chicago: Rand McNally, 1972). It is also mentioned as such in the opening pages of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, chaired by Florence Bird and published in 1970.

4 The first edition was published in 1973 by New Press, Toronto, and the second, revised edition in 1977. The editor was not rewarded by the university system for her pioneer work in academia. In a much publicized case, she was denied tenure by McMaster University, despite strong support from the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association and feminist scholars. She left academia.

5 Most people do not realize the power of the taken-for-granted societal assumptions. In a 1996 book written to celebrate twenty years of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, we have tried to describe the context as well as what it felt like being in different “times.”

6 Support for Canadian research is administered through one of three granting Councils: SSHRC, MRC, and NSERC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Medical Research Council and National Sciences and Engineering Research Council). Canada Council supports the Arts. While tradition in these councils differs slightly, each is based on a peer-review assessment of research projects, submitted by qualified scholars, almost all of whom have Ph.D.s and hold university positions. The requested funds support specified research costs. Because funds are very limited, the process is highly competitive. It is based on “peer review” and is carried out in the following manner: Researchers submit detailed proposals by annual deadlines through their respective universities. The proposals are sent for evaluation by assessors identified by SSHRC staff for their expertise. The proposal and assessments from at least two scholars are then sent to members of an adjudication committee, also comprised of “peers” selected by SSHRC staff who meet to decide how the limited budgets will be distributed among the applicants.

7 For a discussion of the patricentric nature of scholarship, see Linda Christiansen-Ruffman, “Inherited Biases Within Feminism: The ‘Patricentric Syndrome’ and the ‘Either/Or Syndrome’ in Sociology,” in Angela Miles and Geraldine Finn, Feminism: From Pressure to Politics, Montreal: Black Rose Press, 123-145, 1989.

8 When women were considered, they were primarily discussed as exceptions or deviants. They were not subjects of research.

9 In response to the Royal Commission and the Women’s Movement, women friendly bureaucrats (femocrats) prepared for the United Nations decade on women, which officially began with International Women’s Year in 1975. They influenced public policy to achieve official recognition of Canada’s need to improve the status of women. Governmental mechanisms were created to work toward that objective (e.g., Secretary of State Women’s Program, Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Status of Women Canada), and all departments of government were supposed to be dedicated to this goal. Although there have been many problems with state sponsored status of women’s efforts, they have been significant in Canada as well as in Australia where the concept of femocrats was developed by Hester Eisenstein. See her paper “The Australian Femocratic Experiment: A Feminist Case for Bureaucracy,” pp. 69-83 in Feminist Organizations: Harvest of the New Women’s Movement, edited by Patricia Yancey Martin and Myra Marx Ferree, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995. See also Resources for Feminist Research 17(3), 1988 for a Canadian commentary.

10 For a history of the CSAA Women’s Caucus, see Janice Drakich and Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale, “Feminist Organizing in the Academic Disciplines: The Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association,” in Jeri Wine and Janice Ristock (eds.) Social Change, Feminist Women and Activism m Canada Toronto: James Lorimer, pp. 283-98, 1991 and Eleanor Maricka-Tyndale and Janice Drakich, “Striking a Balance: Women Organizing for Change in the CSAA” in William K. Carroll, Linda Christiansen-Ruffman, Raymond F. Currie and Deborah Harrison (eds.) Fragile Truths: Twenty-Five Years of Sociology and Anthropology in Canada Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1992.

11 It was seven years later, however, as a result of the Paquet Report and the Focus on Strategics, that these suggestions were mote fully translated into program guidelines.

12 The minutes record the following policy concerns about women’s equality and interest in specifying that diversity that was also on Council’s agenda at the time: “There could be no doubt that the research arising from the theme would need to affect in a meaningful way the formulation of social policy to equalize treatment between the sexes in both the short and long terms. The research would, in addition, need to be empirical in nature and regional in emphasis, there being a need within each region to address the status and problems not only of the urban but also of the rural and native women” (Minutes, Women and Work Program Development, Ottawa, January 24,1983).

13 The 1983 Guidelines contain the following list of suggested topics: the status of different kinds of paid or unpaid work done by women within the formal or informal economic structure (e.g., barriers to equality of opportunity and to equality of rewards); the structure and process of change in the labour force; the effects of current social security, unemployment insurance, and other work-related policies on women; women in trade unions and other work-based organizations; women and new technologies; and educational choices made by women. This list of topics resembles the earlier ones from the BC conference and regional workshops. When the Guidelines were changed in 1990, a number of specific topics remained such as the structure and process of change in the labour force, the effects of work-related public policy on women, and women in trade unions. However, the guidelines became more focused on occupations, more concrete and less analytic than envisioned in the planning process. The structural and institutional focus of the BC formulation had become even more individualistic For example, even under the 1983-89 Guidelines, the topic of “educational choices made by women” put more stress on individual choices than the conference sub-theme of how education mediates women’s relationship to the labour force through streaming and policies. In the reformulation, the injunction to consider the impact of structures on individuals had been lost as had the complexity of the social processes. One consequence of this loss was the missed opportunity for the kind of research that humanists do best. Another overlapping consequence of this loss was that the goals of the early planners for truly innovative theorizing and research were not fulfilled.

14 The pre-eminence of these two large Québec universities may reflect greater emphasis on attaining outside funding; it certainly reflects the level of assistance in making applications that is routinely supplied to prospective researchers by the administrations of these universities. But this relatively high degree of success within Québec is certainly also due to the development of multidisciplinary études féministes/women’s studies networks and centres. L’IREF at l’UQAM and le GREMF in Laval are well organized multidisciplinary feminist groups that have been important institutional factors in encouraging and facilitating research on this theme. It probably is this same situation that helps account for the fact that 32% of the 160 funded projects were submitted in French.

15 Of the 160 successful applications for research grants, our qualitative review found that 19 of these were, in fact, applications for continuation of funding for previously submitted projects. Although research projects could be supported for up to three years, sometimes applicants asked for only the first phase of a project and other times the committee only awarded one or two years of support. Because of these cases where applicants reapplied for what was essentially the same project, it might be more accurate to think about 141 research projects as having been supported under this granting program over the nine year period

16 Data furnished to us by the Evaluation and Statistics Division of SSHRC (November 26, 1991) indicate that the total amount awarded over the last two years reached $2,292,410 if network and workshop subventions are included in the calculation.

17 The low participation rates of women in Managing the Organization in Canada show that themes do not have to mention men explicitly to be considered by and for men. Managing the Organization in Canada supported a higher proportion of male scholars than Women and Work did female scholars. This suggests that systemic biases in the organization of knowledge itself still remain to be addressed (See also Table 3.5 and Figure 2 in Ghristiansen-Ruffman, Descarries, and Stewart, 1993; Women and Work: Feminist Research in Progress, published by the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW), Social Science Federation of Canada, and Canadian Federation for the Humanities (also in French).)

18 See pp. 78-102 of Christiansen-Ruffman, Descarries, and Stewart, 1993.

19 The review of the applicant files did not generally find a problem with sexist research. Nevertheless, there were some exceptions. One project funded under the program, for example, submitted an article that mentioned receiving SSHRC funding but made no mention of women in the articles summary of findings. Other grant holders were told by assessors and occasionally by committee members to include males in their data set, even though their studies were not intended to be comparative. The insistence on comparing women with men has the consequence of continuing the practice of treating male activities as the norm and not taking women’s standpoints and experiences seriously. It continues a sex bias in research and points to the importance of research funded under Women and Work and under targeted funding that make women central rather than incidental to all phases of the research.

20 It is not a good idea to force either men or women to study a particular gender if they have no interest in doing so, but it is important to recognize that such decisions taken together result in bias as in the case of patricentrism (see endnote 7). In a bizarre twist in the late 1980s, a few feminists were accused of bias because they focused only on women. In research, it is important that scholars do not use biased concepts and procedures and do not generalize beyond their empirical base. Scholarship that offers an exclusive focus on women, however, is not sexist given the historical trend in scholarly research to assume that only men, and not women, were the only category of person worthy of study. In fact, considerable scholarly attention directed solely at women and their diverse experiences is needed to redress distortions created by the centering of both scholarship and society around men in the past. In fact, to correct the past, some feminist researchers suggested that strategic grants programs should fund only research from the perspective of women and other minority groups for a 25 year period.

21 Among the dominant ideas that animate Canadian public policy is its continued commitment to equity and fairness. This ideal has yet to be realized fully in part because this idea continually competes with other dominant ideas and values that are central to Canadian public policy such as liberty of the individual. In the scholarly world, some people falsely claim that non-sexist research infringes on academic freedom. Clearly the features of non-sexist research that argue against biased concepts and imprecise inferences are simply good scholarship. As Bruce G. Doern and Richard W Phidd, (Canadian Public Policy: Ideas, Structure, Process: Toronto, Nelson, 1988, p. 55.) note “The idea of equity enjoins policy administrators to treat people in equivalent situation equally and to treat people who are not in equivalent situations unequally (that is to be fair and reasonable)” The added emphasis is the writers’. The immediately apparent incompatibility between the two injunctions is not necessarily a source of irresolvable conflict As Phidd and Doern, two of the most highly respected analysts in Canadian public policy note, there is a creative tension here that is consistent in its own way with the competing demands of public policy. The idea of “creative tension” in public policy is discussed by Richard Simeon.

22 Between 1979 and 1988, Managing the Organization in Canada funded no private scholars: Population Aging supported only one such project Both Family and the Socialization of Children and Education and Work in a Changing Society awarded approximately 6% of their grants to private scholars while Women and Work gave 11.8% of its awards to private scholars.

23 See Tables A-1 to A-6 and Table 7 of Hanson, 1989. Human Contact of Science and Technology had 6 awards or 3.5% of its successful applications. The absolute numbers for Family and The Socialization of Children and Education and Work were 8 and 5 respectively.

24 A qualitative review of 157 successful research grant files funded by Women and Work found 138 were new or significantly revised projects. The remaining 19 were new applications for second- or third-year support for the same project Of the 138 research grant files, 94 address specific occupations in the paid labour force.

25 One workshop was funded in 1985 with a focus on “Women in Women’s Work: a study of the work environment of women in the Health Care Field” (Callahan). Applications in the 1992 competition began to address this area. There were 6 projects on nursing and 6 projects on caring in this competition.

26 As the gender-typed label indicates, these jobs employ more women and are gender-typed as being feminine; yet they were the subject of only nine projects. The topics covered were secretarial careers (Clark 1983); the double load of clerical workers (Hessing 1986); the computerization of clerical work (White 1987); working knowledge and technology in office and housework (Meissner 1988); unions, information technology, and clerical workers (Glenday 1990); the consequences of union activism and leadership among bank workers (Baker 1991); and negotiating gendered jobs, a case study of the Office and Technical Employees Union at B.C. Hydro (Creese 1991). Given the profound changes occurring in clerical work, the paucity of studies of this ongoing process is disheartening, as is the complete absence of studies on the rapidly changing retail sales sector.

27 The Canadian Census, prior to 1996, did not take account of work that was unpaid. Unpaid work was not considered important enough to be counted. In 1991, the questionnaire asked: “Last week how many hours did you work (not including volunteer work, housework, home repairs)?” Imagine Terry, whose activities in a week included 14 hours a day raising children, several hours of volunteer work in the community, and time spent painting the garage. However, Terry must answer, “I did no work,” meaning merely that she did no paid work of the sort that is socially valued enough to find its way onto a Census questionnaire. The 1991 Census had no place to record unpaid but productive and regular work that contributes to the Canadian economy In the Census based conception of work, unpaid work simply does not count as work. Occasional and potentially cost saving community work such as shopping for a disabled neighbour, bathing a sick parent, circulating a petition, baking a donation for the school fair in order to raise money for a new computer, answering a questionnaire for town planners, or mediating a disagreement between neighbours so as to avoid resort to the police and courts are all examples of activities that are notwork, according to standard measures of productive activity. Such activities are therefore not considered important to society Not taking into account the long hours of unpaid work done by women and ignoring the economic, political, health, and social service consequences of women’s unpaid work seriously distorts socio-economic analysis and policy development in Canadian society. (The PEI Ad Hoc Committee on the 1991 Census pointed out the shortcomings, and the example of Terry has been taken from their literature). Unpaid work will be covered in the 1996 census.

28 Slightly more notice was given to employment equity in the mid 1980s (Agocs 1985: Harvey 1985; Harvey 1988) and to unemployment and UIC (the subject of three studies: Guberman 1983 and Pierson 1984 and 1986). Although almost every study considered women’s earnings, after the first two years, it was never the pivotal concern (Cannings 1983 and 1984; Stelcner 1983). Double standards in systems of pay evaluation was the topic of only one research grant project (Foschi 1988), while pay equity was the topic of three such projects in the later years of the program (Warskett 1987; McDermot 1990; Pujol 1990).

29 Fifteen project summaries mention informal collaborations with women’s groups as diverse as the La Leche League, the Women’s Press Club, the Women’s Engineering Association, the Fédération des Agricultrices du Québec, and the Jewish Women’s Business and Professional Club, as well as with unions and women’s employment directorates. Collaboration took various forms, from opening up archives, membership lists, and meetings to scholars, to joint projects such as setting up local history exhibits and participatory theatre about issues identified by working women.

30 This was exacerbated because universities began to equate the amount of grant money with scholarly excellence. In reaction, some scholars argued that such large scale projects were contradictory to important theoretic and scholarly work. They worried about distortions in the research agenda and about the equation of research excellence with criteria adopted from a mature science and from physical and natural sciences. Adopting a natural science model is especially problematic without the financial resources to support such a model, and such a model does not adequately appreciate the importance of creative and critical thinking. This type of argument ignores the real need for supporting a variety of research styles and models. The importance of diversity in research styles and models needs to be stressed.

31 Although only five research projects were funded to principal investigators in Women’s Studies departments, a large majority cited literature from the area of Women’s Studies and feminist research in their research proposals. From our questionnaire, we found that 41% of the sample identified the research they do in the women and work area as being within the field of women’s studies.

32 Perhaps the difference between Women and Work and these other two fields lies in the fact that both the fields of aging and business were more developed and were already receiving money for policy research from other sources. With strong political support for these areas with allies within SSHRC, and with their existing resources, researchers in these fields were able to mobilize in order to ask for these needed research centres and other infrastructural development. Perhaps researchers in Women’s Studies did not feel entitled to ask SSHRC for the needed infrastructural help, and SSHRC did not seize the opportunity to develop the infrastructure necessary to allow the newly emerging discipline of Women’s Studies to flourish. For example, suggestions from the British Columbia conference to involve research organizations such as CRIAW, Relais Femmes, and the Vancouver Women’s Research Centre were not pursued: there was no concerted effort to support the growth of new research centres within the Women and Work framework. Although one research centre at UQAM has been helped considerably by its researchers utilizing Women and Work, women’s research centres remain resource poor and have not been able to develop the critical mass of scholars and resources necessary for significant long-term growth.

33 During the 1980s, the Canadian Women’s Studies Association was established and grew. It received SSHRC funding from a program supporting professional organizations. Funds were used to support participation at executive meetings and at the Learned Societies. This funding, however, was withdrawn in the early 1990s.

34 For example, most universities have Women’s Studies courses and programs. The findings of Smith’s Commission of Inquiry on Canadian University Education urged continued encouragement for Women’s Studies. The granting councils have a pivotal role to play within Canada in pursuing the intent of Smith’s recommendation. As part of our research, we found that considerable support for formal recognition of Women’s Studies exists within the Canadian scholarly community. Most universities have departments and programs of Women’s Studies, and the Aid to Scholarly Publications has recognized this field. Several of the focus groups and organizations such as CRIAW made formal representation to the Review Team concerning the importance of establishing a disciplinary committee in Women’s Studies. A number of scholars who have sat on disciplinary adjudication committees in SSHRC have become especially strong advocates for such a committee. At the colloquium held with members from the social sciences, the humanities and the policy-making communities, there was overwhelming support for this resolution. The executives of both the Social Sciences and the Humanities Federations have endorsed it as well.

35 Our analysis of disciplines points to some possibility of research support for some types of women and work research in the disciplinary fields of sociology, psychology, and history. However, it is our view that a large amount of excellent scholarship that has begun under Women and Work, especially in the field of women’s studies, needs a place to continue to grow. One of our major recommendations, therefore, was for the establishment of a Women’s Studies discipline committee as the timely solution to the continuing need for research on women.


Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies, Saint Mary’s University

Professeure, département de sociologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, membre de l’Institut de recherches et d’études féministes, IREF

Professor of History and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University

© Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press, 1999

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