Commentary

Call for Diversity is a Call for Scientific Excellence

CAHO Response to Margaret Wente Column: Liberals’ reverse discrimination comes at a cost (June 10)

We’re compelled to respond to Margaret Wente’s ill-informed column about gender and research. In facts and spirit, she sorely misses the mark.

Addressing the gender imbalance in science and research is not reverse discrimination. It’s not doing what’s politically correct – it’s doing the right thing to solidify Canada’s place in the international research ecosystem.

The Council of Academic Hospitals represents Ontario’s 23 research hospitals and our work is built on the thousands of researchers who conduct world class health research in our organizations.  In a world without prejudice and discrimination, our institutions and our research enterprise would organically produce a diversity of researchers, balanced by gender, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation and cultural background. Sadly, this is not our current world. As Ms. Wente points out, the composition of the research enterprise is skewed towards white men. The quality of our research suffers because of this.

In her efforts to right the imbalance in the make-up of our research institutions across the country, Minister Duncan is promoting excellence (Minister’s response to Wente’s column). Her actions will ensure that the pool of candidates eligible for Canada Research Chairs is not artificially limited. Target setting is a tactic. The practical impact is a more robust pipeline of scientists who will secure leadership positions in research.

To suggest that hundreds of millions of dollars are “at stake” is hyperbole. A call for diversity in our research community is a call for excellent science, better outcomes and an enhanced return on investment. Anything less is irresponsible, discriminatory and short-sighted.

Kevin Smith, Chair, CAHO, President and CEO St Joseph’s Health System and Catherine Zahn, Past Chair, CAHO and CEO, CAMH