Provost's Message

A Message to Faculty and Postgraduate Women in Western Science

In recognition of the particular challenges faced by women in the sciences, the Provost’s office sponsored The University of Western Ontario’s Symposium on Women in Science and Engineering in the spring of 2004.  During this conference, senior administrators, Deans, faculty members of  both genders, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students participated in two days of excellent presentations, personal narratives and discussion groups. A recurrent theme throughout the two-day meeting was the ‘Leaking Pipeline” phenomenon or the trend toward a drastic diminishing of the number of women in the sciences as they progress through their education into the academic ranks.  For example, here at Western 50% of undergraduate students in the sciences are women. This percentage drops to 30% when the doctoral level is considered.  The number of women diminishes even further in academic ranks from 22% of assistant professors to less than 5% of full professors.  The sciences cannot afford to lose such large numbers of highly trained and talented women.

 It is recognized across North America and confirmed by our own experience at Western that the number one reason for women leaving academic science is the challenge of balancing career and family.  While ‘work–life’ balance is a challenge for both women and men, it is a fact that child bearing and primary child rearing responsibilities fall to women and at a time that coincides with the career-building years.  Laboratory demands and the rapid pace at which science advances make finding a balance between career and personal life a particular challenge for women in science.  

Twenty–six recommendations were developed as an outcome of our symposium with nearly half related to work–life balance issues. In the Faculty of Science a number of initiatives have been developed to address these recommendations including the creation of a work–life website that provides a “one-stop” information source for you and your male colleagues. You can reach this site by clicking here or by selecting its link directly from the Faculty – Staff menu.  I encourage you to not only visit this site on an as needed basis, but also to review the 2004 Symposium summary and recommendations that can be found at

Fred J. Longstaffe

Fred Longstaffe, PhD
Provost & Vice-President (Academic)
The University of Western Ontario