Call us: 613.232.9459 | Email:

Gender Equality

Awards_GEM_2009In 2007, AIC began to examine whether the current gender profile of the profession was correspondingly reflected in its own membership, structures and programs. Although some AIC activities, such as the international program, held a gender equality component, the expectations on our overseas partners were often greater than the expectations on our own organization. However, recent years have seen some significant changes.

In 2006, AIC International Program staff circulated a request to Canadian and project partner groups for volunteers to sit on a Gender Equality Task Team (GETT). The mutual trust, respect and knowledge developed through the consensual process of creating a customized definition of gender equality provided a strong basis for moving forward.

Before disbanding, the GETT completed their final task in defining the Terms of Reference for the Gender Equality Mainstreaming (GEM) Working Group. Since 2008, gender equality mainstreaming within AIC has been guided by the GEM Working Group composed of volunteer members representing a wide cross-section of the organization.

The gender equality mainstreaming process in AIC depends on an ability to constitute and maintain a strong group of dedicated members and international partners (male and female) who volunteer their time and energy to moving this issue forward with the support of staff and the Board.

What is Gender Equality?

Discussions of the term Gender Equality centre on the concepts and practices of equal opportunity within the workplace setting, but there is much more to equality than policies and procedures, important though they are. From its broadest perspective, Gender Equality is understood as the equitable impact of society on the rights, freedoms and interests of women. These are, indeed, lofty ideals, but what do they mean?

In many societies, the general pattern is that women have less personal autonomy, fewer resources at their disposal and limited influence over the decision-making processes that shape their societies and their own lives. From an agricultural perspective, global examples include:

  • women’s unequal participation in farm organizations;
  • women’s limited impact on farm policy;
  • restrictions on women’s ownership and control of resources;
  • unjust legislation; and
  • women’s lower socioeconomic status and increased vulnerability to poverty and economic insecurity.

To reach and maintain Gender Equality requires a multi-dimensional change of attitude among men and women regarding women’s participation in society and the economy.

Why is Gender Equality Important to AIC and Its Members?

The mission of the Agricultural Institute of Canada (AIC) is to broaden society’s knowledge and use of science and agriculture. Since its founding in 1920, AIC has witnessed many changes in the professional agricultural sector in Canada. One of the most visible changes has been the increasing presence of women in the profession and their influence on the sector.

Historically, AIC has reflected the agricultural sector in Canada and for many years the organization responded primarily to a male environment. However, as years passed and the number of women in the agricultural sector increased, the number of female members in AIC did not increase correspondingly, nor was the increase of women in the agriculture sector reflected in how AIC operated.

In 2007, AIC began to examine whether the current gender profile of the profession was correspondingly reflected in its own membership, structures and programs. Although some AIC activities, such as the international program, held a gender equality component, the expectations on our overseas partners were often greater than the expectations on our own organization. However, recent years have seen some significant changes.


AIC’s female membership by percentage is currently lower than some of the partnering scientific societies, and much lower than the percentage of female graduates in agricultural sciences in Canada, according to Statistics Canada and to research conducted by AIC on student numbers. AIC recognizes that addressing this disparity with a strategic plan on gender equality related to membership recruitment could increase the number of female members and contribute to AIC’s long term future.

Quick Facts

Prior to 1995, as a federation of provincial institutes of agrology and scientific societies, AIC membership numbered several thousand, but there is no available information on the breakdown of membership along gender lines for that period. In 2011, no longer a federation, AIC had 318 individual members of whom 63 were women (20%). Between 1920 and 2011, three out of 84 Presidents, and one Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, were women. Of the over 400 AIC Fellowship Awards granted since 1921, four were received by women (1%).

In August 2008, the Gender Equality Policy, as developed by a gender equality task team of AIC members, was presented to AIC’s Board of Directors, who then developed and passed an Executive Limitations policy in December 2008. The Gender Equality Policy became an Operational policy when approved by the CEO in May 2009, setting a strong foundation for institutionalizing gender equality throughout AIC. The gender equality mainstreaming process was undertaken during a time of organizational change in AIC and the Canadian agriculture sector more broadly. During this period, AIC maintained gender equality as a key organizational priority.

In 2010 AIC staff and volunteers completed a case study which describes AIC’s progress on the importance of addressing gender equality across all the facets of its work, the process and methods undertaken to date, the lessons learned along the way, and the steps still needed in the future. Data was drawn from a review of AIC documents and relevant external publications, as well as interviews with key individuals. The case study also included a number of questions for study and discussion, both for those involved with AIC and for other organizations who wish to learn from AIC’s experiences. Refer to the Case Study of March 2010 for more details about AIC’s process in mainstreaming gender within the organization.

What is AIC Doing to Advance Gender Equality?

Committing to gender equality is a long-term process that demands dedication to change on both the individual and organizational levels and means committing to a process of learning, analysis, reflection and action. AIC has embarked on a journey that will lead to men and women sharing equally in the power, decision making, work and benefits of the organization and its programs. This journey will be guided by a process known as gender mainstreaming, which takes into account gender concerns in all areas of endeavour, including how Gender Equality is expressed in AIC’s governance, administration, membership, conferences, awards, journals, programs, and more. This is a very progressive effort by AIC, and will only be achieved through the active engagement and contributions of AIC members and supporters.

In 2005, AIC’s international program was evaluated by CIDA, and the recommendations were incorporated into the current five year International Twinning Partnership Program (ITPP). In preparing for the 2006 to 2011 five-year program, AIC and its partner organizations proactively sought to define and achieve one of the five ITPP objectives, “to advance the representation and voice of women as participants and beneficiaries of agricultural endeavours.”

In 2007, AIC began to examine whether the current gender profile of the profession was correspondingly reflected in its own membership, structures and programs. AIC hired two gender equality consultants and underwent an institutional gender assessment in 2007.

The Gender Equality Task Team (GETT) made up of volunteer members developed a scope of influence chart to help AIC better understand the areas where they have high, medium and low scope of influence in relation to gender equality as a basis to develop a range of appropriate strategies for facilitating change in these different areas. This framework has guided the process of mainstreaming.

The AIC Board of Directors supports the onging work of the Gender Equality Mainstreaming (GEM) working group by naming an elected representative to join with AIC volunteer members and Canadian and international project partners, in guiding the organization in mainstreaming gender equality.

Refer to Gender Equality within International Programs for further information on international project partner activities and results.

AIC’s annual report identifies the progress in mainstreaming of gender equality, including work completed by AIC’s Honours & Awards Committee and the Scientific Journals Committee.

In response to ever-increasing scientific predictions that half of the world’s population could face climate-induced food shortages of vast proportions and within AIC’s mission of broadening society’s knowledge and use of science and agriculture, AIC convened a Climate Change Task Team (ACT2) in 2010 involving Canadian and overseas partners within its International Twinning Partnership Program.

In September 2009, AIC examined enrolments by gender in diploma, undergraduate, graduate and post graduate programs of agriculture at nine Canadian academic institutions. We noted the dramatic difference in numbers of women between enrolments in bachelor’s programs when compared to Master’s and doctoral programs in agriculture. We are interested to know why this decrease occurs and what actions from the agri-resource sector would impact the potential number of female scientists graduating and subsequently working in Canada.

In January 2010, AIC put out a call to women’s studies/gender studies faculties and departments at Canadian universities to identify partners interested in working on a research project to study the current status and roles of women or gender balance in agri-resource sciences in Canada, including academia and the professional workforce.

Gender Equality Resources

GEM of the Month Digest
if you would like to be added to the GEM Digest mailing list, please send a message to the AIC office.

AIC Case Study

Women’s Roundtable