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Women CEOs negotiate better severance than men — for all the wrong reasons

As CEOs, women have it tougher than men. Their severance deals prove it. ​

Woman CEO listens to two other women
 Women CEOs face a much tougher road than their male counterparts. They’re more harshly judged and more likely to get fired.Tim Gouw / Unsplash)

Over the last 20 years, the number of female CEOs leading S&P 500 firms has increased fivefold. But it’s a deceiving figure: among large publicly traded firms, women still only make up six per cent of all CEOs.

One reason is that many qualified women are simply not interested in throwing their hats in the ring. One survey found that 64 per cent of men want to be appointed to top executive roles compared to only 36 per cent of women.

Why do women shy away? Some management experts say female CEO candidates do not feel they are playing on a level playing field, and that they’re more likely to be laid off than their male counterparts.

They are right to feel vulnerable. According to a recent study, female CEOs are 45 per cent more likely to be fired than their male counterparts. Previous research has shown that a man’s competence is often assumed in leadership roles while a woman’s competence is generally questioned. And female CEOs are more likely to be blamed when their organizations struggle, and are much more likely to be targeted by activist investors.

Rougher road

Female CEOs face a tougher road than male CEOs and they know it. You can see this play out when corporate boards try to recruit for the executive suite. Research I conducted with Felice Klein (Boise State University) and Cynthia Devers (Texas A&M University) examined whether pre-employment severance agreements reflect the heightened concern of prospective female CEOs that they are more vulnerable to being dismissed.

Severance agreements specify the amount paid out to the CEO in case of termination, and previous research has shown that they are used to insure the CEO against the risk of dismissal. As such, they offer a good measure of the perceived dismissal risk.

Given the well-publicized gender pay gap, most people would believe the severance agreements of male CEOs are larger than those of female CEOs. But we found that, in this case, the gender gap is reversed. Incoming female CEOs tend to negotiate much better severance agreements than men, but it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Our study was based on preliminary severance agreements between firms and newly appointed CEOs. It covered new CEOs of publicly traded U.S. corporations from 2007 to 2014, in all 870 cases.

We found that female CEOs tend to receive larger initial severance agreements than their male counterparts. The average contractual severance payment for incoming female CEOs is US$6.6 million versus $4.2 million for male CEOs. After controlling for other factors that affect the value of guaranteed severance payments, this “gender gap” remains significant.

You would think that women would be particularly cautious about leading struggling firms, and this shows up in our research. The gap in severance agreements is larger for firms with weakening performance or in cases where the previous CEO was terminated early.

The increase in the gender gap in these firms is driven by larger severance agreements for female CEOs; the severance agreements of male CEOs were no richer when men were appointed to struggling organizations.

More women in top positions reassures potential women CEOs that there is less risk of being terminated.
More women in top positions reassures potential women CEOs that there is less risk of being terminated. (Christina Wocintechchat / Unsplash)

More women, less risk

On the positive side, women considering a CEO position are apparently reassured by the presence of other female top executives. We found the gap in severance agreements was smaller in organizations that operate in industries with a greater number of female CEOs or that have at least one female director. In these cases, they clearly feel there is less risk that they will face biased evaluations of their performance.

There are messages here for both corporate boards and women considering senior executive positions.

The takeaway for boards is that if they really want to bring women into the executive suite, they can use the severance agreement as a recruiting tool to compensate women for the obstacles that they will inevitably face.

Workplace environment is critical

And as our study indicates, it is not enough to have a pipeline of qualified female candidates for the CEO role — the firm’s environment also plays a crucial role in reassuring female executives that their performance won’t be undervalued.

And for women, our research shows that they have more bargaining power in the employment negotiation process than they may have thought. We found that women are able to secure greater severance guarantees without trading cash — or incentive-based pay for severance. They identify the added risk and expect the reward for taking it on.

There’s also plenty of evidence to show that women CEOs are good for business. According to one study, public companies with women CEOs or chief financial officers were generally more profitable and produced better stock price performance than companies led by men.

Unfortunately for women, that performance does not seem to make their tenure any less risky.The Conversation


Pierre Chaigneau is an Associate Professor at Smith School of Business, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Gaining undergraduate research experience

The Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF) application period is open until March 2, 2020. 

[Clare Simon and Lisa Pasolli]
USSRF recipient Clare Simon takes a moment in front of her 2019 poster presentation with her faculty supervisor Dr. Lisa Pasolli.

For undergraduate students looking to explore research, the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF) provide a unique opportunity outside of regular coursework to acquire valuable skills and prepare for further education.

Fellowship recipients develop a research project in the social sciences, humanities, or creative arts over the course of the summer under the guidance of a faculty researcher. The program, sponsored by the Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio, was designed to provide students with meaningful opportunities to engage in discovery-based learning and to develop research and presentation skills. In 2020, a minimum of 19 fellowships of $6,000 each will be awarded, including funding for two projects at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) in England.

Clare Simon is an undergraduate student in history who received a fellowship last year for her project “Not just somebody’s mother: University Campus Daycare Co-operatives in British Columbia and Ontario, 1960s to 1970s” under the supervision of Lisa Pasolli (History).

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

“The USSRF program helped me find the areas of research that I was really excited about and gave me vital experience that will help me in my future endeavours,” she says. “I learned a lot about how to formulate research questions, locate appropriate sources, write my own project, and I even got to travel with Dr. Pasolli to the University of Ottawa archives.”

In developing her project proposal, Simon and Dr. Pasolli, were able to build on Simon’s interest in public policy and gender to identify a project related to campus co-operatives.

Through the course of the summer, Simon learned that a research focus can evolve as you go through a research process and gather findings and data. Her project analyzed case studies from Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto, and Queen’s to situate the formation of daycare co-operatives within the context of contemporary ideologies such as the Women’s Liberation Movements. Her research led her to explore the history of university daycares and the recognition of the importance of childcare on university campuses.  

At the USSRF celebration this past fall, the 2019 recipients concluded their fellowship with a poster presentation of their projects. It was an opportunity to engage with the public, their supervisors, and other recipients on their research topic.

“It definitely made me feel more confident that I can hold my own in an intellectual environment and can participate in the expansion of knowledge,” Simon explains.

USSRF also allows undergraduate students to see a glimpse of what graduate research could be like. For Simon, it was a chance to explore a research topic and confirm her interest in pursuing a master’s degree. She was also able to leverage her project in her graduate applications, including using the written portion as a writing sample. Simon will pursue a closely related research project, shifted to focus on a British context, during her Master’s of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.

The application deadline for the 2020 USSRF program is March 2, 2020. Information on the program and how to apply can be found on the USSRF website.

Powering the drive to electric buses

Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen’s and member of ePOWER Suzan Eren says innovations in power electronics is key to electrifying 5,000 transit buses. (University Communications)
Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen’s and member of ePOWER Suzan Eren says innovations in power electronics is key to electrifying 5,000 transit buses. (University Communications)

The Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research (ePower) at Queen’s University is part of a new cluster of post-secondary institutions receiving funding from the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) to pursue battery electric bus research. CUTRIC is contributing $2.6 million in funding to help achieve the federal government’s ambitious goal of electrifying 5,000 transit buses.

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

The funding, along with an additional $132,500 from federal MITACS industrial research program, will support innovative low-carbon and smart mobility research projects at Queen’s University, OCAD University, University of Windsor, and Ontario Tech University, which form CUTRIC’s National Academic Committee on Zero-Emissions Buses (NAC-ZEB).

This work will address the challenges faced by electric buses and help us realize the goal of making them a transit standard.

Suzan Eren, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen’s and a member of ePOWER, and her team are working to optimize the powertrain used in heavy-duty electric buses to pave the way for practical and efficient next-generation electric buses.

“The key technology of this project is innovations in power electronics to revolutionize the design of a new powertrain architecture,” Dr. Eren says. “This work will address the challenges faced by electric buses and help us realize the goal of making them a transit standard.”

This announcement builds on approximately $16 million in federal funding already awarded to the City of Brampton, TransLink, York Region Transit, and Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution Ltd. through Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to help launch the Pan-Canadian Electric Bus Demonstration & Integration Trial: Phase I.

The Conversation: The latest disease to fuel mistrust, fear and racism

In response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), China has implemented large-scale efforts to contain its spread, including the massive quarantine of millions of people. (Photo by Unsplash)

With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan, China, stories of courage and strength have captured our collective attention as the disease spreads.

We have also seen large-scale efforts in China to combat coronavirus, including the construction of new hospitals and facilities in provincial areas as well as the massive quarantine of millions of people.

While efforts to address the disease move forward, the outbreak has also revealed the darker side of human nature and our responses to new diseases and other catastrophic events: mistrust, fear and outright racism.

Here in Canada, we have seen racism and stereotyping of the Chinese community as the number and location of cases of coronavirus have spread and fear of the outbreak festers.

The surge of fear and racism in the face of this latest outbreak is similar to previous experiences in the wake of other diseases, such as the Ebola and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) viruses.

Yet the prevalence of racism and scapegoating in the face of catastrophes and disasters has a much longer history than these more recent outbreaks.

This history provides important context and is worth reflecting upon. It reminds us that disasters and catastrophes are not exclusively natural phenomena, and are also a result of the economic, political and social decisions that create vulnerability to risk.

Importantly, discrimination, racism and scapegoating has been used to distract from the underlying economic, political and social decisions that produced vulnerability to disaster and disease in the first place.

Earthquake damage
A man surveys the damage surrounding his house following an earthquake. (Photo by Kim Sunyu / Unsplash)

Disasters aren’t natural

While many headlines highlight “natural” disasters in the aftermath of the latest catastrophe, researchers in the field of disaster studies have long demonstrated the social construction of these events.

This means that catastrophes, whether they’re the latest earthquake, hurricane or outbreak of disease like the coronavirus, are fundamentally connected to underlying factors that affect which areas and individuals are vulnerable and why.

Given these links, we must understand that there are specific interests, usually associated with the exercise of power, involved in how we view these connections or how we’re distracted from them.

In the case of the coronavirus, the recent death of Dr. Li Wenliang, who was censured by police over his early warnings about the disease, is an example of how power operates. He was reprimanded and silenced by the police in Wuhan and was forced to sign a letter saying he had made “false comments.”

It reminds us that accepting the relationship between economics, politics and the production of risk and vulnerability means that catastrophic events aren’t just natural phenomena — they are also political phenomena.

Tied into this political nature, disasters often result in people placing blame upon certain communities and groups for the event in question. This scapegoating diverts attention away from the underlying causes connected to economic, political and social decisions as well as the exercise of power.

The ebola virus as seen through a microscope. (Photo by CDC / Unsplash)

Ebola fears

A similar epidemic of fear followed the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, which resulted in the racist targeting of certain individuals and communities as the crisis worsened.

This discrimination suggested there was no understanding of the Ebola outbreak within the larger history of the region.

Powerful global players, including the United States, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, pushed various West African governments to adopt Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) to reduce deficits and make those states more attractive to investors and the global capital markets.

In order to achieve this, SAPs required spending cuts to the health-care systems of those states, ultimately increasing the vulnerability of those populations to outbreaks of diseases like Ebola.

As with the current outbreak of COVID-19 in China, scapegoating and racist fearmongering pointed the finger of blame at the Ebola victims themselves, not the underlying factors and decisions by the powerful that contributed to the crisis.

The racism seen in the case of COVID-19 is just the latest example of how power is used to politicize and manipulate disasters.

Long history

Scapegoating, discrimination and victim-blaming have been prevalent in the aftermath of other catastrophic events.

They are also related to religious or spiritual understandings of disasters and disease as divine retribution or punishment.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 resulted in various versions of this phenomenon. Many prominent conservative Christians blamed the hurricane on the LGBTQ+ community and the city’s “sinful” reputation.

The narratives surrounding Hurricane Katrina also reinforced racist stereotypes and tropes through media coverage on survivors based on their race: Black survivors were routinely characterized as “looting” in the aftermath of the storm, while white survivors were described as “finding supplies.”

This harmful and false narrative was hardly unprecedented.

Going back even further, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 led to racist pogroms, or massacres, against some 6,000 Koreans living in Japan due to rumours that they were setting fires that spread in the aftermath of the quake.

These Japanese-Korean tensions flared up decades later, in 2017, when Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike refused to send the annual eulogy for victims of the pogroms, suggesting there was doubt that the massacres occurred.

Koike’s decision demonstrates how disasters and discrimination are tethered to the operation of power and control over how these events are understood, even a century later.

Disasters clearly foment discrimination. And so we should expect these types of responses to future catastrophes and take proactive steps to address them.

Furthermore, we need to be mindful of how certain narratives and understandings of disasters act to distract us from far more important elements — including those that leave all of us vulnerable to disasters and disease.The Conversation


Korey Pasch is a PhD Candidate in Political Science and International Relations at Queen's University, Ontario.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Going for Baroque

Late philanthropist Alfred Bader’s passion for the artistic style has helped Queen’s experts to thrive.

Alfred Bader in 2007 with Head of a Man in a Turban, the second Rembrandt painting he donated to Queen’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Michael Lea/Kingston Whig-Standard)
Alfred Bader in 2007 with Head of a Man in a Turban, the second Rembrandt painting he donated to Queen’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre. (Photo by Michael Lea/Kingston Whig-Standard)

Baroque art and style swept Europe and the world between 1580 and 1750, moving onlookers with its emotion, movement, and vitality. Fittingly, a lifetime of support from visionary philanthropist Alfred Bader has elevated the celebrated style even further by championing Baroque art researchers to pursue specialized study at Queen’s University.

A passion for Rembrandt

“It was the offer of my dream job,” says Stephanie Dickey, Professor of Art History, reflecting on the moment in 2005 when she was asked to accept the Bader Chair in Northern Baroque Art at Queen’s. Dickey was teaching a broad range of courses in art history at Indiana University at the time and leapt at the chance to focus her teaching and research on a period of art for which she held a deep passion – particularly the works of baroque icon, Rembrandt.

“At any museum exhibition, people line up for Rembrandt,” she says. “His work is relatable, expressive, and powerful, capable of representing the most idolized religious figures in the most human way. His depictions of emotion have managed to move viewers for centuries.”

Stephanie Dickey, Bader Chair in Northern Baroque, Queen's University.
Stephanie Dickey, Bader Chair in Northern Baroque.

The late Dr. Bader’s passion for Rembrandt and his contemporaries inspired him to work with Queen’s to create the Bader Chair in Northern Baroque Art in 1991 to fund scholarly research and teaching. Over the years, he and his wife Isabel entrusted nearly 200 European paintings from their personal collection to the university’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre, including three Rembrandt paintings. Dr. Bader’s son Daniel Bader and his wife Linda later donated a fourth Rembrandt to the Agnes in his honour.

“Alfred was a published art historian as well as a collector, and his enthusiasm and commitment to advancing our understanding of European art, especially the work of Rembrandt and his circle, have supported my work greatly,” says Dickey. “With Bader funding, I’ve been able to convene five international conferences since 2009 that bring the field’s leading experts to the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) at Herstmonceux Castle – I like to think of them as Rembrandt incubators. Discussions that started there have led to groundbreaking publications, interdisciplinary research projects, and global exhibitions. It is especially gratifying to hold these events at the BISC, which was also a gift to Queen’s from Alfred and Isabel Bader.”

Dickey’s sixth conference is slated to take place at the BISC next year, and will reflect on discoveries stemming from exhibitions and events happening worldwide in 2019 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death.

Baroque style around the world

Dr. Bader’s interest in Baroque art knew few bounds. In 2002 he worked with Queen’s to create a complementary chair role to explore the impact of the style in Southern Europe and beyond.

Queen’s Professor of Art History, Gauvin Alexander Bailey, came to Queen’s eight years ago as the Bader Chair in Southern Baroque. He cites the role’s support as providing him freedom to think outside the box and stretch his scholarship in new directions.

Gauvin Bailey, Bader Chair in Southern Baroque, Queen's University.
Gauvin Bailey, Bader Chair in Southern Baroque.

“Although extremely helpful, major grants are, more often than not, project-specific,” says Bailey, whose study of Baroque art focuses primarily on Italy, South America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. “Bader funds, however, have allowed me to widen my scope to explore lesser-known or unexpected avenues as they arise.”

With the assistance of Bader funds, Bailey has published four new books and 29 scholarly articles on global Baroque art, formed fruitful international collaborations, and examined historic sites and artifacts as far away as Bolivia, Ghana, and Suriname. His current projects involve studies of Louis XIV’s embassies to the King of Siam in the 1680s, a French Baroque palace in 18th century India, and the Saigon Opera House.

Enhancing education

Together, the Bader Chair appointments in the Department of Art History and Art Conservation are advancing our academic understanding of Baroque art and its influence across the globe. That said, both Dickey and Bailey underscored another area of growth that benefitted significantly from Bader support – the Queen’s student learning experience.

The Bader Collection, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University
Queen's students exploring the Bader Collection at Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

“Best of all, the Baders’ generous support for my research translates into a better learning experience for my undergraduate and graduate students,” says Bailey. “I am able to include fresh research perspectives from archival and field work, and from my international colleagues, as well as up-to-date photographs in my lectures and seminars. Combined with the Bader Collection at the Agnes – where I take my classes often – students have expressed new levels of curiosity and inspiration.”

Dickey expressed similarly: “As I’ve watched many of my former graduate students go on to become accomplished curators and researchers, I continue to gain appreciation for the educational opportunities provided by Bader philanthropy, not only here on campus, but also through fellowship funding that enables our PhD students to conduct original research in Europe and elsewhere around the world.”

Those looking to experience Baroque artworks in person can pay a visit to Queen’s University’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Man with Arms Akimbo, an imposing portrait painted by Rembrandt in 1658, is currently on display, while three smaller works by the master are part of an exhibition traveling to art museums in Edmonton, Regina, and Hamilton.

Beautifully set, ‘The Two Popes’ omissions leave me with a taste of exclusion

The Two Popes by Netflix
Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce star in ‘The Two Popes.’ (Netflix) 

The Two Popes provides a creative dialogue about God, faith and moral responsibility. The film is a fictionalized encounter between German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, and Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Bergoglio was elected after Benedict’s resignation in 2013, becoming the current Pope Francis.

The ConversationThe appeal of the Oscar-nominated film has to do with the human touch, and with the substantive global character of the Catholic Church.

As a native of Argentina, I have a special connection with this film. I am also a professor of history of education at Queen’s University, and my research focuses on Catholic social thinking, education and the state and women’s religious orders devoted to teaching. I also study the intellectual history of education including the ideas of critical writer, essayist and priest Ivan Illich, and Brazilian Catholic educator Paulo Freire, a key figure in the popular education movement.

My interest in this film lies in how it uncovers the theological currents underlying the institutional church, as well as in the film’s silences.

Divergent currents

The film’s narration conveys with great artistry a conversation that confronts two (of many) divergent currents in the Catholic Church: a reformist one, and a conservative one that retains the anti-modernist tones of the church before what Catholics know as Vatican II (1962-65). This church council represented an attempt to attune the Catholic Church with social and cultural changes in the 20th century.

In the early 1970s, Latin American theologians developed liberation theology, a perspective that emerged from people’s experience of oppression in Latin America. This theology would nourish the movement of popular education in the 1970s and early 1980s with a strong grassroots foundation. Cardinal Ratzinger was active in undermining liberation theology.

The film references the rise of Pope Francis’s religious call and his commitment to the poor. A montage shows the times of repression in Argentina (1976-83) which overlapped with Bergoglio’s time serving as superior of the Jesuits in Argentina and Uruguay (1973-79).

When Bergoglio served in this role, as shown in the film, two Jesuit priests were kidnapped by the military. Bergoglio’s Jesuit community later sends him into exile in Cordoba. The film suggests Bergoglio was tormented by his failure to protect the priests. It also alludes to the “interior crisis” that Pope Francis has said he experienced in Cordoba.

It is not surprising that in the film, Bergoglio, seen sometime after the March 1976 coup in Argentina, appears to be throwing books away from the Jesuit library such as by Brazilian Archbishop Dom Hélder Cȃmara (1909–99) and by Italian Marxist philosopher and thinker Antonio Gramsci. Cȃmara, while very involved in social action, was also critical of the hierarchical bureaucratic structure of the church and its separation from workers and the poor. These would have been among books that the Latin American left read at the time.

Later, Bergoglio was one of the architects of what is known as the Aparecida document. This 2007 document articulated a church committed to the poor in light of a relationship between God’s kingdom and the dignity of human beings.

Walk in the garden

The plot begins with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s desire to submit his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI, given the expected age of retirement. The two men meet at the Palace of Castel Gandolfo and talk about God and the church.

The next day, they go to the Vatican by helicopter. Here, the film takes some historical liberties such as when Benedict indicates his intention to resign and a plan for Bergoglio as the new pope, given the need for change.

The dialogue reconstructing their positions and their pasts is beautifully set in the garden of the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo and later in the Sistine Chapel.

One could forget for a moment a line from Ivan Illich: “The Roman Church is the world’s largest non-governmental bureaucracy.” One could also forget the institutional church’s hierarchical and authoritarian structure, very much out of tune with a world concerned with rights and identity.

Sins of the church

Pope Benedict voices the sins of the church in the form of a confession. The film acknowledges sexual abuse and also financial scandals.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

But the conflicted souls of many Catholics, who face the sins of the institution — including the exclusion of women from ordination, the church’s opposition to gay marriage, divorce, contraception and so on — are bracketed in silence.

One of the voices that does not come through is that of feminist theologians and prophetic feminist visions. These theologians offer a powerful line of thought that embraces social justice and the environment, as well as one that sees gender, class and race as significant lenses.

My own research on women’s religious communities has documented congregations’ attempts to rebuild their individual and collective identity following Vatican II reforms and changes in the long 1960s.

I have come across powerful statements, for example, from the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions/Religieuses De Notre Dame des Missions, about the sisters’ own way of living social justice as women, and their critique of coloniality and of western cosmology in their own building of an eco-spirituality.

At these sisters’ general gathering in Rome in 1996, they wrote:

We recognize the struggle and hold the pain of those oppressed by the institutional church, and … we too may find ourselves in situations of tension with the hierarchy.”

Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. (Rosa Bruno-Jofré)

Toward the world

Vatican II set the stage for openness toward change and the world, and was resisted by many, including Ratzinger. Many changes took place mostly outside the Vatican walls and started before Vatican II.

The work of Brazilian Catholic educator Paulo Freire, whose book Bergoglio is shown reading in one scene, for example, marked a turning point in how critical-minded educators in Latin America approached adult education projects — and how they understood the sources of authoritative knowledge. This turning point was rooted in cultural and social movements taking place in Latin America. Freire’s theory and method reflected the language of justice and liberation of a radicalized Catholic social imaginary of the 1960s and 1970s in Latin America.

Still, Vatican II did not touch central issues that now have become imperative if the church does not want to be examined as a residual institution of the past.

Today, church leaders have not moved toward a democratization of the church as an inclusive institution, and continue with an authoritarian line. This is the case even as a degree of internal change is happening and even as Pope Francis, as portrayed in the film, has a commitment to the poor and social transformation.

Overall, the film’s omissions left me with a taste of exclusion, a sense of the need for a renaissance. I simply could not locate my spiritual soul in the red sea of well-rounded men set in choreographed rituals deciding the future of the church.The Conversation


Rosa Bruno-Jofre is a Professor and former Dean (2000–2010) of the Faculty of Education, cross-appointed to the Department of History, Faculty of Arts and Science, at Queen’s University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A Finnish phenomenon: Where students learn how to ask, not only answer, questions


Kid with an axe across lap
Chopping wood and making paper airplanes are activities children might pursue in a class that takes a phenomenon-based approach to the question: How would we respond to a loss of electricity? (Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash)

All four teacher unions in Ontario are in the midst of labour unrest.

Teachers in Ontario have long had the right to strike, and when the province threatened this right in 2012, the courts upheld it.

While the list of particular negotiating points between the government and the four unions depends on the situation, there are common priorities: funding, class sizes, job security and salary.

When we examine the past 20 years of education strife in Ontario, it’s clear that labour unrest has become a response to a wider failure to adequately invest both financially and imaginatively in schooling.

Playing politics with schools is not an anomaly, it has become the norm. It is exhausting, particularly for the province’s public educators, parents and students.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Perhaps it’s time for Ontario residents to look elsewhere. We have had to imagine and invent the kinds of schools we wanted in the past. We can always re-imagine them.

What about Finland? What can we learn from a place where the government is led by Sanna Marin, a 34-year-old woman with new ideas about old institutions?

Recently, I was welcomed into Helsinki schools to observe and learn about what the Finns call “phenomenon-based learning” — a philosophy that supports their schooling.

Finland has been on the radar of international educators for nearly a decade for various reasons, including high rankings in the international game of right answers (also known as the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA) and a well-defined international marketing plan for Finnish educational ideas. The world is increasingly aware of the pride Finnish people have in education.

Finland is one of the top global investors in education, spending a larger fraction of its GDP on education than Canada.

The Roihuvuori Comprehensive School, Lower Stage (grades 1-6), in Helsinki, Finland, is in a large building with skylights that houses a wood and metal shop. (Author provided)

Phenomenon-based learning

Phenomenon-based learning is a distinctly Finnish approach to inquiry learning in schools. It means leading students to ask big questions that don’t have easy answers.

Labour action, as an example, could be a phenomenon that would keep most students engaged for many months.

It’s also a brand, because it’s marketed as a distinctly Finnish approach rooted in the Finnish context.

Books on phenomenon-based learning can be found in tourist shops and on display during Helsinki Education Week, and programs have been promoted as part of Finland’s educational reforms. This branding is intentional and explicit, which is refreshing in the marketplace of ideas in which we live.

Ontario, too, has inquiry linked into its curricula, notably in social studies and history. Ontario’s students are familiar with science projects or social studies units, but in Finland, inquiry is all encompassing. It requires students to step outside of subjects to ask broader questions that aren’t limited to what needs to be covered in the curriculum.

Chopping wood at school

On my trip, during a visit to a third-grade classroom, all the students were engaged with a particular phenomenon: How would we respond to a loss of electricity?

Children were chopping wood, deciding how to divide resources and making paper airplanes.

Where would such an approach come from? Academics like me are trained to look for the ways that research affects practice in education.

The ideas of John Dewey have influenced Finnish education, as outlined by Finnish educator and researcher Pasi Sahlberg. Dewey was an influential 20th century American philosopher who is often associated with democratic living and engagement in meaningful activities in schools.

Sahlberg writes that “Dewey’s philosophy of education forms a foundation for academic, research-based teacher education in Finland.”

Children explore the first day of snow outside their school building on wooded lands at the Roihuvuori Comprehensive School, Helsinki, Finland. (Author provided)

In the class I was visiting, I was curious to know what or how the teacher thought about Dewey. But the notion that he had impacted Finnish education didn’t resonate for her and she said phenomenon learning is a Finnish idea.

Her response suggests that whatever aspect Dewey contributed has indeed become a Finnish approach in its own right.

Education more than schooling

I asked a group of three girls in an upper secondary classroom (roughly, Grade 11) if they felt educated.

“We know that our schools are impressive. You came all the way from Canada to talk to us about our learning. But you did not come across the world to talk about small things, right?”

She was correct. I was interested in getting outside of my own context to see what was possible. I was a host in a class focused on entrepreneurship, where the students’ phenomena were start-up businesses that integrated their learning and applied it to the real world of commerce.

“Yes, we feel educated. Sometimes we learn in the school. Doing phenomena like this. We also have classes in history and mathematics. But we also learn during our breaks, talking to each other. School plays a role in our education, but it is not only school that educates us.”

Finnish schools are also affected by labour action. Recently, 20,000 children had to eat cold meals as service sector strikes made it difficult for them to have their warm meals served as per custom in early childhood settings.

Schooling and education

Why should Canadians pay attention to education elsewhere? Even in our own provinces, it is a challenge to understand the intricacies of schooling elsewhere across the country.

Schools are not fixed, nor are their structures. We have made them up and we can change them. And we should not confuse schooling with education.

Travel, through books or via other means, enriches our view of the world and our place within it.

Everyone with something at stake in Ontario’s schools ought to ask: “What is an education for, anyway?” The questions we ask colour the way we look at our own schools and our educational investments.

_______________________________________________________________________________The Conversation

Theodore Christou is a Professor of Social Studies and History Education, and the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies and Research, Faculty of Education at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Boosting women-led tech companies in Kingston and region

Queen’s University and L-SPARK launch acceleration program for Kingston-area technology businesses run by women.

Queen’s alum Alyssa Furtado (co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and CEO of Ratehub.ca) speaks at Compass-North launch
Queen’s alum Alyssa Furtado, co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and CEO of Ratehub.ca, speaks at the launch of Compass North, a new acceleration program specifically designed for women founders in Kingston and region. (Photo by Ashley Clark Media)

Queen’s University and L-SPARK, an Ottawa-based accelerator, announced the launch of Compass North, a new acceleration program specifically designed for women founders in Kingston and region with posted revenues in a technology sector.

It is the first of the new programs unveiled by Queen’s since the Government of Canada, through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund, announced a contribution of $3.2 million to the university to advance its support of women entrepreneurs. Compass North will provide embedded mentorship and matches every founder with a mentor to help plan strategically and reach goals and objectives.

“Queen’s University is delighted to be working with L-SPARK to design and deliver this program, which is part of an overall initiative to help address gaps and build capacity in the entrepreneurship ecosystem for women,” says Janice Mady, Director, Research and Innovation Partnerships at Queen’s. “The new program combines the proven L-SPARK acceleration model with additional features that focus on reducing barriers commonly faced by women entrepreneurs who are building technology-based companies. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Government of Canada through the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund, delivered in the region by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).”

Compass North will be a cohort-based program that will provide participants with the support of their peers throughout, and an advisory group has been formed to oversee the program, including Shopify’s Global Wellness Specialist Chivon John, Connections Silicon Valley chief executive officer Joanne Fedeyko, and entrepreneur Mallory Rowan.

“Partnering with Queen’s University on this program aimed at women-led technology companies has presented an incredible opportunity for the advancement of women in our startup ecosystem,” says Stef Reid, Senior Marketing Manager at L-SPARK. “Through this program, founders will gain access to hands-on mentorship, strategic training, and access to a tight-knit community of entrepreneurs. We are thrilled to be a part of this initiative, which helps position Canada as a global leader in technology.”

To celebrate the launch, Queen’s and L-SPARK hosted an event featuring Queen’s alum Alyssa Furtado (co-founder of Ratehub Inc. and CEO of Ratehub.ca) as the keynote speaker and an engaging panel of women entrepreneurs who have built or are building successful technology-based companies in Kingston. The expert panel included Peng-Sang Cau, President and CEO of Transformix Engineering Inc.; Anne Vivian-Scott, President and CEO of Kinarm; and Christa Wallbridge, CEO and President of The Power Collective Inc.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Compass North team as a mentor, and look forward to working closely with women founders to help them reach their goals and objectives,” says Cau. “When I first started my own company 24 years ago, I wish there had been the same level of community of support we see for women entrepreneurs today. I encourage eligible applicants to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity!”

Compass North will be the first of many programs and services Queen’s is creating with FedDev Ontario’s contribution, first announced in August 2019. More initiatives are slated for development, and will be designed to accelerate, train, mentor and provide resources to women entrepreneurs and women-led companies in the community, with focus on women entrepreneurs from diverse and underrepresented groups.

Learn more about Compass North and submit an application on the Compass North website. The deadline for submitting an application is March 20, 2020.

Critical funding for health research

Canadian Institutes of Health Research funds $3.95 million in grants to seven Queen’s Researchers.

Seven Queen’s University researchers are contributing their knowledge in the areas of melanoma, intensive care unit survivors, postoperative pain, diabetes medication, Indigenous public health, and depression thanks to funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

Queen’s received a total of $3.95 million from the Fall 2019 CIHR Project Grant competition, a program that helps advance health-related research. With an eye on collaboration, the competition funds both individuals and groups of researchers at any career stage in all areas of health-related research.

“Congratulations to the Queen’s researchers successful in garnering funding in an increasingly competitive funding environment,” says Kent Novakowski, Acting Vice-Principal (Research). “I look forward to hearing about the progress of their research projects designed to innovate in human health research and to benefit the population.’’

The successful researchers are:

  • John Allingham (Biomedical and Molecular Science) $573,750 – Dr. Allingham’s research focuses on understanding how certain human fungal pathogens become multi-drug resistant, leading to major medical challenges in hospitals and long-term care facilities around the world. His aim is to learn how to preserve the efficacy of our existing antifungal agents, and to inform development of new therapies, by identifying drivers of drug resistance.
  • Christopher Bowie (Psychology) $673,200 – Dr. Bowie is examining how early life experiences interact with cognitive abilities, decision making, and reward processing to predict both the recurrence of depression and the degree and timing of functional recovery after the first episode of depression.
  • J. Gordon Boyd (Medicine) $562,275 - Dr. Boyd’s multi-centre study will inform on how to better manage patients when they are at their most sick in the intensive care unit, in order to improve their long-term brain function and quality of life.
  • Robert Campbell (Ophthalmology) $130,000 – The goal of Dr. Campbell’s project is to assess the newer diabetes drugs now available and the development of severe diabetic retinopathy, the most common complication of diabetes and the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment in working-age adults.
  • Janet Dancey (Canadian Cancer Trials Group) $1,303,560 – Dr. Dancey is leading the Canadian component of an international multicentre patient-centred clinical trial investigating the use of smaller surgical margins in patients with Stage 2 melanoma. Larger margins result in disfigurement, wound discomfort, and time away from work and, if positive, will change practice in Canada and around the world.
  • Jeffrey Masuda (Kinesiology and Health Studies) $612,000 – Dr. Masuda’s team has created a research partnership that will strengthen a coalition of local- to -national Indigenous organizations who are organizing tenants living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to address the colonial harms resulting from the twin housing and overdose fatality crisis in their community.

Successfully earning bridge funding was Nader Ghasemlou (Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine, Biomedical & Molecular Sciences, $100,000) who is working to understand why and how pain occurs during inflammation caused by postoperative wounds. His group has identified a novel inflammatory pathway regulating the pain response and are now working to develop new health care strategies to prevent or treat pain in those undergoing surgery.

For more information on these granting programs, visit the CIHR website.

Queen’s Indigenous health researcher named Indspire Award winner

Assistant professor Karen Lawford honoured for outstanding career achievements in health.

Karen Lawford leading a beadwork class at Queen's Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre.
Karen Lawford (third from right) leading a weekly beadwork class at Queen's University's Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre.

The first Indigenous midwife in Canada to earn a doctoral degree will be recognized with a 2020 Indspire Award – the most prestigious career excellence award bestowed by the Indigenous community on its own people. Queen’s University’s Karen Lawford has been named one of this year’s 12 outstanding Indigenous leaders, and will be honoured with the Indspire Award for Health at a nationally-televised ceremony on March 6.

Queen's assistant professor Karen Lawford.

“I am incredibly honoured to have my career achievements recognized by Indigenous Peoples and by Indspire,” says Dr. Lawford, a registered midwife, Aboriginal midwife, and assistant professor in the Department of Gender Studies engaged in research examining the provision of maternity care on reserves in Canada. “My achievements, however, are not accomplished without meaningful relationships and trust from Indigenous peoples. I strive to continue working with Indigenous communities to bring to light the discrepant health care services that are provided to those who live on reserves and outside of large urban settings.”

Closures of birthing units in rural and remote Indigenous communities across Canada have resulted in medical evacuation to southern, urban medical centres becoming normal practice. Dr. Lawford’s most recent study looked at Health Canada’s evacuation policy for those living on reserves in Manitoba.

“These sorts of policies are exacerbating the maternity health crisis facing our communities nationwide,” says Dr. Lawford, who is from Lac Seul First Nation. “I do hope my research and policy contributions are considered by decision makers so that Indigenous peoples are able to grow their families and communities in a manner that supports their specific health and wellness needs.”

Dr. Lawford also examines Indigenous women and Two Spirit leadership in health care and health science as part of her research.

“There have been concerted efforts to dismantle the governance systems of Indigenous peoples, with specific efforts to destroy the roles of women and Two Spirt community members,” she says. “My research in this area aims to begin the restoration of their roles, and to amend this imbalance of representation in health care and health science. Currently, health care does not represent the populations they serve. We need leadership to shift more quickly so that systemic change can be realized.”

In reflecting on her career up until now, Dr. Lawford says that her most meaningful career accomplishment culminated in earning a tenure-track faculty role at Queen’s, which signaled institutional support of her research.

“I feel a great sense of responsibility to ensure Indigenous academics and Indigenous midwives are supported within the academe,” she says.

Queen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane expressed his congratulations to Dr. Lawford on behalf of the university.

“Dr. Lawford’s research profoundly informs our collective understanding of the challenges faced by Indigenous communities with respect to access to health care, particularly maternity care, in Canada. Her work brings to light inequities still to be addressed and is a shining example of how research can facilitate necessary change,” he says.

To learn more about Karen Lawford’s Indspire Award win and the full list of this year’s winners, visit the Indspire Awards website. Following the award ceremony on March 6, it will be broadcast Sunday, June 21 on CBC, APTN, and CBC Radio One.


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