Joy Johnson, SFU's vice-president, research and international, chatted with SFU News about what the university is doing to champion gender equity, inclusion and the health and rights of women.

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Complacency the biggest challenge facing gender equity – the work is not done. A Q&A with Joy Johnson

May 31, 2019
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Is Simon Fraser University doing enough to champion gender equality, inclusion and health and rights of women?

Next week, Vancouver will host the 2019 Women Deliver Conference. The four-day conference — June 3-6, 2019 — aims to improve the health rights and wellbeing of girls and women while advancing gender equity. SFU is a mobilizer for the event and aims to raise online engagement in three areas: gender health, gender-based violence, and economic empowerment and equity for women.

Prior to the conference, SFU News posed a series of questions around gender equality and health to Joy Johnson, SFU’s vice-president, research and international.

Johnson has long been a leader in the field of gender and health. She was the scientific director for the Institute of Gender and Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) prior to becoming SFU’s vice-president, research in 2014. Johnson has served on the inaugural steering committee for the British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women's Health and was a co-leader of the B.C. Network for Women's Health Research.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS | Joy Johnson, SFU’s vice-president, research and international:

Q: At an institutional level, what is SFU doing to champion gender equality and the health and rights of girls around the world?

Simon Fraser University is committed to fostering equity, diversity and inclusion across the institution. We are committed to developing programs that address obstacles faced by—but not limited to—women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minority/racialized groups and members of LGBTQ2+ communities.

Q: Can you detail some of the research that SFU is undertaking on gender equality and the health and rights of women and girls?

The issues of equity and inclusion are of great concern to us. Researchers at SFU are undertaking a number of projects that focus on gender equality and the health and rights of women and girls. Topics include the sexual and reproductive health of women living with HIV, immigrant and refugee women’s health and human rights, and the experiences of women in the criminal justice system. Furthermore, there are specific SFU research initiatives to ensure women’s voices are amplified in mainstream media.

Q: What does this research aim to do and is it making a difference?

At SFU, engaging research that makes a positive difference in our communities—and really, in the world—is core to the research on gender equality and the rights of women and girls. Many of the projects that involve community stakeholders are driving towards changes in policy and practice.

Q: Why are projects like the Emerging Thought Leaders and the Gender Gap Tracker important to SFU specifically and to the wider public generally?

Informed Opinions is working with SFU to motivate and train women scholars to make their ideas more accessible to a broader audience and increase their impact. Informed Opinions also worked with us to develop the Gender Gap Tracker powered by SFU. The Gender Gap Tracker is an online tool (website) that measures the ratio of female to male sources quoted in online news coverage across some of Canada's most influential national news media.

Q: Can you explain, briefly, the genesis of these projects? What were the motivators behind them?

It is well known that women’s voices are underrepresented in the media. At SFU we recognize that we need to do more to encourage women researchers to engage with the media and share their expertise.

SFU has incredible strength in the area of big data and is committed to demonstrating how these approaches can benefit society. Our partnership with Informed Opinions to develop the Gender Gap tracker allowed us to engage in a project that was aligned with our values and made use of our expertise.

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing gender equity in Canada?

While incredible progress has been made in Canada in achieving gender equity, women continue to be paid less than men for similar work and are under-represented in the boardrooms of the nation. The biggest challenge facing gender equity is to continue to remind ourselves that the work is not done—we cannot be complacent!

Q: Are post-secondary institutions doing enough to prevent gender violence on campus? (If not, what more can be done?)

As long as gender violence is experienced on university campuses, there is more work to be done. We need to continue to empower active bystanders to take action, share information about consent and healthy relationships, support survivors and address the root causes of sexual violence.

About Joy Johnson:

Joy Johnson is Simon Fraser University’s vice-president, research and international. She leads SFU’s strategic research initiatives and facilitates international opportunities that foster research collaborations and student exchange. Johnson joined SFU in September 2014 after serving as the scientific director for the Institute of Gender and Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research since January of 2008, where she led the implementation of new practices to incorporate gender and sex in policy and research. She served on the inaugural steering committee for the B.C. Centre of Excellence for Women's Health, was a co-leader on the B.C. Network for Women's Health Research and helped to establish the B.C. Women’s Health Research Institute.

Johnson has a highly productive program of research focusing on health promotion and health behaviour change. A major thrust of her work focuses on sex and gender issues in substance use and mental health. Her scholarship has also focused on facilitating sensitive, precise and relevant health research that integrates knowledge of sex and gender.