OTTAWA — The Canadian military isn't letting its hair down just yet, but for the first time, women in uniform will be allowed to wear ponytails.The move, which also makes nylon stockings optional when in a skirt and permits flat shoes instead of pumps or oxfords, is the latest effort to modernize the Canadian Armed Forces after the recent easing of restrictions on beards, boots and off-duty marijuana use.It also comes amid a concerted effort by senior commanders to increase the number of women in the military, which has so far moved slower than some had hoped."We know that greater control over personal appearance is good for the morale of current CAF members and that it helps us attract future members to our team," said Chief Warrant Officer Alain Guimond, the military's top non-commissioned officer. "Overall, we're trying to better reflect the Canadians we serve while welcoming new members into our ranks."Previously, female military personnel with long hair were required to keep it in braids or buns while on duty. They were also required to wear five-centimetre pumps or oxford shoes as well as nylons if they were working in skirts.Why those restrictions? Tradition? Safety, in the case of ponytails? Defence officials couldn't immediately answer that question.Not that the military is throwing away the rulebook entirely; only one ponytail is allowed and it must be "gathered in the centre back of the head," according to new guidance issued to military personnel this week.Pippi Longstocking, that means you.Ponytails are also not allowed with ceremonial uniforms and, in defiance of such trendsetters as Ariana Grande, they can't go "below the top of the armpit."And although the shoe rules for women are being loosened to allow flats, the freedom does not extend to "ballerina-slipper styles."As for men, sorry, you're going to have to do your David Beckham impressions at home: No ponytails for you, even the short variety.As with last fall's decision to allow beards in more circumstances, this latest move has received mixed reactions from service members and veterans on social media, with some praising the move as long overdue and others worrying the military will look less professional.But it likely won't hurt the military's efforts to recruit and retain more women in uniform.Defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance publicly asserted in February 2016, shortly after taking command of the Forces, that he wanted women to be 25 per cent of the military by 2026. At that time, barely 15 per cent of service members were women.Figures provided by the Department of National Defence showed that at the beginning of January that had grown to 15.7 per cent, a rate of increase that Vance acknowledged to The Canadian Press was slower than he had anticipated.— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
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A new Canadian analysis in The Lancet validates complaints that the awarding of research grants is biased against female scientists.The analysis found women are less likely to receive valuable research dollars if their grant applications are reviewed based on who the lead scientist is, rather that what the proposed project is.The study, titled "Are gender gaps due to evaluations of the applicant or the science?", analyzed almost 24,000 applications submitted to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) — the federal government agency that awards approximately $1 billion in science grants annually.The study's lead author, Holly Witteman, says CIHR created "a natural experiment" when in 2014 it established two new funding streams — the Project Grant Program, which focuses on funding "ideas with the greatest potential," while the Foundation Grant Program funds "research leaders."Men and women performed similarly in Project Grants — 13.5 per cent of male applicants and 12 per cent of female applicants were successful.But under the Foundation program — 13.9 per cent of male applicants won grants, compared to only 9.2 per cent of women.The disparity is most striking in the field of public health, where female applicants outnumber male applicants, but men are twice as likely to win Foundation grants — 14.1 per cent vs 6.7 per cent.Overall, grant applications from men outnumber those by women two to one.The analysis took applicants' age and field of study into account. "This evidence is fairly robust," said Witteman, a researcher at Laval University's Faculty of Medicine in Quebec City. "When the [grant] reviewers are told to focus on evaluating the scientists … that significantly amplifies success rates for men," she said.Grant awarding system brokenNeuroscientist Jennifer Raymond said the Canadian study is another indication that the research funding "system is broken and really needs to be fixed."Raymond is a researcher at California's Stanford University and wrote a commentary which appears in the same edition of The Lancet.She said female scientists might find the CIHR analysis both discouraging and vindicating."A lot of times women internalize and say 'Oh it's me, maybe, I'm not good enough, my male colleague is getting all of these awards and attention. I need to try harder,'" she told CBC News.But Witteman's research indicates women are being passed over. "And I think this shows that the system is biased," Raymond said.Raymond has also assessed grant applications for the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. equivalent of CIHR.> Getting funding can lead to more publications which can make it easier to attract good scientists to your lab, which in turn can help you do more good science and get more funding \- Jennifer Raymond"I sometimes hear comments that I wonder if they would be saying that if the applicant was a male scientist instead of a female scientist. But in any one of those cases, you can never really know what's motivating the comment. You can really only see the bias in the statistics."Funding begets more fundingGender equality has long eluded the sciences, especially at the leadership level. Raymond said funding bias plays a role in that disparity. "Small advantages over time can become big advantages. Getting funding can lead to more publications which can make it easier to attract good scientists to your lab, which in turn can help you do more good science and get more funding. So you know there's all of these different levels at which these biases play out."Raymond said she supports a "blinded" grant application process to protect female researchers from unintended bias. It's an approach increasingly adopted by recruiters and employers. When the Toronto Symphony Orchestra famously began concealing the identities of musicians during auditions in the 1980s, it transformed what was once a nearly all-male orchestra.For research scientists early in their careers, the cumulative effect of those first grants is often more opportunities down the road.Bias stalling innovationDr. Laura LaChance, a Toronto research psychiatrist and published academic who finished her residency in 2017, points out how important research is in advancing a career."Research is a major way that we're kind of measured against our colleagues in terms of how productive you are and how good of a candidate you are," said LaChance.LaChance said career advancement aside, bias against female researchers also results in "stalling innovation in clinical care."She said she also worries some frustrated women may simply quit their research efforts in frustration.Witteman, the study's author, credits CIHR for both collaborating on her gender research and taking steps to prevent further bias once the disparity in the Foundation grant program was clearly identified. In a statement, CIHR said it was committed to "systemic biases against any individual or group." The agency has developed an online course called "Unconscious Bias in Peer Review."
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