UBC president Santa Ono decries lack of recognition of women, urges influential men to promote gender equality

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      The head of Canada's fourth-largest university has had enough of men taking home most of the prestigious prizes in the world.

      In a TEDxUBC speech, which was recently posted on YouTube, UBC president Santa Ono went into great detail about how women have been shortchanged in many areas.

      He noted that of the more than 900 Nobel Prizes awarded, only 50 have gone to women.

      "The Nobel categories with the highest percentage of winners are literature and peace," Ono said. "And in those categories, the chance that you will win if you're a woman is only 12.5 percent."

      He added that in physics and economics, it's far worse: only one percent of winners have been women.

      The first winner of a Nobel Prize in physics, Marie Curie, only received it because her husband, Pierre Curie, insisted on this or else he was going to refuse the honour.

      Last year, Canadian Donna Theo Strickland became only the third winner of the Nobel Prize in physics.

      "Part of the reason I care is because of all the amazing students, women, at the University of British Columbia," Ono stated. "But it's far more personal than that. I want my daughters to live in a more equalized world where they can be acknowledged based upon their merit rather than their gender.

      "We must all fight for gender equity so that no woman is excluded or discouraged from the field that she excels in," he continued. "So that no breakthroughs are lost through the barriers of sexism. And no one who deserves a chance is passed up because they are female. We owe it to the next generation to take steps to ensure that every girl today can fulfill her potential tomorrow."

      Video: Watch Santa Ono's erudite speech about how many extremely accomplished women have been shortchanged in a wide range of areas.

      At the start of his speech, Ono revealed that a "very kind person" emailed him a while ago. This person stated that he would like to nominate Ono for a major prize.

      "At first I was flattered, but I replied that I'd rather him consider nominating a younger person, preferably a woman," Ono revealed. "You see, I've been very fortunate in my life to win more than my share of prizes and awards and medals over the years. I would rather see other people honoured."

      The UBC president added that it's really nice to receive awards and medals, and he has fond memories of the ceremonies and nice dinners that came with them.

      "But I actually think that awards go to the same people far too often—and they should be spread to more people," Ono stated. "In particular, far too many awards go to men."

      So he's promoting the use of the hashtag #NominateHer to try to level the playing field.

      "Gender inequality persists in almost every profession," Ono declared. "I'm here to say it diminishes institutions, universities, entire professions, entire regions, entire nations, and in fact, the entire world.

      "Sadly, while there has been some progress towards gender equity in certain sectors, gender inequality is still the norm. And in some places in the world, it is still increasing."

      He emphasized that there has also been "little progress here at home".

      "It is about time we changed that," Ono insisted. "It is everyone's responsibility. And every man and woman, especially men in prominent positions, have to take action to address the situation."

      He suggested that men have to take the lead, giving women space in the workplace and providing mechanisms for them to re-enter after having children.

      In addition, he said that men have to help at home. 

      Then he suggested that men give more thought to mentorship schemes that provide the same opportunities to women as are going to men.

      Moreover, Ono argued that people need to become more aware of their biases, and attack them.

      He closed his speech by encouraging greater recognition for women.

      "Lastly, this is something meant for men, hashtag 'NominateHer', wherever and whenever possible, especially where it's clear there's underrepresentation of women," he said.