Dimensions: One year later

Karine Morin, Director, Policy and Interagency Affairs at NSERC and Director in charge of Dimensions; and Nathalie Podeszfinski, Project Manager, Dimensions at NSERC


Nearly one year ago, on May 9, 2019, Dimensions: equity, diversity, and inclusion Canada was enthusiastically launched by the then Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan. Previously referred to as Made-in-Canada Athena SWAN - an initiative developed to increase women’s participation in STEM in the UK - the Canadian version has a much broader scope.

Uniquely ambitious

The Dimensions program addresses obstacles faced by, but not limited to, women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities/racialized groups, and members of LGBTQ2+ communities. It also encompasses all fields of studies across all types of postsecondary institutions. It aims to achieve deep cultural change and to create a larger pool of talents.

The foundational component is a charter of principles related to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). Institutions, through a process of self-assessment and a commitment to change, can be publically recognized for their accomplishments.

Funding for the pilot phase was granted until 2023. During this period, the details of the Canadian program are being developed and the first recognition awards will be issued.

A far-reaching charter

Reflecting multi-stakeholders consultations across the country, the Dimensions charter’s eight principles guide institutions committing to increase EDI in their environment and across the research ecosystem.

No less than 118 institutions have endorsed the Dimensions charter in the first 10 months of its launch. In addition to post-secondary institutions, other research-oriented organizations as well as federal departments and agencies are feeling compelled to add to the efforts to enhance EDI, and have become signatories.

A recognition program in co-development

Dimensions will provide public recognition for institutions’ achievements in EDI. Currently, a cohort of 17 Canadian institutions - 5 colleges and 12 universities from coast to coast - is co-developing the Canadian program and learning from each other. Each institution will develop an action plan with goals based on identified gaps.

The cohort meets virtually on a regular basis to discuss key elements of the program and share insights. It also provides input into the program’s handbook, which is being drafted, and which will become the guiding document for institutions wishing to apply to obtain formal recognition.

International EDI expertise

The Canadian program is well-supported by groups of EDI experts. A special selection committee of 11 members reviewed the 40 letters of intent received, and selected the cohort members. The Program Expert Design Committee (PDEC) was later formed to provide ongoing guidance. The Dimensions team also benefits from the input of the Advisory Committee on EDI Policy (ACEDIP), a committee that also advises the Canada Research Chairs program. The organization behind Athena SWAN in the UK, Advance HE, has been sharing knowledge and resources with the Dimensions team as well.

Learn more with this webinar!

The Dimensions team will be presenting on the progress of the past year in more detail during a webinar offered by CARA on May 27, 2020 at noon.

You may also consult the Dimensions webpages for more information.

Dimensions is an initiative of the three federal granting agencies (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC) in collaboration with Universities Canada as well as Colleges and Institutes Canada.