04/23/2016 10:41 EDT | Updated 04/23/2016 11:37 EDT

CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais At Internet Hearings: Where Are The Women?

"We can do better."


The chair of Canada’s federal telecom watchdog noticed something missing this week from hearings he’s holding into the country's internet accessibility: Women.

“Today there was a report issued by Employment and Social Development Canada that found the proportion of women in federally regulated companies has dropped from 46 percent to 41 percent in the past 20 years,” Jean-Pierre Blais said in an unexpected aside on Wednesday.

“And since we’ve started this hearing we’ve faced panels like your own entirely of men,” he said, addressing Chris Edwards, a vice-president at the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance (CCSA).

“I’m not picking on you. You’re not alone in this,” Blais told Edwards, who spoke just before the watchdog.

Blais, the chairman of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), crunched some numbers on how much of a voice women have had in CRTC hearings, which help determine regulations for TV, internet and phone services in the country.

Of 1.8 million words spoken at three CRTC hearings in the fall of 2014, only 163,000 were spoken by women — about 14 per cent.

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“Where there have been women on the panels in these telecom proceedings, they don’t have speaking roles,” Blais said.

Blais turned the spotlight on the CRTC itself, noting that just two of its eight commissioners are women.

He said he was “speaking to government, to the industry and even ourselves” when he asserted “that we can do better.”

CTRC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais is pictured in the screen of a reporters camera as he is filmed speaking to media at the CRTC offices in Gatineau, Que., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. (Canadian Press photo)

According to research from 2014, there were 208,000 women employed in information and communication technology jobs in Canada, amounting to less than one-quarter of the total workforce of 845,000.

After Blais finished, Edwards said he also wants to see more women in the sector.

But he added: “The other thing that you have to balance off is that we are asked to come here with the people who have the expertise to deal with the questions."

“Absolutely,” Blais agreed.

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