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Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering program

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Duration Five years, renewable once
Application deadline There is no competition currently scheduled for this program.
How to apply See below
Application forms To view forms and instructions, select PDF forms and instructions.

To create a Canadian Common CV, select This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Common CV.

To complete Form 183A and the Terms and conditions of applying form, select the links above.
Contacts See below


The NSERC Women in Engineering Chair, which was launched in 1989, was expanded and redeveloped in 1996 to its current form, the Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE) program. The goal of the program is to increase the participation and retention of women in science and engineering and to provide role models for women active in, and considering, careers in these fields. The CWSE program is regional—with one Chair for each of the Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies and British Columbia/Yukon regions.

Objectives of the Chair program

  1. Develop, implement and communicate strategies to raise the level of participation and retention of women in science and engineering as students and as professionals, taking into account intersectional dimensions (e.g., age, education, sexual orientation, Indigenous status, disability, language, race, ethnicity, culture, etc.)—these strategies could include some of the following:
    • encourage female students in elementary and secondary schools to consider careers in science and engineering
    • increase the enrolment of women in undergraduate and graduate programs in science and engineering in all Canadian universities and colleges
    • increase the profile and retention rate of women in science and engineering positions
    • eliminate barriers for women and other under-represented or disadvantaged groups who wish to pursue careers in science and engineering
    • promote the integration of female students and professionals both within and outside academia
    • promote the consideration of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) as an essential component of research and training
  1. Provide female role models who are accomplished, successful and recognized researchers in science and engineering
  2. Develop and implement a communication and networking strategy to ensure a regional and national impact on opportunities for women in science and engineering

Terms of support

Chairs are tenable at any NSERC-eligible Canadian university within a designated region. Chairs are approved for a five-year term, renewable for an additional term of three to five years.

Matching funds

NSERC will contribute an initial $40,000 per year. In addition, NSERC will match cash and in-kind contributions from the host university and supporting organizations (partners) up to a maximum of $70,000 per year, for a total of $110,000 per year. In-kind contributions can consist of staff time, salaries, equipment and any other resources provided by the supporting organizations.

Note: If additional funding commitments are secured after a Chair has started, NSERC will adjust its initial level of funding up to the maximum total of $70,000. Requests for these additional funds must be supported by a full description of the changes that will result from the additional funding and by a revised budget.

To help the chairholders maintain their research activity at a high level during their tenure as a CWSE, NSERC will also match host university cash contributions of $20,000 with $25,000 to support a postdoctoral fellow or research engineer.

Summary of annual funding amounts for CWSE chairholders

  NSERC contributions University contributions Partner contributions
Initial award amount $40K n/a n/a
Matching funds (cash or in-kind) Up to $70K Unlimited1
PDF/Research engineer support $25K $20K (minimum)2 n/a
Total Up to $135K Unlimited Unlimited

1 Up to $70K will be matched by NSERC.
2 NSERC will contribute $25K, conditional upon a minimum $20K contribution from the host university.

Supporting organizations

Supporting organizations may include private- or public-sector organizations, universities (other than the host university), communities or individuals. A Chair application must include a minimum of one supporting organization from the private or public sector (providing cash and/or in-kind contributions).

Interactions with the Chair’s supporting organization(s) help to expand the visibility and reach of the Chair and increase awareness of issues surrounding women in science and engineering to sectors beyond academia. Although NSERC encourages interactions between the Chair and their supporting organizations, formal collaborations are not mandatory.

Chairholders’ time allocation

Chairholders are expected to contribute up to 50% of their time to the activities of the Chair and the remaining time to their professor/researcher activities at the university. It is expected that the chairholder’s salary be fully covered by the host university; however, in exceptional circumstances, for small- or medium-sized universities that can demonstrate a significant need, NSERC and supporting organization funds may be used to cover a portion of the salary corresponding to the Chair’s activities (salary component). For instance, if the candidate proposes to spend 50% of her time on Chair-related activities, the contributions from NSERC and the supporting organization(s) can be used to defray up to 50% of her salary. The university will be responsible for any salary increments over the course of the award due to merit, progression through the ranks and inflation. Applications that contain a salary component must be clearly indicated as such. In all cases, it is expected that the chairholder be released from teaching and administrative tasks in proportion to the stated percentage of time spent on the activities of the Chair.

Use of funds

All expenses charged to CWSE moneys must abide by the Tri-agency guide on financial administration on the use of grant funds. In addition, the salaries and non-discretionary benefits for a project manager for assistance in the development and general management of the Chair’s program and activities is considered an eligible expense for this program.


Chair candidates must self-identify as women and meet NSERC’s regular eligibility criteria to apply for or receive NSERC funding. Candidates (already holding a faculty appointment at a Canadian university) must either hold a current NSERC Discovery Grant or be awarded one prior to taking up the Chair.

Applications may be submitted by any NSERC-eligible Canadian university located in the appropriate region, or jointly by two or more eligible universities located within the same region.

Application procedures

Description and guidelines

The applicant must be the senior administrator (e.g., department head, dean, vice-president or president) with direct or ultimate responsibility for the proposed Chair. The applicant cannot be the candidate for the Chair. There is no special application form for this program; however, the application should follow these general presentation guidelines:

  • Set margins at a minimum 3/4 inch (1.9 cm) on all sides.
  • Print must be in black ink and of letter quality.
  • Text must be single-spaced, with no more than six lines per inch.
  • The accepted font is Times New Roman regular, 12 pts, or any comparable font; nothing smaller.
  • Condensed fonts and applications completed strictly in italics are not acceptable.

Note: If an application does not meet these standards, it may be rejected.


Apart from the basic structure outlined below, the proposal is free form. This allows the university the flexibility to be creative and innovative in structuring the Chair and the Chair’s action plan. The university should make a strong case for the establishment of the best possible Chair, in line with the university’s goals, priorities, aspirations and resources.

Summary (maximum one page)

The summary should clearly outline, in point form, the proposed activities and how they will have an impact with respect to the program objectives.

University’s strategy toward women in science and engineering (maximum five pages)

The university should outline its strategy in the context of the objectives of the CWSE program, noting

  • specific contributions to date by the university and/or the candidate in support of EDI in science and engineering
  • the general nature and level of current activities related to women in science and engineering within the region for which the chairholder will be responsible for (i.e., Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies or British Columbia/Yukon)
  • the positioning of the proposed Chair and its role and importance with respect to the university’s strategy to promote EDI for women in science and engineering
  • the vision and anticipated evolution of these activities, including plans for expansion, enhancements and other changes
  • strategies to enhance the prestige, status and profile of the CWSE Chair within the university and the entire region  

Action plan (maximum 10 pages)

Each of the three objectives must be addressed in the proposal, but it is left to each individual Chair candidate as to how she wishes to focus on these objectives. The first objective has several sub-points that do not all necessarily need to be addressed in the proposal but are included as a guideline. There must be a balance in the activities of the Chair among science promotion, research into factors and institutional mechanisms that influence the participation rates of women in science and engineering, and public advocacy and role-modelling. The balance among these activities depends on the interests of the Chair and the situation and needs within the university and the region.

Proposals should include a detailed action plan that describes how the chairholder will address the goals and objectives of their Chair program. Specifics of the proposed strategies are left to the discretion, creativity and motivation of the host university, supporting organization(s) and the proposed chairholder. Action plans should include the following:

  • short- and long-term objectives
  • a description of the strategies that will be followed to address the objectives of the Chair program
  • a detailed budget outlining expenditures for all the funds provided by the host university, supporting organization(s) and NSERC
  • a description of the reporting and monitoring mechanisms to be put in place for the activities of the Chair
  • a description of the measures that will be put in place to assess the impact and effectiveness of Chair-related activities  
  • a description of the regular professorial/research activities expected of the chairholder, including teaching load
  • a description of how the chairholder will collaborate with others—including the supporting organization(s), as applicable—to ensure that the Chair has a strong regional impact
  • a description of how the chairholder will collaborate with other CWSE chairholders and participate in initiatives on a national scale, notably the National Network described below
  • a description of how successful strategies and programs will be publicized and communicated across Canada

Full application

A complete application includes:

  • the above-described proposal
  • an up-to-date Canadian Common CV (CCV) for the proposed chairholder, including a full description of her research achievements
  • two letters of reference for the Chair candidate, specifically addressing the program selection criteria (maximum two pages each)
  • a completed Form 183A, Information required from organizations participating in research partnerships programs form, for each supporting organization
  • a letter from each supporting organization stating the level of its cash or in-kind contribution and its reasons for supporting the proposed Chair
  • Terms and conditions of applying form (completed by the proposed chairholder)

How to send the application

Electronically: Via the This link will take you to another Web site Secure submissions for NSERC’s Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering program site. Documents must be submitted in portable document format (PDF). The following documents must be uploaded separately: 1) the proposal; 2) CCV; 3) Form(s) 183A, the supporting organization letter(s) and the two reference letters; and 4) the Terms and conditions of applying form. Form(s) 183A, the supporting organization letter(s) and the two reference letters must be merged into one PDF document for submission.

Note: Original or electronic signatures are required on documents, but they can still be submitted electronically.

Your application must be received at NSERC by 8:00 p.m. (ET) on the deadline date. If it is not received by NSERC by the deadline, it will be considered late and will be rejected. If the deadline falls on a weekend or federal holiday, your application must reach NSERC by the following working day.

Review procedures

Applications will be reviewed by a CWSE selection committee. Membership on the committee will be drawn from Canadian universities and colleges, foreign institutions, and industry and/or government laboratories, and potentially from NSERC staff. Recently retired individuals who remain active in research may be considered as potential members.

Review of applications is a two-step process. The committee will review all eligible applications submitted to the competition to develop a short list of candidates. These will be further discussed by the committee at a (virtual) meeting, which will include an interview with each short-listed candidate during the committee meeting. Meeting date(s) will be communicated to short-listed candidates as soon as they become available.

Selection criteria

The CWSE selection committee will evaluate all Chair applications according to the following criteria:

  • excellence of the candidate: the research achievements and stature of the candidate
  • experience in EDI-related issues: the experience and/or the potential of the candidate to make a contribution to Chair-related issues, including general EDI questions
  • proposed strategies: the merit and projected impact of the proposed strategies
  • communication and networking plan: the communication and networking plan to ensure maximum impact at both the regional and national levels
  • host university support: the support of the host university(ies), including the integration of the Chair with existing Chair-related initiatives in the region
  • contributions from supporting organizations: the cash and in-kind contributions secured from the supporting organization(s)

The CWSE selection committee will give equal importance to each element when evaluating proposals.

Discovery Grant application

In addition to the Chair application, candidates who either do not hold a Discovery Grant or whose Discovery Grant is in its final year must submit an application for a Discovery Grant. Candidates whose Discovery Grant is not in its final year must agree to authorize NSERC to make the results of their most recent Discovery Grant evaluation, including referee and evaluation group comments, available to the CWSE selection committee. The Discovery Grant proposal will help reviewers to assess the research stature and potential of the proposed candidate.

In order to provide the Chairs with stable research funding, their Discovery Grant may be extended for the duration of the first five-year term of the Chair. Stable funding will allow each Chair to put in place the necessary framework to help ensure that their research program remains active at a time of intense focus on strategic planning and implementation of initiatives and activities in support of the objectives of the CWSE program. Candidates whose Discovery Grant is not in its final year will have the option of extending their current grant for the five-year Chair term or reapplying in accordance with the original schedule. In the latter case, the Chair must accept the decision of the evaluation group, including a possible reduction or nil.  

Chairholders may apply to all other NSERC programs and to other funding agencies for research support not related to the Chair.

National Network Grant

In September 2006, the five regional Chairs were formally linked through the creation of a National Network Grant, funded by NSERC. The network is currently funded at a level of $80,000 per year and provides mechanisms to facilitate interactions among the five Chairs in order to

  • increase the effectiveness of the five regional programs through shared information and resources
  • enhance communication among the regional Chairs through regular face-to-face or virtual meetings
  • increase the visibility and impact of CWSE activities at a national level
  • undertake research activities that support the common objectives of the CWSE program

Toward these goals, the National Network undertakes a range of collaborative research, communication and networking activities such as contributions to national and regional conferences.

Public announcements

NSERC will approve a public announcement only after a chairholder has formally accepted the position and after all the conditions for holding the award have been met. Refer to the general guidelines for the public announcement of major NSERC awards in planning a public announcement of a Chair award.


The chairholder must submit progress reports every 24 months and a final report at the end of the Chair (that is, at the end of the fifth year if the chairholder does not wish to renew her Chair, or at the end of the second term if a renewal is granted). Continued NSERC support for the Chair depends on favourable reviews of the activities and progress of the Chair and the continued contribution of the host university and supporting organization(s), which must be confirmed annually.


Renewal applications are due six months prior to the end date of the Chair. The decision to renew a Chair for a second term will be based on the fourth year progress report, a proposed action plan for the second term, supporting documentation from the supporting organization(s), a statement of impact from the host university and an up-to-date CCV. Renewal applications will be evaluated by members of the CWSE selection committee and NSERC staff. Chairs are encouraged to renew their Discovery Grants; however, at the CWSE renewal stage, holding an active Discovery Grant is not a requirement.

If the evaluation is positive and the supporting organization(s) is willing to continue financial support (or a new supporting organization[s] is secured), the Chair may be renewed once for a second term of three to five years. Terms of support for the second term are identical to those in the first term.

Note: The Chair must continue to hold NSERC research funding as the primary investigator to be eligible to receive the $25,000 for postdoctoral fellow or research engineer support.

Renewal selection criteria

The selection committee will evaluate all Chair renewal applications according to the following criteria:

  • the past Chair-related achievements and stature of the candidate
  • the experience and/or the potential of the candidate to make continued contributions to Chair-related issues including EDI
  • the merit and projected impact of the proposed strategies
  • the communication and networking plan to ensure maximum impact at both the regional and national levels
  • the support of the host university(ies)
  • the cash and in-kind contributions secured from the supporting organization(s)

Equal importance will be given to each element when evaluating renewal applications.


Applicants and Chair candidates are encouraged to contact the NSERC staff members responsible for this program:

Scholarships, Fellowships and Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering