Asking the Norwegian Minister of Education and Research about gender equality

What will minister Øystein Djupedal do to speed up gender equality work in the higher education sector?

August 8, 2006

Gerd Janne Kristoffersen, parliamentary representative for the Norwegian Labour Party.

This is one question that Gerd Janne Kristoffersen, parliamentary representative for the Norwegian Labour Party, and member of The Standing Committee on Education, Research and Church Affairs, is wondering about. Right before the summer holiday she delivered an interpellation to the minister, in which she calls for an effort to correct the gender imbalances in academia.

A problem of democracy

“It is astounding that only 17 per cent of professors in Norway are women. I’m sure there are many explanations for why this is case, but nevertheless it is not something we can abide”, says Kristoffersen.

She emphasises that the low proportion of women is a democratic problem which can also have consequences for which research projects gain priority. “For example, there are many people who believe this has consequences for medicine, and that women’s illness are underevaluated and pychologised.”

Krisoffersen wants an offensive in relation to gender equality in research right now, with a fresh look at what it is that reproduces gender imbalance, and which strategies work.

No Criticism

Even though Kristoffersen poses this question to the minister for education and research she will not say that Djupedal has not done enough on this subject.

“I understand Djupedal to be interested in doing something about the gender imbalances within research. Therefore I also believe it was wise to pose this question to him, so that he can announce what he has in mind to do about the situation,” she says.

Use bait

Kristoffersen is concerned that the stick must be replaced by more positive means in gender equality work.

“We must end up with means that stimulate and reward those who make an effort. We must quite simply use bait in gender equality work, says the representative, who doesn’t reject that using financial incentives to reward universities that achieve good results on the gender equality front is a good idea.”

The question from Gerd Janne Kristoffersen to the minister for education and research should, according to its proposer, come up in parliament in October. For everyone who is interested in the government’s plans on this subject, an answer may be forthcoming.

Translated by Matthew Whiting, KILDEN

Read the interpellation here:

Interpellation from Gerd Janne Kristoffersen (A) to the minister for education and research, dated: 16.06.2006

Today, men comprise about 83 per cent of professors in Norway. The situation was the same in 2003. The recruitment of women in senior positions in the world of higher education represents a great challenge, and the work on this problem needs to be intensified. The lack of gender equality in academia has consequences for research, teaching, participation in committees, and for international collaboration. It is a democratic problem of prioritising and the setting of agendas within research, and in the recruitment of students. Educational institutions, as well as the authorities, have a big responsibility to correct the imbalances. What will the minister do in order to speed up gender equality work and correct the imbalances in the world of higher education?