Project report: About networks for female scientists

The Committee for Mainstreaming – Women in Science has looked at the need for a collaborative effort to build networks for female scientists in Norway. The pilot project found that there was an interest in strengthening and co-ordinating the networks.

April 2, 2008

About the project

The Committee for Mainstreaming – Women in Science (The Kif committee) stresses that creating a national arena where women can meet, perhaps especially in male-dominated academic communities, may be an important tool to recruit and retain more female scientists. The committee also points to the EU commission’s efforts to build networks for women scientists, and the establishing of the European network platform European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS).

KILDEN Information centre for gender research has carried out the pilot project on request from the Kif committee. KILDEN has interviewed 31 key individuals in active or formerly active networks for women scientists, gender equality experts at universities and university colleges, and some female scientists in male-dominated academic fields. The interviewees were selected from Norwegian universities and most of the country’s regions. The networks’ and the individual scientists’ needs, different approaches to career-enhancing measures, gender equality measures and internationalisation are presented in the report.

KILDEN has mapped the existing networks in Norway and been in contact with the European Platform of Women Scientists to get their comments on this work as well as a status report from the rest of Europe.

About the networks

The pilot project has revealed a need for national collaboration in order to strengthen and co-ordinate the networks for women scientists in Norway.

In the EU, networks for female scientists have long been considered an important integration tool. Norway does not have a tradition for large, formalised networks for women scientists, like many other European countries. But the pilot project shows that women scientists in Norway are into networking, although on a somewhat smaller scale. The interest in networks appears to be bigger than the supply.

The formalised networks in Norway are few and weak. The interviews confirm a lack of activity, leaders and financing. The interviewees state the need for a web site containing information on all the networks and their activities. Several of the interviewees also want to be updated on what is happening in Europe, and help in collaborating with networks outside of Norway.

Recruitment and career development

The main reason for focusing on this issue is to strengthen career-enhancing networks for women scientists. All the people we interviewed pointed to the male-dominated natural sciences as important targets for network-building. But also male-dominated fields within the humanities (for instance philosophy), the social sciences (for instance political science), and technology have similar challenges.

It turns out that there is a particular need for career-enhancing networks for women in recruitment positions. Figures show a decreasing female ratio at the post doc. level. Career-enhancing networks might act as a supplement to the mentor projects that already exist on several career levels at a number of institutions.

It is important that women feel that the networks facilitate career advancement and encourage them in their research. In this respect, it is particularly interesting to see a national networking effort in an internationalisation perspective.

The report

This report contains reflections on networking between women scientists in a gender equality perspective, and an outline of various measures that might strengthen the networks and increase their activity. It also presents different ways to shape the national effort to promote networks for female scientists. The costs of alternative models have been estimated and include suggestions for funding.

KILDEN’s assessments are largely based on interviews with contact persons of networks for women scientists, gender equality workers at universities and university colleges, women scientists, and other relevant parties. The European Platform of Women Scientists has also contributed with comments.

In addition, the report contains a list of the existing networks for female scientists in Norway. This list is also published on the Resource Bank for Gender Mainstreaming’s web page, along with a list of relevant Nordic and European networks.

The pilot project is carried out by Information adviser Marte Ericsson Ryste and Senior Executive Officer Anja Enger at KILDEN Information Centre for Gender Research in Norway.

Translated by Vigdis Isachsen

The report

The report “Nasjonal satsing på nettverk for kvinnelige forskere? : et pilotprosjekt” (A national commitment to networks for women scientists?: A pilot project) was prepared by KILDEN Information Centre for Gender Research in Norway, on request from the The Committee for Mainstreaming – Women in Science.

Networks in Norway

In connection with the project KILDEN has made a list of networks and network activities for women scientists and students in Norway. See the list of networks here: