“Better research with diversity and gender balance”
“I hope that all those who attend the conference will leave with specific ideas and recommendations for how they can work to improve the gender balance and increase ethnic diversity at their institutions,” says Henrik Asheim, acting Minister of Education and Research.
The minister will be among the many high-profile speakers at the conference. Curt Rice, Rector of Oslo and Akershus University College, will also make introductory remarks.
“What will be your most important message at the conference?”
“I will talk about gender balance and diversity as a competitive advantage. In the research sphere we see that the search for external funding is accelerating, and as a result gender and diversity are important in both formal and informal ways,” he says.
“We see that the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, emphasizes gender balance with regard to how research groups are comprised, and generally in the research that receives funding. In addition, gender and diversity are important priorities in an informal way because better gender balance and greater diversity in research affect the work being done, and will result in higher quality,” Rice explains.
“White men do a better job in a diverse environment”
Gunnel Gustafsson, Director of NordForsk, will talk about NordForsk’s large-scale research programme “Gender in the Nordic Research and Innovation Area”.
“This programme allocates funding for research projects that study diversity and gender equality challenges in higher education and innovation in the Nordic countries.”
Gustafsson will also talk about NordForsk’s internal guidelines for gender equality and diversity, and how they address these issues within the organization.
“We are concerned about the gender balance in our programme committees, as well as how we allocate funding,” she says.
Rice, Chair of the KIF Committee, is pleased about the expanded mandate that the committee was given in 2014. The mandate requires the committee to prioritize ethnic diversity in research, in addition to gender equality.
“It’s important to focus on both gender and ethnic diversity in management so that society’s resources can be used in the most rational way possible. This means that women as well as minorities must have the same opportunity as white men to have a career in academia. But it is also crucial because we see that white men do a better job when they work in a diverse environment,” he says.
Managers must reflect society
Minister Asheim emphasizes that gender equality and ethnic diversity result in better managers.
“Discrimination in all forms is not only wrong, it also means that higher education and research don’t have access to many talented individuals. If we are better able to use the talent around us, improve the gender balance and take advantage of our diversity, then we will have even higher quality in education and research,” the minister says.
Gustafsson of NordForsk, who is also a political science professor, agrees.
“This is a question of quality. We also need to know for certain that we are finding the best people who can make the biggest contribution. Managers are also role models, so it’s important that they reflect society in the most representative way possible. In addition, gender balance and diversity are a matter of fairness,” she says.
“What can NordForsk contribute to the conference?”
“We can contribute new knowledge, especially through our research programme on these issues and by being a pioneering institution. We will also help to move gender equality and diversity issues higher up on the agenda.”
Encourage a competitive instinct
Gustafsson thinks the conference will be an important arena for moving gender equality and ethnic diversity higher up on the research policy agenda.
“Statistics show that the work to promote gender equality and diversity in management in the Nordic countries is making progress, but that it’s going much too slowly. To accelerate these efforts, we must look at both culture and traditions in the sector, as well as the institutional systems we have at Nordic universities and university colleges to ensure equal treatment,” she explains.
“The conference can inspire us to address these issues with renewed vigour, and give an added boost to fairness and quality in Nordic management. Hopefully the conference will produce results and point to change in the right direction, even if we don’t see the change right away,” states Gustafsson.
Today research is being increasingly funded from external sources. This is why Rice, the KIF Committee chair, believes it is important to think tactically and take a long-term perspective.
“This conference is an important forum for better understanding the systems that allocate funding. It will give us as participants an opportunity to get oriented and see who we are competing with. I hope the conference will bring out the competitive instinct in people,” he explains.
“Not only that, I hope the participants will gain new insights into the importance of gender balance and diversity that they can take back to their respective institutions. I also hope that they will come away with new ideas about how to acquire external funding, and more generally about how they conduct research.”
Translated by Connie Stultz.