Measures for gender balance

There is a striking imbalance between the percentage of women and men in the Norwegian research sector. The biggest problem is that women are still underrepresented in higher level positions in nearly all subject areas. There is vertical gender segregation – more female students than male students, but fewer female professors than male professors.

How the KIF Committee work:

  • Counseling academic institutions
  • Political advocacy work
  • Research dissemination
  • Provide guidelines and tools
  • Seminars
  • EU-cooperation
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Talent at stake

Established in 2004, the KIF Committee (known then as the Committee for Mainstreaming – Women in Science) was an attempt to improve the gender balance in research. At the time, the percentage of female professors in Norway was a bleak 17 percent nationwide, and the figures were much lower at some institutions. Today the percentage of female professors is much higher, and the trend is moving in the right direction.

A recruitment pool with a predominance of women and an ongoing generation shift in the sector could give the impression that change will occur naturally, but it’s slow going. Without the efforts of the institutions in the past 10 years, we would not have made such good progress already. Gender equality does not happen by itself, and we need to take action.

By failing to take advantage of the potential available, we miss out on important, relevant research, expertise and knowledge-building.

Take advantage of the potential!

In this section, we have compiled important measures that can help to improve the gender balance at universities, university colleges and research institutes. This is not an exhaustive list of measures, but rather a selection of tips and examples.

  • Gender perspectives in research: Here we have compiled instruments at a more general level. These are primarily structural measures from national research policy and Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
  • Recruitment measures: Under this point you will find instruments that can encourage gender-balanced recruitment.
  • Career-promoting measures: These measures show how the institutions can lay a foundation for gender equality in research careers.
  • Diversity: We present examples of how the institutions can help to enhance diversity in academia.
  • Students: Here we have compiled measures targeted towards students in order to achieve a more gender-balanced student body.


Gender perspectives in research

But it’s not enough to look at the differences between men and women. Then you risk reinforcing stereotypes. (Londa Schiebinger, Stanford University).

In many subject areas the relevance of gender perspectives is obvious – for instance, in many of the humanities, social sciences and medicine. In other subject areas it is less apparent, but equally important – such as in climate and environmental research.

EU – Horizon 2020
The EU supports research and development activities in the member countries primarily through its framework programmes for research and technological development. A stated objective of Horizon 2020 is to integrate gender perspectives into all research fields and actively promote women’s participation in research and development.

Horizon 2020: Promoting Gender Equality in Research and Innovation

Read: Two thoughts at once - pilot project on both gender equality and gender perspectives

The Research Council of Norway
The Research Council’s gender equality policy for 2013−2017, Gender balance and gender perspectives in research and innovation, states that a gender perspective must be integrated into all research, when relevant. All programmes and initiatives must specifically assess whether the gender dimension is significant for their research area.

It requires expertise to take qualified decisions about the relevance of a gender perspective. The Research Council has stated that it supports competence development both within the Research Council and as a service to the employees on the programme boards and preparatory committees.

Read: From gender equality to gender balance

Internationalization in a gender perspective
Internationalization of research is both a research strategy objective and a political objective in Norway. The individual researcher’s career as well as the institution as a whole are dependent on networks and sharing experiences across national borders.

Studies have shown that male and female researchers are not on equal footing when it comes to opportunities to participate in research stays abroad, international collaborative projects and international networks – in part because some women with children have fewer genuine opportunities for mobility.

The KIF Committee has proposed establishing a separate grant scheme for internationalization for the underrepresented gender. Read more about internationalization and mobility in a gender perspective in the report Intensify the effort (in Norwegian only).

Read: Research not family friendly

The KIF Committee
The objective of the KIF Committee is to support and give recommendations regarding measures that promote the integration of gender balance and diversity activities at universities, university colleges and research institutes, thus helping to increase diversity among the staff and in research.

The KIF Committee was given an expanded mandate in 2014, and in the period 2014–2017 it will focus in particular on both gender and ethnicity. The committee’s work encompasses diversity perspectives in research, including gender perspectives in research.

Read: Mandate for the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (KIF)

Gender and innovation
Nordland Research Institute is heading up a project called Gender and innovation in Norway (GENINNO) in cooperation with Trøndelag R&D Institute and Norut Alta. The project is funded by the Research Council, and the project period is 2014–2016.

Read about the project Gender and innovation in Norway (in Norwegian only).

The project manager Elisabet Ljunggren conducts research on entrepreneurship and innovation from a gender perspective. Her publications are available from Nordland Research Institute.

Read about the Research Council’s BALANSE programme

Structural measures
The university, university college and research institute sector is large and heterogeneous. Gender imbalance is a national problem, and the central government has initiated several structural measures and instruments to help to improve gender equality and gender balance in this sector.

Active action plans for equality at the institution
The higher education sector and the research institute sector must submit annual reports on gender equality in keeping with the employer’s activity and reporting duty. In addition, all higher education institutions must have an active, up-to-date action plan for gender balance and gender equality – with annual reports on target figures, instruments and results achieved. The action plans should be concrete and well justified.

Our updated list of the various institutions’ action plans for equality is available here.

Target figures and recruitment plan
Another useful way to fulfil the employer’s activity and reporting duty is to have each unit at the institution draw up recruitment plans and concrete performance targets for increasing the percentage of women in academic positions.

See an example of this from the University of Oslo: Gender equality report for 2015 (in Norwegian only).

Institutions use statistics as a management tool, so it is critical that the statistics prepared are gender sensitive. This may include statistics on the gender distribution of applicants and employees in academic positions according to subject area and the gender distribution within projects and research groups that have received funding. It may also include annual salary statistics divided by position group and gender.

See, for example: Equal opportunity statistics for the University of Bergen

See also Statistics Norway’s Key figures on gender equality

Gender testing of budgets
Gender testing of budgets, known as “gender budgeting,” is used to follow up policy objectives in the gender equality field within budgeting and reporting activities. This means that the various allocations from the budgets are analysed to find out how the funding has been distributed between men and women with regard to academic initiatives, research projects, research groups and the like.

Recognitions and awards
The Ministry of Education and Research presented the Gender Equality Award each year to a university, university college or research institute in the period from 2007 to 2013. The award was presented to one or more research institutions with the best measures to improve the gender balance. The measures had to have the support of the leadership and be described in reports or plans for the institution.

There are also examples of institutions with their own gender equality awards. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is one of them. NTNU’s gender equality committee presents a gender equality award annually to a faculty or academic environment.

UiT The Arctic University of Norway has a gender equality award as well. It can be presented to a faculty, department, organisation, group, environment or person who has done exceptional work to promote gender equality at the university.


Guide for gender equality and diversity

A number of universities and university colleges have been merged. The KIF Committee has prepared a guide to give university colleges and universities practical tools to use in their restructuring efforts and to remind them to keep gender balance and diversity foremost in their minds:

Using restructuring to promote gender equality and diversity – a guide for the research sector, reader-friendly version and printer-friendly version.