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In just a few short years, they saw the number of women in permanent academic positions go from zero to four. Three of them are now professors. “We needed to strengthen our department and realized that the measures established by the central administration held great potential,” explains Jan-Eirik Angell Killie of the Norwegian College of Fishery Science.
“The Kif committee does a crucial job. It will be exciting to serve on it,” says Elisabet Ljunggren, Senior Researcher at the Nordland Research Institute. Ljunggren is one of the members of the new Committee for Gender Balance in Research (the Kif committee).
Women in academia publish 21 per cent less than their male colleagues, and this figure has been stable for nearly 20 years. A new master’s thesis takes a look behind the numbers.
“We now have a unique historical opportunity to do something about the gender imbalance in Norwegian research,” says Professor Hanne Haavind, who has recruiting advice for leaders who want to seize the day.
New academic perspectives pave the way for a greater number of women to participate in the discipline, according to Professor of Theology Halvor Moxnes. He has worked hard for the inclusion of gender perspectives in theology, and believes that this is important for the recruitment of female researchers.
“A very surprising and generous recognition of our efforts to promote gender equality,” says Rector Sigmund Loland.
The percentage of women in top-level academic positions in mathematics, natural science and technology must increase. This is according to the Norwegian Government, which has now set aside NOK 10 million to speed up the process. The money will be used to reward universities and university colleges that raise the percentage of female academic staff during 2010.
“It’s possible for women to be managers in male-dominated research fields. Just come to SINTEF and see for yourself,” says Marie-Laure Olivier. She should know what she is talking about. Marie-Laure has always been surrounded by men.
All the fuss about recruitment destroys young women’s interest in natural science, according to educational researcher Guðrún Jónsdóttir.
It is pointless to start a search for female applicants one week before the application deadline. If you want to increase the number of women in a male-dominated field, you have to make long-term plans. This is according to Tor Grande, who recently stepped down as head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
“We don’t discuss gender equality very much; after all, it’s an integral part of our job,” says Vice-Dean Helge Klungland of the Faculty of Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). “Nobody is hired or granted project funding here without gender equality being part of the process.”
This was the clear message from the CEO of the SINTEF Group, Unni Steinsmo, when she opened a conference on gender equality in the independent research institutes.
The better the gender balance, the more we benefit from the pool of researcher talent. This is the argument made by the independent research institutes for their own gender equality efforts. However, a new study shows that women are in short supply at the highest levels of research and in leadership positions within the sector.
The Norwegian Government will extend the term of the national committee that promotes gender equality. It is also proposing financial rewards for institutions that employ women in high-level positions in the male-dominated natural sciences.
What does it take to change the gender balance in the most male-dominated physical sciences? This is an issue that Jan Petter Hansen of the University of Bergen knows a lot about. Under his leadership, the percentage of women in the Department of Physics and Technology is finally on the rise.
Norway and Sweden are held up as shining examples when gender equality in academia is discussed in a European context. But even in these countries, political efforts to achieve the objectives of gender balance must continue. Key challenges are rigid structures and the men who dominate academia, according to researchers who recently attended a European conference in Stockholm.
Receiving the Gender Equality Award from the Ministry of Education and Research has generated enthusiasm, more room for action and increased focus on gender equality efforts, according to last year’s two prize winners. This year’s call for nominations is now underway.
National action plans to implement the European Research Area (ERA) are now being drawn up. Hans M. Borchgrevink of the Research Council of Norway believes this is the chance to put gender equality on the EU’s agenda, but quick action is required.
"We are finding that we fill a gap," says Laila Bokhari, who is coordinator of Women and Security, one of the 15 new and existing networks gaining new impetus this spring with funding from the Committee for Mainstreaming – Women in Science.
In April 2009 the Norwegian Government presented a new white paper on research policy. In the report the Government confirms its commitment to gender equality in research, but critics say progress is too slow.