Two winners of the Award for Gender Equality 2007

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the University of Tromsø (UiT) share this year’s Award for Gender Equality, worth two million Norwegian kroner. "I do hope this will inspire more people to work for gender equality," Tora Aasland, minister of Research and Higher Education said during the award-giving ceremony.

February 15, 2008
Tora Aasland, minister of Research and Higher Education during the award-giving ceremony (photo: Anita Thorolvsen Munch).

“A better gender balance in academia is highly prioritized in the Ministry. A lot of good effort towards equality is being laid down in the sector, but progress is too slow and we still have a long way to go. I hope this will inspire more institutions to carry on this kind of work,” Tora Aasland, minister of Research and Higher Education said as she handed out the Award for Gender Equality 2007 during the Ministry’s annual contact conference for institutions for higher education.

The Award for Gender Equality worth two million kroner (approx. EUR 260 000, or USD 365 000), established by the Ministry of Education and Research, is given to the institution which has taken the best measures to improve the gender balance in academia. This year, the award was divided between two winners: NTNU received NOK 1.5 million and the Department of Marine Biotechnology (IMAB) at the University of Tromsø received NOK 500 000.

“I am impressed by the effort the award winners have made in their endeavours towards equality,” Aasland said.

Both winners received the award for their goal-oriented and specific action plans in connection with the work for an improved gender balance in academia.

Incorporation in daily routines

“We are extremely happy to receive this award. Great mobilization and effort have made this possible. We think our plan was excellent, and we had a strong desire to win the award, which is an enormous motivation for us,” said a happy Astrid Lægreid, pro-rector for research and innovation at NTNU, who, along with rector Torbjørn Digernes and Julie Feilberg, pro-rector for education and quality of learning, was in Oslo to receive the award.

From left: Julie Feilberg, Torbjørn Digernes, rector and Astrid Lægreid (NTNU) (photo: Anita Thorolvsen Munch).

NTNU received the award for goal-orientation, ambition and originality in its endeavours for gender equality. According to the jury, they show measurable results and effective initiatives, and the responsibility for initiating the various stages of the plan is clearly anchored from the top level down to the departments.

Svandis Benediktsdottir (photo: Kenneth Stoltz/ Universitetsavisa).

“Academia has long, dyed-in-the-wool traditions and that’s why we have made an effort to think anew. We have been hands-on and brought equality into our day-to-day routines. Our philosophy is to have specific measures put into action. We have produced enough reports and studies,” Svandis Benediktsdottir, equality consultant at NTNU, says.

Goal-oriented work including network building, five mentor programmes with more than 150 participants and two new programmes in the making, and the fact that NTNU was the first university to grant money for equality projects, are some of the things on their merit list.

“In addition, we have focused our efforts at top level. The management and the board of NTNU are in favour of measures towards equality and when we see that it works, it’s easier to secure the participation of the entire organisation.”

The Committee for Mainstreaming – Women in Science (the KiF Committee) praised NTNU for creativity and results-oriented measures in their efforts to create so-called ‘search committees’.

“We have urged the scientific communities to form search committees in order to actively search for female scientists for positions in research, and for this, we have to look beyond the local environment and out into the world,” Benediktsdottir says.

Integrated in Tromsø

The award led to joy in Tromsø as well. The Department of Marine Biotechnology (IMAB) at the UiT received the award for its success in integrating women in its scientific community and for a great increase of women in research positions.

According to the jury, it is commendable that the department has made use of the possibilities in UiT’s general action plan for gender equality, as this proves the importance of central plans issued from the top management.

“By this example, the University of Tromsø also shows that efforts towards equality are rooted in the possibly most important level for integrating women in research; that is the department level. This should be a general objective for all action plans,” according to the jury’s statement.

“Being noticed is a positive thing! IMAB has developed in an incredibly positive way. Achieving this increase in female researchers has been a process over several years and we have managed to seize the possibilities available to us. However, the fact that we now have more women in research is also due to a natural development, not only the action plan and the measures taken. We have quite simply had a fair number of well-qualified female applicants,” says Olaf Styrvold, head of department, to Tromsøflaket, the UiT student newspaper.

Rector Jarle Aarbakke (UiT) received the award on behalf of the Department of Marine Biotechnology.

Jarle Aarbakke, rector at UiT, received the equality award (photo: Anita Thorolvsen Munch).

Nine candidates

The applications were announced, evaluated and nominated by the Committee for Mainstreaming – Women in Science, on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Research. Before the deadline, which was 23 November 2007, nine institutions had applied.

“We are satisfied with the response, although we might have hoped for more applications, especially from university colleges,” said Linda Rustad, senior adviser of the KiF Committee to the Resource Bank for Gender Mainstreaming in Science when the deadline had expired. She pointed out, however, that they had received nine extremely strong applications.

The criterion for taking part was to have a resolved action plan for gender equality, to which funds were allocated.

“We know that many people have expired action plans and are currently adopting new ones, and they were not able to hand in their applications before the deadline,” Rustad says.

“In spite of great differences in quality, it is obvious that several of the institutions have developed good processes for preparing action plans. The variations show that there are many ways to prepare action plans.”

The nine institutions who applied were: BI Norwegian School of Management, Institute of Marine Research, Lillehammer University College, Molde University College, Oslo University College, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the University of Bergen, the University of Oslo and the University of Tromsø.

Urges for a special award for the university colleges

The action plans show great differences in quality between the university colleges and the universities. Unlike the universities, the university colleges lack, wholly or in part, resources for implementing measures and for the actual work to promote equality, according to the nomination from the KiF committee. That is why KiF urges the Ministry of Education and Research to provide funds for a special award for the university colleges in 2008. In the report, it is also pointed out that the extent, as well as the size of the Award for Gender Equality create expectations of continuity.

“Consequently, we recommend that the Award for Gender Equality be made an annual event, similar to the ‘Teaching Award’, which is handed out each year,” the KiF committee writes in its nomination to this year’s Award for Gender Equality.

Translated by Vigdis Isachsen

NTNU’s Action Plan for the Recruitment of Women 2007-2010

The Action Plan for the Recruitment of Women 2007-2010 has been prepared by NTNU’s Committee for Gender Equality and is based on NTNU’s strategy “NTNU 2020 - excellence internationally”.

The plan represents necessary means by which to achieve progress in the efforts towards equality and an extension of the means which previously have yielded good results. The goal is 50 % women among newly appointed persons in research positions requiring a Ph. D., by 2010. During the last years, the percentage of women among researchers has increased in all scientific categories.

These are some of the measures already implemented by NTNU:

  • Mentor projects and networking
  • Start-up packages” for female researchers in male dominated fields
  • Qualification grants for female associate professors
  • Recruitment of girls to subjects in technology and science

These ambitious goals have been followed up by considerable government funds towards gender equality measures. In 2004, NOK 3.3 million were granted for gender equality efforts. In 2007, NTNU had an earmarked budget for gender equality work of NOK 4.3 million.

As NTNU’s main profile is in the field of technology and science, it faces a great challenge, and in 2008, NTNU has strengthened the financial effort by an equality budget of NOK 5 million. In addition there is the award from the Ministry of Education and Research.

A department with visions

The Department of Marine Biotechnology in Tromsø has, through formal departmental resolves, created strategies which have led to a significantly improved gender profile.

The point of departure for the more than 30 year old department was its first female employee, who started in 1999 in a part time position. In later years, the percentage of female employees has increased, partly as a result of a controlled process and conscious actions taken by the department, such as transformation of positions and the use of measures under the university policy (including earmarked permanent positions, female professorships established by the government, which was financed in the fiscal budget for 2001, earmarked post-doctorate funds for gender equality, and participation in mentor programmes and the ‘calling’ of positions).

By means of clear priorities, measures, conscious actions and university policy, the department has, through joint efforts and in quite a short time, made sure that women have entered the community. Today, there are almost 50 % women both in management positions and in research positions.

The jury

The Committee for Mainstreaming - Women in Science (the KiF Committee) appointed a task group to review the applications. This group consisted of its chairman Gerd Bjørhovde, pro-rector at UiT, Karen Lise Scheie Knudsen, director of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Agder and Eva Skærbæk, associate professor at the University College of Østfold.

Senior advisers Linda Rustad and Birgitte Levy of the Norwegian Association of Norwegian Higher Education Institutions have had the executive responsibility for the announcement, preparation and nomination.