Gender Equality in the 2005 White Paper on Research in Norway

8.7 Gender Equality

Today, Norwegian research faces two main challenges in relation to gender equality. The first is that women are underrepresented in academic positions at all levels. The under-representation increases the higher ones goes in the academic hierarchy. The second challenge is the imbalance in gender representation within certain disciplines and sectors.

In 2003 the proportion of women among permanent academic staff in technology disciplines was only six per cent. In comparison 36 per cent of permanent staff in the humanities are women. For fellowships and the lower academic ranks the balance is somewhat more equal. In the private sector the imbalance among researchers is even greater than in other sectors.

Female researchers drop out from all levels of the career ladder to a greater degree than men do, both in Norway and in the rest of Europe. The European Commission calls this phenomenon “the leaky pipeline”. Success in the recruitment, retention and promotion of female researchers is important for achieving the EU’s target of becoming the most knowledge based and innovative region within 2010.

– New industrial PhD’s, based on collaborations between industry and academic institutions, are to be introduced in Norway. These should be introduced in connection with a national scheme for research schools. The EU Commission’s strategic approach to the question of gender equality has since 1996 been mainstreaming. This involves, in all disciplines, integrating a gender equality perspective into the planning, implementation and evaluation of projects and programmes. In order to strengthen gender equality in Norwegian research the government set up a committee for gender mainstreaming in research in January 2004. The committee’s task is to make recommendations that can contribute to the further integration of gender equality work in the sector. Such recommendations will be useful for the research institutions, for the Research Council of Norway and the Ministry of Education and Research.

The Gender Equality Act obliges all public authority agencies to integrate gender equality factors. The Ministry of Education and Research is the government representative responsible for the universities, university colleges and the Research Council of Norway, and will ensure that these institutions implement gender equality work. It is up to the institutions themselves to choose which strategies they will employ. These strategies may be gender neutral (for example, increasing the number of places in a company’s child daycare facilities and the establishment of research schools), or they may be specifically targeted at the underrepresented sex (for example: mentor schemes, recruitment grants and leader development courses specifically for the underrepresented gender).

It makes sense to leave the selection of the means to the institutions, as they are in the best position to assess the challenges they are facing in gender equality and which strategies are effective. Low levels of new recruitment to academic positions has a negative effect on gender equality. This is true particularly in disciplines where there has historically been few female candidates for such positions, but where the recruitment pool today is larger. Strategies for increasing the mobility in the research system generally can, in such circumstances, stimulate the achievement of a better gender balance.

One of the intentions of introducing postdoctoral positions is to increase the proportion of women in academic positions, and an increase in the total number of postdoctoral positions will probably have a positive effect on the gender balance in academia. The previous white power on research from 1998-99 selected the earmarking of research positions for women as one means of improving gender equality in research. This option disappeared after the EFTA court judgement in January 2003 decided that such earmarking is illegal. Nevertheless, institutions still have the option of increasing the proportion of women in professor II positions, which are often filled by nomination. The proportion of women occupying these positions is currently under 10 per cent, and one target is to improve this.

8.7.1 Measures

   1. The work of integrating gender equality considerations at all levels in research administration, processing applications and reporting shall be maintained.
   2. The research council and research institutions shall continue the work of advancing gender equality.
   3. The institutions shall work to increase the proportion of women in professor II posts.

Translated by Matthew Whiting, KILDEN


White Paper on Research

The 2005 White Paper on Research in Norway is published by the The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. The report is only available in Norwegian, but we have translated the chapter about gender equality into english.