Management and organization

(Illustrasjonsfoto: iStockphoto)

“Efforts to promote gender equality must be anchored in management,” is a common refrain at conferences and meetings of academics and gender equality practitioners. But what does it really mean?

It used to be that promoting gender equality in an administrative context consisted of isolated measures and training women to qualify for senior positions. Today, the focus has largely shifted from “fixing the women” to “fixing the system and organization”. The current thinking is that managers hold the key to prioritizing gender equality in their organization, and that lasting structural and cultural change can be achieved through deliberate managerial activities with gender in mind.

Below are many examples of gender equality and gender balance measures employed by organizations. The examples are sorted into categories:

We also include examples of more specific measures:

Leadership training and development

This topic has two somewhat distinct facets. One is ensuring that managers at multiple levels acquire more expertise in gender equality and gender balance. The other is ensuring that an institution’s gender balance efforts include leadership courses for women.

Some institutions focus on training existing leadership to incorporate gender equality and gender balance within their research institutions. Gender equality efforts should not be dependent on particular individuals, but instead should originate from department, faculty or top-level management. And this requires gender equality training.

Other institutions focus on the women themselves – through special leadership courses for women as part of the effort to advance them into administrative positions.

  • Leadership development programmes that cover gender equality, diversity and inclusion

The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), the University of Bergen (UiB) and the University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway (UiT) all include gender equality, diversity and inclusion as focal points in their leadership development programmes.

  • Gender equality training for managers

UiT provides training to managers and research group heads in methods of addressing gender equality in research and education.

  • Leadership courses for women

The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (NIH) offers leadership courses for permanently employed women and other underrepresented groups.

  • Integrating a gender equality and diversity dimension in university leadership development

In its action plan, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has a measure calling for a gender equality and diversity dimension to be integrated into other leadership development and training initiatives.

  • Urging women institute managers to apply to the educational programme for university deans

The University of Agder (UiA) plans to actively encourage women department heads to apply for admission to the educational programme for university deans.

  • Leadership courses for women post-docs and associate professors

Molde University College will develop and provide leadership courses for female post-doctoral research fellows and associate professors to expand the recruitment base for leadership positions.


The work of promoting gender balance in universities and university colleges is carried out partly through measures governing day-to-day gender equality and diversity efforts in the organization. Some of this work materializes in measures relating to annual plans, budgets and accounting.

Some universities and university colleges also choose to have a designated gender equality adviser or other responsible party, who is often situated in the HR department.

NTNU has made the GENDIM toolbox for equality and gender balance in higher education institutions. The website is developed by the research group Gender balance and diversity in higher education at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture.

  • Gender equality as a fixed topic in annual plans and manager reviews

NMBU is making gender equality, diversity and inclusion and career planning a regular part of annual plans and employee and manager reviews. Management groups at NMBU are required to hold annual discussions on gender equality, diversity and inclusion, which are to be general in nature. The same topics are to form a recurring element in administrative dialogues.

  • Faculties preparing their own gender equality action plans and numerical targets

The faculties at UiB may prepare their own gender equality action plans or refer to priorities and activities contained in annual plans and budgets. In addition, UiB is to set aside administrative resources for gender equality efforts and prepare a guide for localized efforts. UiB is also required to set annual and faculty-specific targets the proportion of women in permanent scientific positions. To strengthen coordination of gender equality efforts at UiB, accountability for actions and results is to be clearly delineated.

  • Formalizing gender equality efforts in planning documents and generating annual statistics

At NIH, gender equality efforts are to be formalized in strategic plans and budgets that identify the measures by discipline and department. The school is also to compile annual statistics, broken down by gender, on the amount of instruction provided and the distribution of research funding and support for academic travel. Any imbalances must be corrected.

  • Annual reporting by rector on current status and measures

At NTNU, the board is to receive an annual report by the rector describing the current state of affairs and measures employed to make the university more equitable and diverse. At NTNU, part of a manager’s duty is to facilitate gender equality and diversity in daily operations.

  • Female and male lecturers in all programmes, at every level

The Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) is ensuring that students encounter female and male lecturers in all programmes and at all levels, because women are important role models in research, teaching and dissemination.

  • Gender balance targets for each faculty

For each faculty, UiT is to prepare numerical targets appropriate to the gender balance challenges each unit faces. Gender equality efforts in various UiT units are to be a topic of discussion between top-level management and the heads of faculties and departments.

Gender equality committees

Many universities and university colleges have a gender equality and diversity committee to structure gender equality efforts, and make these efforts an integral part of the whole organization. The committee should have an action plan with formal institutional support.

It is important that management has formal ties with the gender equality committee – it could be chaired by the rector, for example – and that its members come from different parts of the organization. Gender equality advisers or others with gender equality responsibilities in the organization are also suitable members of the committee.

Some institutions have gender equality committees at faculty level, and some have faculty-specific action plans.

  • Gender equality and diversity committee advising management

NMBU plans to retain its committee on gender equality and diversity. The committee is to provide advice on equality and diversity issues to all levels of management. The university will prepare and present fact sheets on the principle of gender equality for committees and expert groups.

  • Gender equality coordinating group to design goals for gender equality work

The University of Oslo’s (UiO’s) coordinating group will take part in strategic discussions and formulate gender equality goals. Coordinating group members represent the leadership of all faculties and museums as well as the gender research community, the Student Parliament and the Department of Communication and External Relations. UiO’s gender equality adviser serves as secretary, and the rector as chair.

  • Gender equality and diversity committee drawing up gender equality action plan 

NTNU’s gender equality committee is to promote gender equality and diversity by producing a policy and action plan that enjoys organizational support and is binding and instructive for all of NTNU.

  • Testing of gender equality aspects in strategy documents

Molde University College’s gender equality committee is to be sent all planning and strategy documents for gender equality evaluation.

Expertise in gender equality and diversity

A number of institutions see the importance of gender equality and diversity awareness among managers at different levels. Gender equality and diversity expertise is much discussed in private enterprise, and a growing number of higher education institutions are also addressing it.

  • Demanding that managers have gender equality and diversity expertise

NMBU, NTNU and UiB all require gender equality and diversity expertise, and specifically call for it when announcing management positions.

See the news article at New demands on managers 

  • Courses on inclusion and diversity management

UiO’s measures include offering courses and seminars on diversity recruitment, inclusion, discrimination, intersectionality, diversity management and implicit bias.

  • Valuing managers’ gender balance knowledge

In hiring administrators and middle managers, Molde University College employs a measure which assigns weight to a candidate’s knowledge of the importance of gender balance in the research environment.

  • Information films on gender equality and leadership

UiA has made information films about gender equality and leadership as part of its project under the Programme on Gender Balance in Senior Positions and Research Management (BALANSE). UiA also provides diversity management education.

Research funding and resources

Institutions need resources to pursue gender balance and diversity. Many have set aside funds to introduce measures intended to achieve their gender balance and diversity goals.

Such funding is used to support career development and to strengthen the institutions’ long-term efforts. Managers can employ gender equality funds for surveying or researching challenges and opportunities in their specific institutions. Ensuring that faculties and academic communities with special challenges receive funding is of particular importance. In many cases, institutions dedicate operational, project and payroll funding for the employees propelling this work forward.

Achieving the goals set forth in action plans requires setting aside resources for the employees entrusted with making progress. Some universities and university colleges choose to hire a full-time or part-time advisor to work towards gender balance and diversity at the institution.

  • Gender equality funding for central and localized measures

UiT is to distribute central gender equality funding between general and localized measures at the institution.

  • Research funding to women

UiB plans to prioritize women when distributing strategic research resources. Among its measures to increase the proportion of women in academic positions is to distribute research funding to women department heads and deans. More generally, UiB’s action plan calls for increased gender equality funding.

Specific measures

Research institutions can also introduce more specific measures. We present some examples below.

Additional measures under Qualifying for professorships and Career paths  

Search committees

A search committee is an initiative to identify potential women applicants before announcing permanent scientific positions in disciplines where women are underrepresented. The intent of this measure is to seek out suitable women candidates and encourage them to apply.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) began with “search committees”, and eventually called them search and discover committees. According to its action plan, NTNU will use such committees to identify women applicants prior to announcing permanent scientific positions.

UiO uses search committees actively to ensure gender balance and diversity in its applicant pool as well as to attract candidates of top quality and improve gender balance in senior scientific positions and diversity in academia.

AHO’s standing search groups are a measure to increase the proportion of women in senior scientific positions.

USN employs a search committee to find qualified candidates.

The Arctic University of Norway (UiT) uses a search committee as a tool to increase the proportion of women in senior scientific positions and leadership positions. As part of a promotion project, the university will be looking for motivated women with the potential to be promoted to the rank of professor. (More on promotion below.)

UiA employs search committees in connection with appointments to scientific positions at institutes where fewer than 20 per cent of such positions are held by women.

When filling permanent scientific positions, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) recommends the use of search committees to achieve the goal of increasing the share of qualified female applicants to at least 30 per cent.

Quotas and nominated appointments

One way to use nominated appointments is as a tool for enhancing gender equality and gender balance . Norway’s Act relating to universities and university colleges states: “When special grounds so indicate, the board may make academic appointments without prior advertisement of the vacancy. Such appointments may not be made if more than one member of the board objects.”

Nominated appointments are most often employed when hiring external candidates for part-time (20 per cent) Professor II positions, rather than ordinary professorships.

Moderate gender quotas are another lawful measure. Accordingly, if multiple applicants have roughly equal qualifications, applicants from the underrepresented gender are to receive preference.

  • Moderate gender quotas

NMBU intends to employ moderate gender quotas for qualified women until at least 30 per cent of permanent scientific professorships are held by women. Under gender quotas, if there are multiple applicants for a vacant position whose qualifications are roughly equivalent, applicants from the underrepresented gender are to receive preference.

  • Nominated appointments and gender quotas

NTNU sees nominated appointments and moderate gender quotas as potential methods for achieving gender balance when recruiting for senior scientific and leadership positions.

  • Nominated appointments of women to professorships

As part of its focus on gender balance and gender equality in research, UiB has introduced an action plan measure allowing for the nominated appointment of women to professorships. This measure is especially applicable in male-dominated parts of the university.

  • Nominated appointments of women to Professor II positions

UiT’s appointment-related measure falls under the university’s action plan item on stimulating academic environments. As part of UiT’s commitment to providing good role models of both sexes for employees and students alike, the nominated appointment practice will apply to women seeking Professor II positions in parts of the university where women are underrepresented as well as to gender and equality perspectives in research.

UiO uses its appointment discretion to hire women for Professor II positions – because gender balance in scientific positions is the objective.

  • Nominated appointments for gender balance

The University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) employs nominated appointment as a gender balance measure when filling professor-level positions.

Career and family life

Research shows that women still bear the main responsibility for children and family life, and that this affects career opportunities. But many researchers, both women and men, have care responsibilities, and a number of universities and university colleges have action plans for gender equality and diversity that contain measures geared to the work-family balance.

  • Varied leave-of-absence schemes and individualization

The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences allows for individualized work duties that serve the school’s needs while accommodating an employee’s circumstances and life phase. This may entail flexible work hours, customized work tasks or varying types of leave of absence.

  • Temporarily reduced teaching responsibilities

NTNU facilitates a healthy balance of career and family life through such measures as temporarily reducing someone’s teaching responsibilities without hurting their promotion prospects.

  • Combining work and family

VID Specialized University employs a number of measures to ensure equal opportunities for all employees and applicants. One measure is having discussions about work tasks and work hours in order to help employees juggle job and family obligations in the best possible way.

  • Adjusting study and job commitments

The Norwegian Defence University College is willing to adjust student and employee commitments to better combine them with family life. One of the institution’s objectives is to recruit, keep and develop employees of any gender.

Salary and gender

There can be many reasons for pay differences between women and men. Differences in salary may be due to men and women being concentrated in different fields and positions, or to age and seniority. Studies of salary and gender in academia find that pay differences between men and women are greatest in senior-level administrative positions.

In 2020, UiT was found by the Norwegian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal to have applied differential treatment in the case of a woman and a man. The tribunal found that pay differences may be justified by differences in work tasks or in the value of work, but that those did not apply in this case. UiT accepted the decision.

There are many examples of salary measures implemented at universities and university colleges as a means of recruiting and keeping women in scientific positions.

  • Education and practical experience are to be weighed the same for both sexes

The University of Agder emphasizes that during salary negotiations, education and work experience are to be given the same relative weight, regardless of gender, and that both genders are to be subject to the same salary considerations.

  • Relaunch grants

For doctoral students and post-docs who have taken parental leave for more than six months continuously, NTNU awards relaunch grants as a financial measure to facilitate work-family balance.

  • Subsidizing half the pay of women hired for Professor II positions

The Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) uses gender equality funds to cover 50 per cent of women’s salaries during their initial years in Professor II positions. This measure applies to departments where the proportion of women in scientific positions is below 40 per cent. In addition, female post-docs and female associate professors receive an annual grant to be used for enhancing their qualifications.

  • Active equal-pay policy

To better coordinate its gender equality efforts, UiB actively incorporates an equal-pay policy, with a special focus on lower-salaried groups.

  • Salary statistics

The University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) seeks to rectify unjustified pay differences between the genders, and is to consult salary statistics when determining starting salaries for new employees.

Recruitment and hiring

Many universities and colleges employ recruitment measures for women in scientific positions as a way to help achieve gender balance in institutions’ senior management positions.

  • Announcing permanent positions as associate professorships

Both UiO and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) announce vacancies for scientific positions as associate professor positions. This constitutes a female recruitment measure, as it may be likely to increase the number of women applicants. UiO also seeks to address gender equality aspects of new recruitment by ensuring that all permanent positions are discussed at the local management level before being formally announced.

UiO is also one of several institutions that employ nominated appointments as one of their recruitment measures. (More on nominated appointments above.)

  • Recruiting more women to management and other senior-level positions

One of UiB’s goals is to increase recruitment of women to professional leadership roles and senior scientific positions, in part through the use of qualifying grants. For externally recruited women department heads and deans, UiB will also offer financial support for equipment and costs and provide permanent job offers at the conclusion of fixed-term appointments. It is all part of UiB’s effort to increase the proportion of women in academic leadership positions.

  • Urging members of the underrepresented gender to apply

At Molde University College, if one gender holds less than 40 per cent of positions of a particular job type, the underrepresented gender is to be encouraged to apply and will be given preference if multiple applicants possess essentially equivalent qualifications.

  • Recruitment of women to Professor II and leadership positions

UiA seeks to increase the number of Professor II positions and to use those positions primarily to recruit women. Women, whether internal or external candidates, are to be encouraged to apply for leadership positions. Before such positions are filled, the applicant list is to include both men and women.

  • Contacting academic communities to generate applicants

Recruitment policies at both USN and NIH call for consulting relevant academic communities or networks in order to seek out qualified applicants.

More reading

Norway’s Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, and other relevant acts; see Laws and regulations.

See the KIF Committee’s recommendations to promote gender balance.

More information on the activity and reporting duties of employers and public authorities is available at the website of the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (in Norwegian).

More to read: SEEMA Method for diversity management and the KUN Centre for Equality and Diversity.

Want to learn more, or provide input for this page?

Are you a student or staff member in higher education with an idea for measures or projects that belong on our list? Email us!