Category Archives: gender equality

Success, Having a Fighting Spirit and the Mindset of YET – and one of our research studies

There are researchers such as Angela Duckworth who argue that success is more about effort and a fighting spirit than it is about talent, genius or any other predictor such as health or looks. Her research shows that this particular fighting spirit called “grit” is more important to success than talent. She has done a very interesting Ted talk on the topic that can be found on her home page, here. Recommended! There was also a recent radio program in Swedish on the topic, and Angela Duckworth is interviewed on the show. You find the Swedish show here

One way of helping students, or yourself, attain more grit is to aim for the “Growth mindset” developed by Carol Dweck and others. A key word in this way of thinking is the word YET, and that even though you don’t know everything you have the possibility to learn. Carol Dweck has also done a very insipiring Ted Talk about this found here.

In short the Growth Mindset as presented by Carol Dweck includes the following key elements or ways of thinking:

  • We can all get smarter. Abilities can develop.
  • We know what efforts make us better, and we are aware of what we can do to practice.
  • We put in extra time and effort when we want to achieve things since we know this will pay off.
  • We focus on the learning process, and not the end results. Focus on the “I’m not there YET, but I will reach there”.

The opposite of having the growth mindset is a fixed mindset where you believe that basic qualities or skills such as intelligence or talent, are fixed traits. With this mindset you also believe that talend alone will create success and for those who are gifted success comes without any effort at all.  They’re wrong, and this mind set does not help you much. 

Note! In the context of the fixed mindset it should be noted that there is a gender issue with the fixed mind set. Studies by Ann-Sofie Nyström have investigated why boys have a tendency to believe that “Smart students get perfect scores without studying much” and there is a norm that the best boy should be an effortless achiever.

Our Study on Conscientiousness, Grit and Programming Achievement

In a study that was published at the 2015 ITiCSE conference we tried to find correlations between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement. The study was driven by Roger McDermott, and Mats Daniels and I collaborted with Roger McDermott on  writing it up.  Our study did find weak but significant correlations between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement and from the study one can draw the tentative conclusion that having a fighting spirit and not give up is a key success factor in computer science and that we need to provide learning opportunities for our students to practice.

Abstract: 

We investigate the link between concepts of perseverance such as conscientiousness, tenacity, and grit, and the academic attainment of first year computing students. We give a review of the role that perseverance plays in learning models as well as describing the role of conscientiousness in the Five Factor Model of personality. We outline research that links this trait with academic success before focussing on recent, narrower conceptualisations of perseverance such as academic tenacity and grit. We describe one of the questionnaire tools that have been used to assess one such aspect of perseverance. We give details of an investigation that looked for correlations between student responses to Duckworth’s Grit Survey, the Big Five Inventory (BFI) Personality Survey and summative attainment scores in a first year programming course. The results suggest a weak but significant correlation between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement. We discuss these results as well as the limitations of the method used. Finally, we make some observations about the importance of these concepts in Computer Science education and outline further work in this area.

 

Some Findings Related to Gender Equality at my Department, a Presentation from FESTA and Nina Almgren

Last week Nina Almgren from the FESTA project did a presentation in the Gender Equality Group at the department. She did an interview study in 2013 at the department, and now she did a presentation focusing on interviews with more senior women at the deparment.

Excellence

One of the areas that she mentioned when talking about the notion of “Excellence” in academia was a dualism in how we talk about what we work with at the deparment:

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This of course affects how we value work and people, and who is seen as excellent and not. There are of course both women and men in both these groups.

Excellence in research is really an interesting area from a gender perspective. We seldom say that women are excellent researchers, or world-leading researchers. Insted we use words such as hard working. Nina Almgren encouraged us all to think about this when we talk about other women in research.

There were some women who were critical towards the culture at the department, and they felt like they do not fit in (I recognize that to some extent…). Or as Nina Almgren puts it in her presentation:

There were women, but no men, who simply said that they just did not fit in the image of an elite mathematician or a computer nerd and, thus, had no possibility of becoming one. This is no wonder, as these stereotypes undermine women’s feelings of belonging in the information technology community—feelings that are critical for women’s decision to stay in academia and make a scientific career.

Informal Decisions and Decision Making

Nina Almgren continued with presenting some results related to informal decision making, and decisions and problems related to this area. Here are some quotes from the interviews:

Not to be asked to write large research proposals even though my project is included.

It might be to appoint any person as director of something, a competence center or whatever it may be, and then someone are just asked, and you could feel that could they not just have checked with me if I wanted to, though I realize that I have become asked in the same way without others being asked.

Information on how to obtain funding for PhD students/postdocs. Many years I thought that they will ask if they think that I should get some. Others asked if they could get a PhD, but I did not realize you could. I have missed things because I have not understood how it works

There were many people at the department who did not know how it works about different things that are really at the core of the organisation. I know that we have worked very much with this part at the deparment, and in a few weeks I am invited to discuss this work at a seminar.

On a side note I talked about gender equality and transparency in decisions with one full professor of Computer Science the other week. He did not think that informal decisions and transparency was something we should work with at the department. It was not worth the effort since it is simply common sense….

Nina Almgren also mentioned what can be done about the gender equality in academia. She recommended the following readings (in the Scandinavian languages):

  • http://physics.aps.org/articles/v9/87
  • http://kjonnsforskning.no/nb/2017/01/framsnakk-som-likestillingstiltak

To Ask or Not to Ask? A Critical Incident and Gender Equality

This week we had an interesting situation at the department when the new programme board for the computer science programmes were to be decided upon.I am a member of the department board, but did not attend this meeting due to the kick-off with the NordWit centre. However, what happened is really a critical incident worth reflecting some more on.

I work at the Department of Information Technology at Uppsala University, and we have around 26% women if you look at all employees, but there are much less women that are associate professors or full professors. If you are curious you find some figures regarding men and women in our gender equality plan, and our work with gender equality is presented by Virginia Grande in this blog post.

This is what happened in this critical incident:

The suggested programme board for the computer programme board was all male, and the board did not accept it due to gender equality. The department board hence postponed the decision related to who would be a member of this programme board.

This was followed by a discussion per mail, and a request for 1) a description of why only men were suggested, and 2) also a description of what measures had been taken to find women for the positions.

Here are some perspectives that has come up when discussing this critical incident.

My name was mentioned as one possible member of the computer science programme board. But since I have much to do, and a full calendar, they did not ask me out of kindness and consideration. Note: I do have lots of things to do, and I would probably have said no if I was asked about this job. And saying no would have taken some energy from me, as I try to be helpful (which is perhaps only fulfilling the norm). However, one should note that I have not been asked to be a part of many committees, or groups, but that could be because of many reasons.

This also is a part of a larger discussion when women are not asked out of consideration of their work situation in male dominated organisations. There is a risk, some maintain, that competent women will be drowned in unpaid work in different groups and committees, and that this will stop them in their career.

So what would be the right thing to do here? To ask women even though they have much to do (out of consideration)? That is to ask, and let them say no? Saying no on the other hand is not that easy, and it is really difficult and energy consuming to say no. Or is it better not to ask them about these kinds of positions when you know that they have many other things on the agenda?

What do you think would be a good strategy regarding this?

I would suggest that making the process a bit more transparent would help some, and to have some criteria of what kind of background you want a member of the programme board or committee to have. And perhaps asking is better than not asking, even though that would mean that one would say no to offers.

However, gender equality work is tricky and it is not always obvious what would be the right thing to do.

 

 

Planning meeting at the NordForsk Centre of Excellence, NordWit

We have just spent two days planning the NordForsk Centre for Excellence. It was indeed a dynamic group of people discussing and very quickly deciding about contract details. Unlike most events I go to his one was women only. A refreshing difference 🙂

The name of the centre will be NordWit, and it will run for five years starting in March. Gabrielle Griffin is the Pi of the centre, and she will lead the work.  The focus of the centre is careers of women om research and knowledge intense areas, and the work is organised in four pillars. The centre will partly work with action research.

I will coordinate work in the eHealth pillar, and I will start my work with doing an interview study with the people who implemented Medical Records online in Sweden.

There will be a kick off event this fall, and more information will come around this. I will let you know for sure 🙂 .

Experiences from an Expert Workshop in the Area of Medical Records Online for Patients

Last week I organised an expert workshop in the area of medical records online for patients. The workshop was organised in conjunction with the EHiN and International Conference of Telemedicine. Around thirty people attended the workshop, mostly from the different regions in Norway. The workshop information was distributed by us and by INERA who coordinate the introduction of medical records online in Sweden.

The photo for the blog post is from Jonas Moll’s Twitter stream and is a photo of the very cool and well organised conference.

Jonas Moll and me from Uppsala University organised the workshop with Norwegian colleagues: Tove Sørensen and Monika A Johansen from the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research, and also with the excellent Isabella Scandurra, who is a Health Informatics Researcher from Örebro University

The workshop started with a description of the service “Patients’ digital access to their health record”: How much information, which type of journal documents, to how many people, for how long time? with a comparison between the different implementations that exist in Sweden and in Norway. One difference is for example that the primary care notes are not shared online in Norway, and another difference is that Norway do share psychiatry medical records online which we don’t do in Sweden.
We continued with a role play to start up the discussion about who should have access. Jonas Moll did the role play together with Isabella Scandurra and me, and the aim was to present the problematic situation that exists for patients since the information that is shown varies very much between counties. Jonas presented his view as a patient and asked about what could be seen online. I pretended to be Uppsala County Council and tried to make Jonas move to our county. During the role play my best argument to him as a patient was the possibility to see the test results online in our county, and to have graphs made that represent the fluctuation of the test results over time.
We then discussed what type of journal documents should be provided. There has been long discussions in Sweden regarding the children’s medical records, and in Norway they have also had discussions about the appropriateness of showing the medical records online for people with cognitive disabilities.

Most probably we will arrange a similar workshop at Vitalis together with INERA to facilitate the discussion around what should be shown and to whom. See you there!

Experiences from Being Made Invisible as a Master Suppression Technique

Some people say that they have never experienced the master suppression techniques. Unfortunately I have 🙁 , and this blog post will be my experiences of “Making invisible”.

I really get so frustrated when “Making invisible” happens, and I have not yet found a way to deal with the situation except for my non-constructive “passive” way of reacting. That is: I am boiling with anger inside, but I don’t tell the person who just completely ignored me, or left me out when mentioning the group or context, and I just stay passive with the feeling of being an impostor. Yesterday this happened again, and in such an alarmingly visible way that I was angry several hours. Hmm. Or the whole evening…

One definition of Making invisible from this web page on master suppression techniques is:

1. Making invisible means to marginalise or exclude a person. For instance, ignoring a person’s point of view and then agreeing when someone else says the same thing. Or that when a person speaks, others start to whisper to their neighbours, browse through papers, go to the toilet, or turn their attention to their mobile phones. Body language can indicate that the person speaking is considered “insignificant”. Not only an individual’s, but an entire group’s interests or experiences can be effectively rendered “invisible”.

My husband Mats Daniels is a successful and very well recognized researcher in computer science education. He is indeed a fantastic person, and we have a very good collaboration. We have worked together for fifteen years, and we have numerous grants, publications and activities in our CV:s that are in common and that we have worked with together.  Sometimes he has been the driver of things, and sometimes it is me. Some of the ideas come from him, and other ideas come from me. Together we are very creative and have lots of fun ideas and many publications and projects.

However, somehow people tend to think that our success stories are mostly the doing of my husband and not me. Some people simply do not see my contribution when I collaborate with my husband, and they see me as dependent on him. However, they have no problems in seeing his contribution! They seem to think that he does all the work, and that I am just tagging along?

One such example is when we were called on stage on a conference with the words:

“We welcome Mats Daniels and his beautiful wife”

So what happened to my identity here? Who I am? I was the beautiful wife, and not a researcher  or professional. We have at least twenty publications together, and they know that work together. My husband tried to laugh about the whole situation, saying that no one would call him “beautiful” – but he also sees the problems.

Yesterday it happened again that someone mentioned our work and left my name out completely. As if my contribution was worth nothing, and my husband is the important person. Which, by the way, I have also experienced in another situation when we were in Madrid. We were sitting around a table talking, and a person stands up and says to the person sitting next to me:

Perhaps we should change seats so that you get to sit next to the important people?

What happened next was that the person sitting next to me stood up and changed seats, so that he would sit closer to the other “more important” people in the group.

I wish I could say that I reacted in some way when this happened, or that someone else reacted. But no, no one said anything and we continued talking about other things. Some people looked a bit surprised, but silently accepted that we would rearrange the group.

Have you been in the same situation? Do you have any tips on how to handle this situation?

 

 

Our Working With Gender Equality at the Department of Information Technology at Uppsala University

We work with gender equality in a very structured way at our department. The gender equality group consists of very enthusiastic and hard-working people.

My colleague Virginia Grande has written a blog post about our work, and we agreed to put it on my blog too to spread the word to those who are interested in working with gender equality. The post was originally posted here.

 

Working for gender equality in IT at a departamental level: the case of Uppsala University

Sweden is often regarded as one of the paradises of gender equality. If you live in this country, it is not usual to find yourself explaining to those who are just visiting – or simply curious – one thing: that yes, Sweden does stand out for its successful efforts towards gender equality but… it is still a work in progress. It is not yet the time when gender issues have been solved and left behind. Far from dwelling on its success, Sweden continues to look at what else can be done. Notice that I do not say “Swedes”. I rather refer to those of us working in Sweden, regardless of the nationality.

So I was not surprised when I learned that our Department of IT at Uppsala University has a Gender Equality Group (GEqG), which counts with the support of the Head of Department. It becomes harder to stay nonchalant when one learns that the group counts with a significant budget. This includes the funding of 10% of the time of a senior researcher who acts as Gender Equality Officer. Since Åsa Cajander took this role and started leading the group, the success of the GEqG has skyrocketed. This has been a team effort, with excellent contributions from many! Here I describe my experience as a member of this group and what I believe has been key to the positive impact of the GEqG.

The GEqG is led by the Gender Equality Officer and includes representatives of different sectors of the department. There is one representative for each of the research divisions, the Technical and Administrative (TA) Personnel, the PhD students at the department (which has been my role from this September), and the student body. The Head of Department appoints the Secretary. Throughout the academic year, the GEqG meets once a month with a theme for each meeting. We also have informal meetings in the coffee room, sometimes also with a theme, e.g., the trigger warnings phenomenon.

The group meetings are open to everyone interested, so we often count with students and employees from both our and other departments. They come to discuss their projects and ideas. Some of these are the result of the GEqG’s calls for funding in different areas: visiting female researcher, gender and transgender related education, organizing events related to gender equality, and development projects related to gender equality. Everyone at the department, staff and students alike, are encouraged to apply.

We also count with researchers such as Nina Almgren, Minna Salminen-Karlsson and Ulrike Schnaas who have collaborated with us to broaden our knowledge on gender equality. This has been possible thanks to the support of the FESTA project, that ran between the years 2013-2016. We have had seminars on topics such as research excellence and gender, inclusive supervision, and resistance to change when working on gender equality.

The planning and execution of all this work heavily relies on an initiative introduced when Åsa Cajander took over the leadership of the group: the organization of a retreat in the fall (one in 2015 and one in 2016) at Krusenberg Herrgård, Uppsala.

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Outside our meeting rooms at Krusenberg

This retreat, as I see it, has two main goals. It is for the GEqG to:

  • plan our strategy for 2016 or 2017 (explicit goal)
  • strengthen the existing team and facilitate the integration of new members (implicit goal)

It is clear for our group that the latter is essential for the former. So this is what our Gender Equality Officer has in mind when designing the agenda for these meetings.

The retreat starts with a lunch where we can informally meet other members. After that, we use affinity diagrams to discuss what could be improved about the work in the year ending, and what we should keep and work towards to for the coming year. The use of this technique made it possible for everyone to voice (or rather, initially “write”) their opinions. All participants read and discuss where they think the efforts of the group should focus, and how to make use of the previous year’s experience. I am a firm believer that here relies the strength of this group: everyone has plenty of opportunities to express their opinions and concerns, and work in whichever areas suit their interests and motivation best (more of that below!).

After using affinity diagrams to analyze the current ending year, we look at actions for the next one. Both of these processes involve looking at our Gender Equality Plan (for 2016 or, in this case, 2017). Our 2016 and 2017 plans have the following focus areas:

  1. A Better Understanding of the Gender Situation of Technical and Administrative (TA) Personnel
  2. Gender Equality Aware Education that Creates a Better Learning Environment for All
  3. Better PhD Student Education for All
  4. Supporting Women in Post Doc-, Associate Senior Lecturers- or Senior Lecturers positions.
  5. Enhance Capacity of the Gender Equality Group to Work as Change Agents

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Each member of the GEqG volunteers for one of the tasks included in these areas. In my case, this year I will be involved in activities regarding 3). We have sessions planned on harassment and gender issues awareness, mental health, etc. These sessions will be part of events that already gather a significant number of PhD students, such as the annual ski trip organized by the department. I believe it is also important to notice how these 5 areas comprise the different kinds of employees and students that we have at the department. It was thanks to having such diversity within the GEqG that the need to address concerns from all these different groups was pointed out.

As for 5), a great example was the presentation that Nina Almgren gave at our latest retreat. She discussed their work at the FESTA project dealing with resistance, both active and passive. We had the chance to analyze different scenarios were resistance was being offered by different stakeholders, and we discussed how we could proceed if we found ourselves in this kind of situation. If you have worked with gender equality, you know this is bound to happen! She also explained how the new Swedish law related to discrimination would affect our work.

I firmly believe that the model that the GEqG represents is a successful one that should be implemented in more departments of IT in universities. You can read more about the group here. If you would like to further discuss my experience to consider how this could be done in your institution, you are very welcome to contact me!

I am a Part of the New Nordic Centres to Solve the Nordic Gender Paradox

I am a part of the team lead by Professor Gabriele Griffin, Uppsala University who got funding for working in a Nordic Centre of Excellence to solve the nordic gender paradox.  I will work at this centre of excellence around 20% of my time for five years.

This will be such a great learning experience for me to work with eHealth, which is one of my research areas, and collaborate closely with gender researchers. I think that this collaboration will also give synergies to my research area as a whole, and to my work with gender equality. I am really happy to be a part of this effort! 🙂

You are right though, gender has not been a part of my quite broad research area so far. 😮 . However, I have been interested in gender ever since I was a student, and I wrote two of my master level essays in the area of gender and literature. I have also worked closely, and thrived from, collaboration with the excellent Nina Almgren and Minna Salminen Karlsson in the FESTA project a couple of years.  And I have one publication on inclusive supervision with Ulrike Schnaas. And since a couple of years I work as the Gender Equality Officer at the department of Information Technology, and in this role I have read and followed research on gender in academia.

The centre will work with action research and explore women careers in technology-driven work environments. It has four main research pillars, one of which is eHeath in which I will work.

Surely, there will be more to come about this new exciting Centre of Excellence!

Reflections from Listening to a Seminar on Gender in Academia

Even though there is a larger number of women studying at the university, and PhD students, there is only about 25% female full professors in Sweden. This is problematic from many perspectives.  One of the consequences is quality of academic work since there are lots of brilliant women who don’t contribute to research.

Today there is a strong focus on gender en academia in Sweden. The government has given the universities a task to integrate gender equality and perhaps things will happen now?

I work as the gender equality officer at the Department of Information Technology, so working with this is a part of my job (10%). As you might know, I work in the area of computer science where there are very few women today.
I am extremely proud of our work with gender equality. The gender equality group has an excellent plan for their work that might inspire others. We have gotten lots of help from the FESTA project in writing this one. Thanks Nina! Have a look at our plan and be inspired

I listened to this panel from Almedalen called “from decision to change” (in Swedish) and here are some of my reflections:

1) The paradox of meritocracy – we all believe that we evaluate men and women objectively and fair. We don’t according to many, many research studies. We need to be more aware of our gender bias, and see to it that we educate the recruitment groups in this area.

2) We need better and more transparent rubrics for assessment for academic positions. My experience is that the rubric for assessment of teaching skills is much more elaborated than the assessment of scientific skills. My experience is also that people tend to believe that it is the other way around!

3) The term innovation that is used by for example Vinnova is very gender coded and affects who applies for those money.

4) Women leave academia due to a crappy work environment, whereas men leave academia since they got a good job. This has to change, as with the help of initiatives such as the FESTA project. More of these kinds of projects need to be funded.

 

 

 

Paper in Special Issue on PhD Student Supervision

PhD supervision is a complex phenomenon that is addressed in a special issue on PhD supervision in Tidskriften Utbildning och lärande. I have read the special issue, and it is well worth the time. 🙂

Ulrike Schaas and I have collaborated around one of the papers in the journal. The title of the paper is “Peer reflection on inclusive supervision – a study circle as a space for collegial learning”

The paper presents a new form of learning opportunities for PhD supervisors where peer learning is a central concept. Ulrike Schaas has written about the pedagogic underpinnings of the study circle, and presents the facilitator’s perspective whereas I participated in the study circle and present the learner’s perspective.

For further details, read the paper!