I work with assessment of EU cluster applications in the area of ICT and Innovation. Usually these are very technology oriented, with a focus on technical developments. I read and assess applications with a special interest in gender equality a few times every semester. I must admit that it is quite a horrible experience, as the competence in this area is so low that it is upsetting.
Here are a three pieces of advise related to gender equality for all companies applying for funding in these EU cluster applications:
ICT is not gender neutral. ICT is indeed not a transparent, value free tool. Instead ICT is appropriated in the context of our society. The norm is that men are interested in ICT, know ICT and when ICT doesn’t work men are expected to work with the solutions. Women are often passive receivers of ICT, are expected to be non-intereted and their needs are often neglected when designing ICT. How till you address this complexity in your project?
Gender Equality is about the users of ICT. Gender Equality in you application can be about the use of the system. How will you market the system? Who are the users? How do you make sure that your system addresses the needs of all user groups? In what way do needs vary between user groups? (As the majoritet of ICT projects don’t really look at the users’ needs in a structured way, looking at gender differences might seem completely off your horizon but is necessary.)
How do you create an inclusive project? Gender equality in your project is about creating an inclusive project where everyone is welcome. Guiding stars are transparency in all aspects of the word, equal salaries, equal opportunities, equal support. It is also about meeting cultures, and creating a team where everyone is listened to. You also need to look at your recruitment process for your project. Is the advertisement directed towards men? How do you assess the applications? Everyone in your team will benefit from working with these aspects of gender equality, and most probably the ICT product will also be better, more creative and sell more if you succeed in having an inclusive project.
Of course there are lots of more things to work with related to gender equality, but if you work with the above you are up to a good start. And also if these three aspects are included in your application it will be one of the best I’ve seen so far. And of course that also increases your chances of being funded!
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.
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:
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):
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.
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:
A Better Understanding of the Gender Situation of Technical and Administrative (TA) Personnel
Gender Equality Aware Education that Creates a Better Learning Environment for All
Better PhD Student Education for All
Supporting Women in Post Doc-, Associate Senior Lecturers- or Senior Lecturers positions.
Enhance Capacity of the Gender Equality Group to Work as Change Agents
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!
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
Now our journal paper on development of inclusive supervision skills through collegial learning is published. It will appear in a special issue on PhD supervision in the journal “Utbildning och Lärande / Education and Learning”, ISSN 2001-4554. Some of the ideas in the paper are:
PhD supervision plays an important role when promoting gender equality in academia.
It is important to create a good work environment for PhD students.
Collegial learning can be one way of improving your supervision skills.
More opportunities for progression of supervision skills are needed
The paper also gives some ideas on how to arrange learning opportunities for PhD supervisors.
I am the gender equality officer at the department of IT at Uppsala University where I work. This is a challenging and exciting job, and I learn new things in the area every day. This week I attended the FESTA conference on gender in academia. FESTA is a large (enormous?) project related to gender in academia and you find many good resources on their web page.
From this conference I learned many things, but the most prominent where:
Women need to be better at networking and visibility. This resulted in me starting this blog 🙂
ERC grant writing seems to be a great learning experience, and I will start doing an application after the summer. 😮
Monitoring of change when working with gender equality seems to be very related to my gender equality group’s work – but difficult to launch in practice? Can I make use of this?
In October 2015 I did a key note on being a woman in a male dominated field. I talked about the imposture syndrome (ie. the feeling of being fake) and harassment techniques.
How do you succeed in the area of computer science? My research has shown that having grit is more important than IQ or any other personality trait, and that grit together with the student’s overall view of success matters the most. If you work hard, and do not give up when it is really tough, then you are likely to have a good career in any subject, including computer science. However, if you are a woman in computer science success also correlates to you handling the male dominated field, and being the token figure. This can be seen as another kind of grit. The norm of the field is connected to the computer science nerd who has no interests but technology, and that this personality trait is required to be a part of the community. In this keynote I will tell some of my stories about how it is to be a woman in the field, and give some insights into the kind of grit that it requires to be a successful token figure.
Next week I am attending the NU 2016 conference in Malmö.
I am organising a workshop together with colleagues on inclusive supervision, and we will present and discuss a toolkit for Inclusive PhD supervision developed by the FESTA project. The workshop will include a role play as well as a discussion about the implementation of the toolkit in organisations.
I will also present a poster on a pedagogic development project related to the development of a framework for professional competencies.
Below is a picture of the printed tools from the toolkit