Organising a gender equality seminar as an intern for Nordwit

By Liekki Valaskivi 

shakeI originally approached Marja Vehviläinen, who at the time was one of my teachers, to ask her about the practicalities of the internship that is a part of my master’s degree. To my delight, she invited me to work with Nordwit as an intern and help the Tampere research team organise a seminar about gender equality in research and innovation, in collaboration with the Council for Gender Equality at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, to be held in September 2019. My duties as an intern have chiefly consisted of building the seminar website, as well as communicating about the seminar on social media and via email, trying to reach as many people as possible who might have an interest in or a need for attending the seminar.

The process has not been without its challenges. Putting together this seminar in collaboration with the Council for Gender Equality has required a lot of coordination between our two organisations, in order to produce decisions that suit all parties and ensure the best possible seminar. Because people are busy and have many duties besides the seminar, I haven’t been able to always work as efficiently as I would have liked; I’ve often found myself waiting around until a consensus is reached. It has become apparent to me that the Council for Gender Equality does not have enough resources for all the very important work they do. Regardless of any challenges, I believe we’ve nevertheless put together a wonderful seminar and look forward to seeing all our work come into fruition next Wednesday.

Perhaps the most interesting and educational part of my internship has been compiling the list of seminar invitees. I emailed over 400 people at the beginning of June to let them know about the seminar, and this required me to first look up contact information to a wide array of people from different sectors, from governmental organisations and universities to private businesses and regional policymakers. During this process I learned a lot about how many different organisations, networks and people are involved in funding research and innovation in this country, and how few of them have any kind of gender equality goals or policies in place. The more I have learned about the different ways research and innovation are funded, the more I have come to understand how integral it is to cultivate a discussion about the effects of these systems and policies on gender equality and women’s opportunities in these often male-dominated fields.

I have also had the privilege of being privy to some of the research that Nordwit is doing, particularly the interviews of women in academia here in Tampere. These have been fascinating and illuminating, and have offered interesting perspectives into something I have been mulling over for a while: there seems to be a great discrepancy between how science and knowledge production are viewed in STEM fields on one hand and in Human Sciences on the other. This has become increasingly apparent in the new Tampere University, which is a union of the former University of Tampere and Tampere University of Technology. I would like to discuss this more in a future blog post, should I have time before the end of my internship.

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