Women working with technology in rural Norway: Experiences of rurality as a double-edged sword

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Photo by sergio souza from Pexels

Author: Carol Azungi Dralega (NLA University College)

It was a tall order, an academic exercise aimed at exploring a phantom. Tickling our curiosity were concerns whether indeed women, highly educated, pursuing tech-driven careers in academia, research, innovation and media industries were to be found in the rural and peripheral spaces of Sogn og Fjordane in Norway. What were the driving factors in their career trajectories; what opportunities were available to them and what bottlenecks stood in their paths?

Continue reading “Women working with technology in rural Norway: Experiences of rurality as a double-edged sword”

Seminar on Gender Equality in Research and Innovation, 18 Sept 2019

The Nordic countries are often regarded as already gender equal. However, in comparison to gender equality in European research and innovation, we are falling behind. A lack of equality means a loss of resources and diversity in research and innovation. Accordingly, new ways of promoting gender equality are needed in Finland, as well as collaboration between local, national and multi-national actors.

In collaboration with the Council for Gender Equality (TANE), NORDWIT is arranging a seminar on 18 September 2019 in Helsinki on this topic.
Join us in discussing how we can collaborate to promote gender equality in research and innovation!

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We will hear from both researchers and research and innovation policymakers at the seminar. There will be addresses from national financiers of innovation from both Finland and Sweden, as well as a European perspective and a panel discussing the subject on a regional level.

For more information about the seminar, its programme and registration, please visit the website: https://events.tuni.fi/gender-equality-seminar-18092019-eng/

 

 

Perspectives, reflections, and insights about women and digital work by women in digital work

By Bridgette Wessels

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Glasgow Social and Digital Change Group – Women in Digital Work seminar

Current trends such as robotics and autonomous systems and AI deepen the pervasive and ubiquitous presence of the digital in social and work relations.  Although these changes are uneven and are developing in different ways they raise new questions about work as well as asking us to return to older questions and issues.  Gender and technology is one area in which digitalisation relates to how women work, where they work, what they do and how their work is valued.  Questions about how women experience, adapt to, have the power to shape work remain important in the negotiation of new types of work as well as some of the more established types of work. During periods of social and technological shifts, there is often a struggle between continuity and change, adaptation and resistance, hope and despair.  A roundtable event held by the Glasgow Social and Digital Change Group at the University of Glasgow on the 22nd of May 2019 sought to explore the experiences, struggles and negotiations of women currently undertaking digital work and to reflect on these to offer perspectives and insights into women in digital work.  The event was very well attended with not a spare seat in the room. Continue reading “Perspectives, reflections, and insights about women and digital work by women in digital work”

Nordwit represented at PhD summer school on computer gaming

hammer-tusk-79755-unsplashÅsa Cajander will be one of the teachers at a PhD summer school on Virtual Characters & Computer Game Technologies organised by Animatas. Animatas is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions project that aims to give researchers the necessary skills and international experience for a successful career. Animatas stands for Advancing intuitive human-machine interaction with human-like social capabilities for education in schools. Åsa Cajander’s topic for the summer school is on gender equality in academia and the work environment. She will talk about her experiences as a woman in computing, and also some research findings from careers in technology driven areas from the NordWit Centre of Excellence.
You can read more about the summer school here:

Needed: Gender equality experts in academic recruitment committees!

fancycrave-254181-unsplashIn March, I got an opportunity to meet the Young Academies from Baltic and Nordic countries. I was invited to their workshop to introduce our Nordwit NCoE and to talk about gender equality in academia. In my presentation, I presented some of our very tentative observations from the interviews we have made in Finland with women from the fields of bio- and health technology. The interviews are made to understand how women have experienced their working and career possibilities in academia; and why they have decided to either leave the academia or stay in there.

The reasons to leave are quite familiar to all of us working in the current academic reality in the Nordic countries: precariousness, too little time for research, requirement of international researcher mobility. What was surprising to me coming from social sciences, was the impossibility to stay in academia as an independent senior researcher in the fields of STEM and medicine. This means that during or after postdoctoral period, everyone who wants to stay in the academia must establish their own research group and usually collect funding both for themselves and for their group members. It is self-evident that not everyone is lucky or capable of securing this kind of funding.

Among our interviewees are women who have applied and received lots of funding, and who currently employ up to 15 people in their research groups. Still, not all of them have succeeded in the academic recruitments. One aspect of these recruitments is gender, as one of our interviewee who has followed the recruitments from her own permanent position argues:

I think there are these kinds of old boy’s networks. (…) I know very competent women who have left because they feel that they are not chosen to do the responsible jobs that they would like to do, and then some male colleague is chosen who doesn’t have any particular merits why they should choose him.

After my talk, I got really important questions and comments from the audience. One of them was precisely about the recruitments from someone who had been involved in appointment committees. He said that those are really the places to look into. This has been to some extent done by Marieke van den Brink and Yvonne Benschop (2011) in the Netherlands. Their plan was to participate as observers in the selection interviews for full professors but this was denied due to privacy issues. Instead, they analyzed the appointment reports and the interviews they made with members of appointment committee members. Van den Brink and Benschop noticed how “younger candidates with equivalent qualifications” were preferred over older; and these older candidates were more often women since they had more career interruptions than men. Though committees were looking for the most excellent researchers, often the likeability of candidates gave them extra “excellence points”. Men professors gave these points to young male candidates who reminded of themselves. In addition, women could be disqualified because they were “too nice” to make it in the academic game of survival, whereas for men being nice was a merit.

In order to tackle gendered inequalities in academia, the recruitment processes must be transparent, and they need to include experts of gender equality. We can start this first in the fields with persistent gender imbalance in the number of full professors, but all fields should follow. It is unacceptable to have professors in appointment committees, who claim that men are appointed because “Men have been working with men for ages. That is natural. It is easy.” (van den Brink & Benschop 2011, 515).

Tiina Suopajärvi

Reference

Van den Brink, Marieke and Benschop, Yvonne 2011: Gender practices in the construction of academic excellence: Sheep with five legs. Organization 19(4): 507–524.

 

”Strangers” in academia

strangerWhile reading our interviews with Finnish women working in bio technology, I happened to glance through a recent article entitled The ”stranger” among Swedish ”homo academicus” by Alireza Behtoui and Hege Høyer Leivestad (2019). Their results on academics of migrant background remind of the complexity of the subtle acts of marginalization in higher education.

Based on Swedish registry data, their study shows that academics coming from Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa are over-represented within medicine, technology, IT, and the natural sciences and underrepresented within pedagogy and the human and social sciences. This is more or less opposite to the gendered segregation in academia: women are overrepresented in the humanities and social sciences and underrepresented especially in technological fields.

Behtoui and Leivestad have also gathered semi-structured interviews with migrant-origin academics. According to this data, technical fields are preferred not only because they offer better labour market opportunities and higher salaries but they are also experienced as easy subjects because in them, Swedish language skills are less important than in the humanities and social sciences. Unlike mathematics-based technological fields, the humanities and social sciences require delicate lingual competence. ”We felt inferior all the time, because in humanistic departments, Swedish language is the language of the seminars”, relates a female professor.

Notwithstanding the differences, there are much common problems in career building among migrant and female ”strangers” in academia. Behtoui and Leivestad report of a lack of resourceful and powerful supervisors and networks, and hidden recruitment mechanisms such as closed procedures, tailored job profiles and the selection of ”right” reviewers. In addition, the migrant-origin academics felt that they are pushed into topics on the periphery, such as migration, minorities, diversity and immigration. They become ”race or ethnicity specialists” but the status of these sub-fields within the discipline is low, manifest, for instance, in difficulties in getting research funding.

Reference:

Behtoui, A. & Leivestad, H.H. (2019) The ”stranger” among Swedish ”homo academicus”. Higher Education 77, 213-228

Oili-Helena Ylijoki

Acknowledging Labour

adult-book-brickwalls-7363It is that time of year, at least here in Sweden, when annual reports to funders etc are due – that ‘tissue of lies and fabrications’, as a fellow professor cynically called it on account of the ways in which the forms one has to fill in force one into particular ways of describing what one has done. These forms at times bear little relation to reality, and would benefit from a ‘better fit’ to that reality. I prefer to be less cynical, and to think of it as a way of acknowledging all the labour that has gone into this year. Annual reports provide one with the opportunity to reflect on all the research colleagues and I have done during this period. Researching women in tech-driven careers, as we have done in Nordwit this past year, has provided rich data for analysis from the many interviews we conducted, the working conditions we have observed, and the connections we are making across diverse employment domains. Here shifting work contexts are very clear, as is the fact that this offers opportunities to women to move into areas they do not conventionally inhabit, particularly, in our Centre work, in the rural areas of the Nordic countries where both the need for future-oriented employment and for living different kinds of lives from urban contexts are prominent. Women thrive here – and the odds are not stacked against them in the same way as they sometimes are in densely populated areas within more traditional work environments. As tech-driven becomes the new normal, gender will matter differently from how it has done in the past – that is for sure!

Gabriele Griffin