The Joy of Being an Entrepreneur

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Have spent the past couple of weeks interviewing female entrepreneurs who use the services of a co-working hub specifically designed for women. Such an interesting experience! These are all women with real drive – full of ideas, projects, visions. . . They love the hub – a life saver for some! Entrepreneurialism can be a lonely business, especially if the business is a company of one as many of those whom I talked with are.

It was also very revealing to see how different ideas about what kind of business one wants are related to life cycle and when in one’s professional life the business was started. Entrepreneurialism has tended to be associated with young people; the images of entrepreneurs are always of smart young men in suits, 30-somethings, working as chefs or in IT. These interviews have been a salutary reminder that it can be women in their 40s and 50s who start up businesses, often as an extension of work they previously did in an employed capacity. That relation between employment and self-employment remains somewhat under-explored – a project for the future!

Gabriele Griffin

Listening as important as making voice

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Some days ago, as I walked through the campus of Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL) in Sogndal, I saw two students trying to communicate verbal and non-verbal with each other while having headsets and listening to something else. Though it seemed as if they were happy whith their way of communication, the incident reminded me of controversies one observes crossing disciplines and working in interdisciplinary research projects.

I am from the Global South and immigrated to Norway as a teenager. This probably made me even more sensitive to the works done for living between and/or with two cultures, including the hard work of communication and translation. The Nordwit project has given me an opportunity to have new reflections on the ways in which Norway has been introduced to me through Norwegian media and public sector in the past years. I can see the dominant position the discourse of gender equality has had in introducing Norway to immigrants, and especially to non-western ones. An important feature in encounters with immigrants, and in international relations. “Norway is a pioneer for gender equality”, is written in the Norwegian Action Plan from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2016). Since the 1970s, Norway, through the same discourse, has contributed to making women’s issues relevant in development policies in the Global South and show the synergies between investing in women and earning benefits in terms of economic growth.

My encounter with policies on innovation and digitalization through the Nordwit project tells a different story of the discourse of gender equality in Norway. It seems that gender equality is taken for granted in a way that gender seems to often be considered irrelevant in the fields of innovation and digitalization. I see the need to contribute to translation between Norwegian legacy of gender equality and the fields of innovation and digitalization, which are national focus areas for value creation. Like the work of translation, there is a need to listen and understand both sides. So, as I walk through this journey in the Nordwit project, I hope I remember those two students communicating while listening to something else. Listening is as important as making voice of women’s life histories, barriers and driving forces in technology driven works.

Gilda Seddighi

Reference:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2016). Freedom, empowerment and opportunities: Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Foreign and Development Policy 2016-2020

 

Falling through the cracks?

The administrator came to her with such an expression of condolences that it seemed like somebody had just died. But no. She was just pregnant. She had asked about changing her work contract, since in a couple of months or so she was about to take maternity leave and there would be some working months left over for later. Could she perhaps get a work contract that would cover both her leave of absence and the left over working months? Looking at her with such sad eyes the administrator sighed indicating that this would be difficult. The implication was that this fixed-term researcher probably posed a risk to the organization: she might return from her parental leave earlier than expected and then the university – and not just the project – would have to pay her salary.  The change from an asset to a liability was so fast that it left her head spinning.

The majority of researchers in the Finnish universities are working on fixed-term contracts or scholarships. This puts them in vulnerable positions in many respects. Our tentative findings from career interviews with women in research indicate that the work–family combination still demands the skills equal to those of a trapeze artist. This seems to hold true even though universities have gender equality plans that usually make claims about supporting the efforts of the employees in reconciling family and work. How this support comes true in practice, is still somewhat vague. Often fixed-term employees may find that they are totally dependent upon the kindness and goodwill of their colleagues to let them join projects they are not actually going to be working in because of parental leave.

Research on researchers in fixed-term employment makes visible how the entrepreneurial university is based on internalized control of its employees. There is never a good time to be a mother in academic work and in order to be researchers [women] should be more like men. Attitudes towards employees’ families may be positive as such, but pratices of academic work do not take into account child care or other care obligations. They are a private matter. (Nikunen 2014, 128, 132)

All in all, work and family issues are but one manifestation of the challenges to promoting equality in universities. If researchers mainly try to adapt to the male worker ideal and accept it as it is, how can we find and realize practices that would be included in the gender equality work of universities?

Minna Leinonen

Reference:

Nikunen, Minna (2014) The ‘entrepreneurial university’, family and gender: Changes and demands faced by fixed-term workers. Gender and Education, 26:2, 119–134, DOI: 10.1080/09540253.2014.888402.

Something new from the Scandinavian research front in 2018 this far?

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Back at work, starting a new term, there’s some time for updating my knowledge of current research. Have my colleagues found out something relevant for the Nordwit programme? A quick search in the Web of Science by combining ‘gender’ with keywords like ‘innovation’, ‘academic’, and ‘technology’ concerning the Scandinavian countries during the first six months of the year gives a meagre harvest, but still some bits of knowledge that are worth taking in.

Most of the results we already knew or assumed – but why should only new groundbreaking research be worth attention? So, once again it is shown by quantitative surveys that female and male students as populations have somewhat different orientations in secondary school, in engineering studies and in agricultural sciences: For female students societal and environmental concerns are more important (Engström), while economic concerns are more important for men (Dekhtyar and Matthies, Vainio & D’Amato, both on Finnish material). Of course such large surveys easily hide the fact that these orientations are not purely gendered, but that there are individuals of both genders in both orientations. However, as we also study career developments in this dichotomous way, talking about women’s and men’s careers, it is worth finding out how such differences translate to career patterns. To what extent are women’s and men’s differing career patterns in technical professions due to choices made based on such values? And if the career patterns of women and men differ because of such reasons – what should that implicate for efforts to enable women to have career patterns more resembling those of men? Which values should implicitly be promoted?

We can also learn more about the measurement of an important component in academic careers: “research productivity” measured as publication rates. Nygaard & Bahgat have taken on the task of finding out why different measurements of the gender gap in publication rates give different results: sometimes the gap is said to been wide, with women publishing much less than men, while in some studies there is hardly any gap at all. Elaborating with different components, such as language, staff category, leaves of absence etc. they find out that different bibliometric measures capture different aspects, and none of them gives a universal truth about production rates. So, the gender gap in publication rates is not a given phenomenon, but depends on the spectacles of the viewer – and thus we really don’t know.

Petra Angervall and her co-authors have published two articles which serve to consolidate issues that we’ve known hamper women’s careers in the academic setting. They show that junior male scientists find it much easier to navigate the ambivalences between producing research and answering to the demands of the department or private life. Angervall & co find that male researchers have access to resources and recognition that women do not have, and one of those resources in teaching intensive departments seems to be their female colleagues servicing work. Thus, it is no wonder that Lohela-Karlsson, Nyberg & Jensen, once again, find that female junior academics report more health and work environment problems than their male colleagues.

Finally, on the academic side, Powell, Ah-King & Hussenius build on their experiences of a gender equality project at a Swedish university. They make a very relevant suggestion, in the Swedish context, where working for gender equality is the only right thing to do, and, subsequently, gender equality projects as such are always endorsed but often not leading to any substantial changes. Their strong recommendation is that projects should build on collaboratively agreed concrete aims which are relevant in the specific context, to really affect change.

Gender and innovation is not such a large research area. However, Styhre et al in Sweden report from women developers in gaming companies, and how the increase in female players has given them an entrance into those settings, but how it also hampers their careers: women developers are seen as experts on women players, not experts in game development as such. Styhre et al refer to historical gendered divisions of labour in this relatively new technical work area – something that even other new technological areas can be expected to be contaminated by.

So, in the research harvest of 2018 this far, there is more of adding bits and pieces to the existing knowledge base on Nordwit issues than any radical results. It’s good as it is. Now the new Nordwit term is starting, with our work to add to the knowledge base.

Minna Salminen Karlsson

Articles refereed above:

Angervall, Petra & Dennis Beach (2018) The Exploitation of Academic Work: Women in Teaching at Swedish Universities. Higher Education Policy, 31 (1) 1-17. DOI: 10.1057/s41307-017-0041-0

Angervall, Petra, Peter Erlandson & Jan Gustafsson (2018) Challenges in making an academic career in education sciences. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 39 (4) 451-465. DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2017.1356219

Dekhtyar, S., D. Weber, J.Helgertz & A. Herlitz (2018) Sex differences in academic strengths contribute to gender segregation in education and occupation: A longitudinal examination of 167,776 individuals. Intelligence, 67: 84-92. DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2017.11.007

Engström, Susanne (2018) Differences and similarities between female students and male students that succeed within higher technical education: profiles emerge through the use of cluster analysis. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 28 (1) 239-261.

Lohela-Karlsson Malin, Lotta Nybergh & Irene Jensen (2018) Perceived health and work-environment related problems and associated subjective production loss in an academic population. BMC Public Health, 18:257. DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-5154-x

Matthies, Brent D., Annukka Vainio & Dalia D’Amato (2018) Not so biocentric – Environmental benefits and harm associated with the acceptance of forest management objectives by future environmental professionals. Ecosystem Services, 29 (A): 128-136. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.12.003

Nygaard, Lynn P. & Karim Bahgat (2018) What’s in a number? How (and why) measuring research productivity in different ways changes the gender gap. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 32: 67-79. DOI: 10.1016/j.jeap.2018.03.009

Powell, Stina, Malin Ah-King & Anita Hussenius (2018) ‘Are we to become a gender university?’ Facets of resistance to a gender equality project. Gender, Work and Organization, 25 (2) 127-143. DOI: 10.1111/gwao.12204

Styhre, Alexander, Björn Remneland-Wikhamn, Anna-Maria Szczepanska & Jan Lundberg (2018) Masculine domination and gender subtexts: The role of female professionals in the renewal of the Swedish video game industry. Culture and Organization, 24 (3) 244-261. DOI: 10.1080/14759551.2015.1131689.

Holiday – who can afford it?

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In the Nordic countries, July is the most popular summer holiday month. I am writing this text two days before my own holiday starts, and I feel really tired. At this point, it is hard to imagine how I could make it without a proper four weeks’ vacation. Still, not all of us working in the academia can afford to take a few weeks off.

The latest employment statistics of the University of Tampere from 2016 show how 54 percent of all employments at the university were fixed-term. For doctoral students the rate is the highest, 98 percent; for postdocs 92 percent; and for senior researchers and lectures 66 percent. Almost 60 percent of the professors had a permanent contract. Many fixed-term employees, like me, can enjoy the holidays, but if the contracts are continuously short, or if you’re working on a scholarship you might not be – or feel – entitled to a vacation. Many academics complain how exhausted they never fully recover from work due to short-term contracts.

What does this got to do with gender? Though the statistics of our university do not show the gender division of the fixed-term employment, the Statistics Finland tells us that in 2017 of all employments in Finland, 19 percent of women’s and 13 percent of men’s were fixed-term, and that this relation has stayed more or less the same over a decade. The scholar of work life history, Anu Suoranta (2009) argues that fixed-term jobs have been a mundane way of living for many women in Finland ever since the period between World War I and II. She also suggests that instead of spending time and energy for planning how to get rid of it, we should negotiate better collective agreements for fixed-term employment.

But also academics with permanent or long-term employment may decide to skip the holiday. In our meritocratic universities, academics are encouraged to gather data, write articles and funding applications during the summer. To stay in the career competition, many of us do.

So, if you’re working when you read this text in July and are not planning to have a holiday this summer, close your laptop, put your feet up, smell the summer and relax!

Tiina Suopajärvi

References:
– Statistics Finland, Tilastokeskus, Findikaattori, Osa-aikaset ja määräaikaiset työsuhteet, read 27th June 2018 [https://findikaattori.fi/fi/53].
– Suoranta, Anu (2009) Halvennettu työ. Pätkätyö ja sukupuoli sopimusyhteiskuntaa edeltävissä työmarkkinakäytännöissä. Tampere: Vastapaino.
– Tampereen yliopisto, Henkilöstökertomus 2016, read 27th June 2018 [http://www.uta.fi/hallinto/yliopistopalvelut/henkilostopalvelut/index/henkilostokertomus2016_TaY.pdf].

 

 

 

 

Gender equality matters in Finland

The brand new equality barometer published by the Statistics Finland tells what people think about gender equality. Since 1998, the Statistics Finland has conducted six gender equality barometers. The latest barometer was conducted as phone interviews during the fall 2017. The representative sample consisted of 3,000 people between the ages of 15-74, living in Finland. 56 percent of them participated in the interviews.

Here, I just pick one topic that I find attention-grabbing to note. For the first time the interviewees were asked about the equality plans in the workplaces. According to the Equality Act, an equality plan must be worked out every other year in the workplaces, in which over 30 employees are working regularly.

According to the barometer results, as many as 40 percent of the respondents working in workplaces with over 30 employees did not know whether an equality plan existed or not in the workplace. Further, only slightly over 25 percent said that they had an equality plan at their workplace. Moreover, what is also worth to stress is that about one third said that an equality plan did not exist in their workplace, which still had over 30 employees.

There were no big gender differences among the respondents. However, with higher education or age, it was more likely that the interviewees reported of an existing equality plan. Further, I find it striking that in the state sector, only 28 percent of female employees, but almost half (47 percent) of male employees, reported that they had an equality plan at the workplace.

I think that the results tell that the equality plans are surprisingly poorly known among the employees in Finland, although the equality plans are extremely useful in proceeding gender equality in everyday working life.

Päivi Korvajärvi 

What can you do to support workplace diversity? Highlight the role of hard work for success rather than innate talent

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[Zombie ideas in understanding gender, vol. 3]

One of the most persistent and deep-rooted of all beliefs about human nature is that natural talent (i.e. an innate ability to excel at a specific activity) plays a major role in deciding who will be among the most excellent. No one has ever found a gene variant that predicts peak performance in any given field and no one has ever come up with a way to identify future stars early in their careers. Not according to the Swedish psychologist Anders Ericsson. His research of expert performance in domains such as medicine, music, chess, and sports points to quite a different explanation of why some people excel, and others do not with deliberate practice (e.g. a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic) playing the leading role. As we can see from this quote, his rebuttal of natural talent has a democratizing intent, hoping to prevent those identified as not having the “right” genes from being marginalized or excluded:

It can beget a tendency to assume that some people have a talent for something and others don’t and that you can tell the difference early on. If you believe that, you encourage and support the “talented” ones and disencourage the rest, creating the self-fulfilling prophecy. It is human nature to want to put effort – time, money, teaching, encouragement, support – where it will do the most good and also to try to protect kids from disappointment. There is usually nothing nefarious going on here, but the results can be incredibly damaging. The best way to avoid this is to recognize the potential in all of us – and work to find ways to develop it. (Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool, 2016, Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things, 241-242)

There is also gender aspects in this prevailing myth that genetics strongly limit abilities. One study has found that the belief in natural talent, coupled with the societal tendency to associate brilliance with men and not women, can tip the gender balance in academic fields. The study shows a correlation between the belief that an academic discipline requires innate talent and the scarce numbers of women in that discipline. The culture of the field undermines representation because of stereotypes about intellectual ability, although there has never been proven any real intellectual difference between genders (Leslie et al. 2015). It is one of the persistent beliefs around gender, a zombie idea, which also explains why some ethnic minorities are under-represented in a similar way. According to the research, emphasizing that genius and natural talent are required to succeed can stop women and minority groups from pursuing careers in certain fields. Thus, recommendations for anyone wanting to increase the diversity in the workplace is to

  • Highlight the role of hard work for success rather than innate talent. It is unrealistic to expect peak performance from all employees in all types of works. Nevertheless, to give the right conditions for deliberate practice, such as time, money, mentoring etc. will give more leeway for developing the full potential and abilities of women (and men) at work.
  • Pointing out equal abilities might also help shatter the gender stereotypes. There is no better way to do that than to make counter-stereotypical female role models

Nina Almgren