Doing Nordwit research in exceptional times

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Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

The outbreak of the coronavirus and the disease COVID-19 has not only affected our health and safety but the possibilities and ways of work as well. This also pertains to social scientific research that we engage in Nordwit research teams. While in Nordwit we are quite accustomed to regular meetings in virtual surroundings, remote work has increased the use of communication technologies in my local team. Since our university is in lock-down for the most part and we cannot go to our offices, we are on the fast track of adopting tools for meeting and sharing our current material. Some are taking courses; some are learning by doing. Virtual meetings are important in giving rhythm and sense of direction to the work we’re doing but also for care, we get a chance to check up on each other.

Collecting interview data has changed, too. As a researcher used to meeting interviewees face to face, I am now taking the uneasy path of organizing career interviews online. It raises methodological questions, such as: How will interaction dynamics change in conversing online? Will I miss important clues when I am online? Will the sense of confidentiality be adequate enough for sharing important and sometimes hurtful experiences? Sensitivity to emerging ethical issues is also important when interviewees are working from home, often surrounded by kids who might be needing care and attention in the middle of the interview session.

As it should, such an acute crisis gives us pause. Professionally, these exceptional times with their restrictions raise questions about the world of work our research subjects are experiencing now: Has the virus outbreak and restrictions related to it affected the ways women view their careers technology? How is this situation changing their businesses and research environments? A lot of the women I’ve interviewed have kids and families. If they do remote work, how can they arrange it? Do they struggle with very concretely combining childcare and work?

These are only some of the questions that could be raised. We will see a rise in the need of social scientific knowledge to understand the vastness of effects of the virus outbreak on different levels of our societies.

Minna Leinonen

Trondheim Workshop on Gender and Equity in Academia

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Image from Pixabay

A couple of weeks ago, just before the expansion of the corona-virus in the Nordic countries, I attended a workshop “Gender and Equity in the Contemporary Academy: Kick-Off Workshop for the GENDIM Project in Trondheim, Norway. The GENDIM project, led by Professor Vivian Lagesen from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, investigates the gender dynamics underlying gender imbalance among university academics. The project takes as its starting point the concept “epistemic living space” (Felt 2009), enabling the investigation of epistemic, spatial, temporal, symbolic and social dimensions of academic work and career building in the current neoliberal environment.

Several presentations discussed the discrepancy between gender balance and meritocracy. It is generally agreed that gender balance is a good thing and work to reach gender balance in academia is an important goal. At the same time, people, both men and women, emphasise the importance of academic merits in university recruitments and career progression. Female academics in particular, tend to assure over and over again that they have attained their positions due to their merits, not because of gender balance measures. The same tension between gender balance and meritocracy is apparent also in our interviews with Finnish female academics.

How to become a professor and have career success was another topic that resonates very well with our Finnish findings, just to name a few issues that were eagerly discussed over the workshop. Based on interview material gathered in Norway, Vivian Lagesen distinguished four narratives of how professors make sense of their career trajectories: 1. Narratives of self-inclusion, emphasising hard work in a meritocratic and competitive system, 2. Narrative of ‘tailwind’ in which the interviewees, often with an academic background, have always taken more or less for granted that they will become professors,  3. Narrative of supported inclusion, characterised by help, encouragement and support from networks, and 4. Narratives of ‘headwind’, involving various hardships in a chilly university climate. Sarah R. Davies, drawing on her interviews, gave four pieces of advice of how to become a professor: Work hard, Know the right people, Be lucky, and Be focused. This logic, she underlined, represents individualisation of responsibility.

As a whole, the workshop raised a wide array of important issues concerning, among other things, gender, career, race, policy, power, and inclusion in the neoliberal university context. Both similarities and differences among the Nordic countries became evident. This will offer valuable background against which our Finnish findings can be mirrored and reflected on.

References:
Felt, U. (2009) Knowing and living in academic research: Convergence and heterogeneities in European research cultures. Prague: Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

 

Oili-Helena Ylijoki

Defining Digital Excellence from a Gender Perspective

NordWit has a new brief spin-off project where the results from our work in the centre gives important input. The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet, UKÄ), together with the The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket), has been commissioned to analyse and propose how the supply of digital excellence can be developed in the short and long term. The assignment includes the development of improved statistics and forecasts of the total need for competence in business and the public sector with the aim of improving the conditions for universities and universities to meet the need for excellence in the short and long term. However, there is no accepted definition of what digital excellence is. The new project hence aims to develop a definition of the concept of digital excellence. The definition should form the basis for UKÄ and the Swedish Growth Agency’s project.

Åsa Cajander will be a part of a team that will work on a definition of Excellent Digital Competence in the spring 2020. The work will be led by Professor Jan Gulliksen and the other members of the team are professor Arnold Pears and Mattias Wiggberg. The team is composed of people with complementary skills to create the best possible working group, and my area of specialty in comparison to the others is the gender perspective.

Digital excellence is likely to include a basic broad knowledge of the basics of digitalisation as well as in-depth expertise in one or more sub-areas, such as programming technology, AI, data security or user experiences, just to name a few. Digital excellence also certainly includes some form of documented practical experience of actively participating in several successful development projects. One can also discuss how digital excellence is connected to ethics, and how gender plays a role. Our studies from NordWit about careers in technology driven areas are of course a great input in this work. My perspective is that it is important that the definition of digital excellence is gender inclusive and opens up for aspects that are traditionally female coded, such as caring for society and people.

The OECD notes that the lack of digital specialists and digital excellence is a bottleneck for innovation and growth in Sweden. The need is expected to increase in the coming years as digitalisation develops and new technologies such as AI will have an impact.

In order to work with this on a political level there is a need for a definition of Excellent Digital Competence, and the team is working with this using several different methods:

  • Literature studies to map the state of knowledge, analyses of identified documents
  • Short interviews to capture the different needs of the target groups, both from industry and academia
  • Continuous reconciliation meetings with clients to clarify the work and give it direction and to iteratively refine and improve the quality of the result
  • Workshop/Focus groups to discuss and anchor proposed definitions, as well as to anchor the work and to get input into problem picture
  • Design thinking methodology for developing creative innovative solutions

Our work will be presented in a report in the spring 2020.

Åsa Cajander

NordWit presenting at Vitalis 2020

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Svenska Mässan, Gothenburg

Vitalis is a yearly event in Gothenburg, and presents itself as the Nordic region’s leading eHealth meeting. At Vitalis, people from municipalities, regions, authorities, companies and academia meet to discuss the challenges and solutions of the future in healthcare. This year NordWit will be presenting a study on managers and the implementation of patient accessible electronic health records in different regions in Sweden. NordWit’s Åsa Cajander and Hilde Corneliussen has been working with the study together with Gunilla Myreteg and Kari Dyb.  The presentation will be part of a session on health care professional’s perspectives and will take place on Monday the 5th of May 14-14.30. The session is organised in collaboration with INERA who coordinates eHealth in Sweden. 

In the presentation we will present different implementations strategies used in five different regions in Sweden when patient accessible electronic health records were implemented, and discuss how gender is perceived to have played a role in the work. In our study we interviewed fourteen different leaders in the implementation process, and the questions ranged from how they perceived the implementation to how they experience that gender plays a role in their work.

Åsa Cajander

 

Workshop Re-thinking Research and Innovation: How Does Gender Matter?

February 25-27, the workshop Re-thinking Research and Innovation: How Does Gender Matter? was held at the Centre for Gender Research at Uppsala University. Oganized by our Nordwit coordinator Gabriele Griffin and funded by the Swedish Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, it gathered together researchers from the Nordwit centre, the Innovation network in South of Sweden and also researchers outside Scandinavia. The 11 presentations and lively discussions mapped out the breath of the scattered field of gender in research and innovation and elaborated the concepts and some of the key themes both at the academic and the entrepreneurial end of the field.

Gabriele Griffin, Felizitas Sagebiel, and Marja Vehviläinen examined the gendered practices at the academic end of research and innovation. Griffin and Vehviläinen discussed the relatively new, multidisciplinary research fields digital humanities and health technologies which often exist in atypical formations such as centres rather than disciplines in academia. Sagebiel analysed the gendering effects of current peer reviewing practices. Clem Herman’s talk took us to the gendered practices of UK academe as exemplified by the Open University, and in particular to the educational innovations that they have developed to educate the next generation of innovators with competences in diversity and gendered innovations as part of the curriculum. Liisa Husu’s talk on the practices of Funding Agencies, and specifically the study of the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, illuminated how gender equality is understood in funding institutions and how those aim to pursue gender equality in Sweden and more broadly in Europe.

Then, Susanne Andersson and Karin Berglund, in collaboration with Katarina Petterson, took us to the entrepreneur and private enterprise end of innovations and both gave brilliant case studies of embodied and located innovations. Susanne Anderson introduced the notion of ‘alternative/unexpected users’ that she has used in her norm-critical user analysis with private company innovations. Zehra Sayed further opened up innovation work within the complexity of the intersecting relations of gender, class and caste. These revealed in particular the separation of bodily and cognitive aspects of innovation work in India.

Hilde Corneliussen and Magdalena Petersson McIntyre focused on gender and feminist understandings in innovation, Corneliussen by opening the notion of the gender paradox through a study on women who work in ICT in Norway, and Petersson McIntyre by analysing gender consultants. Minna Leinonen presented action research on gender equality with regional stakeholders in research and innovation. Both gender consultants and regional stakeholders aim for a change in gender relations. The ‘business case’ of gender equality, discussed in these two papers, was discussed vividly: it is integrated with gender consultants’ work in the form of market feminisms, and both gender consultants and regional stakeholders aim to have gains (what’s in it for me?) through gender and gender equality. Our workshop challenged the notion of profit-only gains and argued for different ways of thinking about ‘profit’ such as social justice and sustainability – both of which ultimately also impact on profit.

Gendered and gendering innovation was discussed in many presentations. Griffin concluded that the properties ascribed to innovation are the same as the properties ascribed to women/the feminine. They both are about difference, about change and disruption. This provides opportunities for feminist work on innovation. Berglund and Petterson continued the conceptual analysis by linking innovation with the dangerous. They discussed doing and thinking about innovation differently at micro and individual levels, as evolving practices, embodied, located to place, experimental, playing with the rules of the game, contemplative, caring, ethical, and following Levinas, embracing passivity as a way of providing space for the other.

Marja Vehviläinen

Workshops on gender in research and innovation have started

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We are living exciting times in the Finnish Nordwit team: during the winter and spring 2020 we are organizing a series of workshops for promoting gender equality in research and innovation in one of the research-intensive regions in Finland. The regional development agency, university (including Marja Vehviläinen and myself from the Nordwit team) and the local Centre for Economic Development, Transport and Environment are collaborating on organizing the workshops and we have already organized one on the current state of gender equality in the regional research and innovation activities. There is also national interest in the process, since the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is participating the planning and realization of the workshops.

The workshop started with presentations on gendered careers in technology, gender in research and innovation, gender equality in academia and gender and regional development.  The workshop was also a platform for joint discussions: One of the main arguments was that gender relevance should be made visible for different stakeholders and that we need to create ways – as financers, government officials, researchers, entrepreneurs and others – to recognize gender relevance and ideally tie it to regional aims and needs.

The future workshops will take a closer look at how gender equality could be more strongly incorporated into the research and innovation activities by considering gender aspects of financed projects and the whole innovation ecosystem. The specifics of those workshops are under ongoing planning, since each workshop is informed by the previous one(s). Local tools for promoting gender equality and best practices are themes likely to stay on the agenda throughout the workshop series.

Minna Leinonen

Gender, Work and Organization

The Gender, Work and Organization Conference, held at Kent University 24-26 June this year, is now open for registration.

Nordwit will be well represented at this event. Hilde Corneliussen and Minna Salminen Karlsson from Nordwit are running a stream on “Rural Frontiers In-between Tradition and Change: Gender, Work and Organization in Rural Contexts”, and other Nordwit members are giving papers in a range of streams.

It’s going to be an exciting event!

Gabriele Griffin

What does innovation look like?

What does innovation look like? I’m in Santiago in Chile at a workshop at the Catholic University discussing the co-production of gender and knowledge norms. At the entrance of their San Joaquim campus is this amazing bunker-like building – the Innovation building. It looks quite forbidding, the outside seems both very closed off and somehow un-in-viting. It is not clear if you are meant to enter. It represents the very opposite of what I associate with innovation: openness, networking, fluidity. Instead it appears static, quasi-brutalist in style, and highly masculinized. The interior is in many ways not much different: closed-off blocks of wood-and-glass cabinets, a sort of display unit. And on the outside of course – since this is the Catholic University and hence predictably full of depictions of religious figures, is the figure of Jesus pointing. So what is the relation between religion and creativity, or maybe between religion and creation? The connection here is made partly through the monumentalism, partly through the colour – all grey. Is this how we imagine innovation?

Gabriele Griffin

Call for submissions to EASST/4S Prague 2020

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The next EASST/4S conference (European Association for the Study of Science and Technology + Society for Social Studies of Science) will be held in Prague 18-21 August 2020. The theme is “Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and Agency of STS in Emerging Worlds,” looking back at the major shifts in the past years that create feelings of urgency, unease and confusion.

Nordwit will be represented in the section “Gender/Sexuality/Feminist STS” with the open panel Old Academics and Emerging Worlds: Feminist Encounters in Changing STS Contexts, and we warmly invite you to submit papers to this panel!

The due date is 29 Feb and you are asked to produce a 250-word abstract.

Read more about the panel below, or visit the website for more information on how to apply.

125. Old Academies and Emerging Worlds: Feminist Encounters in Changing STS Contexts

Gabriele Griffin, Uppsala University; Marja Vehviläinen, Tampere University

The notion of emerging worlds is frequently associated with the global South, so-called ‘third world’ countries, and dys- or utopian imaginaries. This – at times conveniently – ignores the fact that academies in the global North harbour within them emerging worlds in the form of emerging disciplines, through the impact of technologization on data and knowledge production, and through the changing socio-political and economic contexts in which these academies operate. STS itself constitutes an emerging world in that its methods and objects of study have changed significantly over time and continue to do so.

In this panel we explore the gendered dis/continuities arising from academies engaging with the emerging worlds within them in the form of new disciplines such as Digital Humanities, eHealth, and new forms of research and innovation, which in turn challenge conventional STS through their claims in relation to both science and technology.

We invite contributions on topics such as:

  • How does gender play out in the emerging worlds of new disciplines in old academies?
  • How do emerging disciplines challenge gendered STS epistemologies?
  • How does the meeting of academies from different parts of the world challenge gendered notions of STS knowledge production?
  • What is the impact of the technologization of academic disciplines on the disciplines’ genderization?
  • What is the relation between emerging disciplines, gender, and STS?
  • How are notions of gender in the academy impacted by emerging disciplines?
  • How does STS relate to the issue of gender relative to feminism?

Contact: gabriele.griffin@gender.uu.se

Keywords: emerging disciplines, gendered innovations, feminist interventions, technologization

 

 

Have things changed during the 2010s?

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Now that 2019 is coming to an end, it is not only a year but a whole decade we can look back to. When it comes to women in technology – has any progress been made? Statistics Sweden provides easily accessible statistics on a general level. If we compare 2009 and 2018 or 2019 (depending on how fresh statistics are provided) we can see that:

The percentage of women taking the advanced master of engineering (civilingenjör) degree has actually gone up some: from 28% in 2009 till 35% in 2019. However, the percentage of women taking a bachelor of engineering (högskoleingenjör) has remained almost the same (28% to 27%). It seems that those women who decide to go into technology are those who have good theoretical skills and prefer the office, rather than what can be perceived as technology work closer to practical implications.

Another table, which does not give the exams achieved each year, but the educational level in the population in numbers, shows that the working age population having higher education in “technology and production” has increased with 25% during the last decade. Women have increased their numbers with 50%, compared to men’s 20%. When only looking at the younger workforce (up to 44 years), both men and women born abroad increase their numbers at a much higher rate than native born Swedes. In particular the women born abroad seem to have detected technology. Compared to 2009, there are now 75% more women born abroad with a technical education. Even men born abroad increasingly acquire technical education, their numbers have gone up 60% in ten years. So, the rescue for our dearth of engineers may come from what are commonly perceived as the suburban immigrant ghettos.

How about the salaries? In October 2019, our media reported that newly examined female masters of engineering now had lower first salaries than their male peers – after several years of closing the gender pay gap, it seems that it was widening again. That development does not (yet?) show in the salary statistics available from Statistics Sweden. There, female engineers almost invariably have earned and continue to earn about 86-92% of the salaries of their male colleagues. However, it seems that among graduates from new, more transdisciplinary engineering programmes, as well as biotechnology, the gender pay gap is diminishing.

While the 2010’s seem not to have been that bad for technology, still another table in Statistics Sweden gives me, as a citizen, worried creases on my forehead. Here, employers tell whether the competence pool for their needs is sufficient or not. While 19% of employers in 2009 told that there was a lack of newly examined engineers, the percentage had risen to 45% in 2019. Obviously, we need more engineers. However, we need healthcare staff even more: 76% of those who employ nurses told that there is a dearth of newly examined nurses. And the situation does not seem to improve: while the number of people with a degree in technology has increased with 25% in ten years, the number of people with a degree in healthcare has increased only by 17%.

As a Nordwit project member, I’m all for improving the gender balance and women’s working conditions in technology. As a citizen, dependent on our Scandinavian publicly financed healthcare, I’m very thankful that not all the women (and men) follow the calls to become engineers and work with technology, but that some also choose to work with the immediate welfare of the citizens. Technology should and could be more attractive to more women – but this aim needs to be balanced by making different care professions more attractive to men. Technical inventions and economic growth  are not enough to create well-fare.

Minna Salminen Karlsson