Workshop on gender equality in regional research and innovation

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Photo by Digital Buggu from Pexels

Nordwit, in collaboration with the Tampere regional council, the Tampere Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, the Tampere University Gender Equality group, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, and the EU project Marie, arranged a zoom workshop focusing on the regional stakeholders’ opportunities to turn gender equality into a resource in research and innovation (R&I) on 27 August 2020.

The regional council which delivers EU structural and regional development funding, together with the ministries that guide its work, wanted to develop their own practices to promote gender equality at the level of concrete project planning and applications. Nordwit shared its research findings in the workshop and its planning.

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The Failure of the National Gender Equality Regime?

In my last post I shared some of the findings in our new article: “Employers’ Mixed Signals to Women in IT: Uncovering how Gender Equality Ideals are Challenged by Organizational Context”, where we have identified various ways in which IT organizations renegotiate the call for gender equality in IT. Based on the findings we have suggested a model that visualises how the “national gender equality regime” fails to implement gender equality as an active goal in the organizations.

We explain the model this way:

“[T]he national gender equality regime creates expectations to employers’ active work to improve the gender imbalance in IT, reflected in rules and regulations. However, gender balance in IT is not a specific requirement and there are few and vague guidelines for the organizations for engaging in gender equality work in general. The organizations’ representatives see the request for gender equality in the context of their organization, introducing internal and external factors that contribute to modifying the understanding of women’s underrepresentation and whether or not it is worth changing. This process introduces doubt and alternative ways of perceiving the situation, resulting in limited space for organizations to find motivation to engage in gender equality actions.”
(Corneliussen & Seddighi 2020, p. 46)

The most problematic finding is that the “draining” of gender equality as a goal is happening within the framework of the national gender equality regime rather than challenging the regime itself.

How can we approach the challenge of gender equality not being perceived as a relevant goal within fields of IT?

Read the full paper:
Corneliussen, H. G., & Seddighi, G. (2020). Employers’ Mixed Signals to Women in IT: Uncovering how Gender Equality Ideals are Challenged by Organizational Context. In P. Kommers & G. C. Peng (Eds.), Proceedings for the International Conference ICT, Society, and Human Beings 2020 (41-48): ADIS Press.

New Publication: What brings women into ehealth?: Women’s career trajectories in digital transformations in health care

Digital transformation of health care services is addressed world-wide in order to more efficiently meet the patients’ information and health care needs. However, little is known about the people working with this transformation, where two traditionally gendered fields meet; health care and IT. While work with digitalization generally is dominated by men, digitalization of health care services involves a large number of women. In a recent case study published at the 12th International Conference on eHealth we explore the career trajectories of women working with the digital transformation of eHealth services. The paper is written in a collaboration between Åsa Cajander, Hilde Corneliussen, Gunilla Myreteg and Kari Dyb.

The question we ask is: Who are the women in this eHealth project, and how did they come to working with this digital transformation?

The analysis shows that different types of trajectories brought the women into eHealth transformations: The first illustrating women who were pushed into working with eHealth by their job descriptions, the second showing women using eHealth as an escape route from something else, and the last trajectory showing how women stumbled across eHealth and decided to stay on. This has implications for the educational system, and points to the need for being able to study computer science later in life. It also calls for a better understanding of what drives women in transformation processes.

You find the publication available here:
https://www.vestforsk.no/nn/publication/what-brings-women-ehealth-womens-career-trajectories-digital-transformations-healthcare

Åsa Cajander

Why is it so difficult to achieve gender balance in IT work?

New publication: 

Corneliussen, H. G., & Seddighi, G. (2020). Employers’ Mixed Signals to Women in IT: Uncovering how Gender Equality Ideals are Challenged by Organizational Context. In P. Kommers & G. C. Peng (Eds.), Proceedings for the International Conference ICT, Society, and Human Beings 2020 (41-48): ADIS Press.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Why is it so difficult to achieve gender balance in IT work? Our study of attitudes towards women’s under-representation in IT and how IT employers and organizations deal with this imbalance, give some of the answers. These are some of the attitudes that work as barriers to recruit more women to IT work:

Continue reading “Why is it so difficult to achieve gender balance in IT work?”

Inspirations from the EASST4S virPrague conference 2020

Nordwit (members) attended the EASST/4S virPrague conference Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and agency of STS in emerging worlds 18-21.8.2020, https://www.easst4s2020prague.org

The conference had nearly 600 panels, including the one of ours Old Academies and Emerging Worlds: Feminist Encounters in Changing STS Contexts (chair: Gabriele Griffin). Although we missed the informal meetings and connections between colleagues and friends in the magnificent Prague, the virPrague conference worked well and provided numerous interesting presentations and discussions, utmostly timely such as subplenaries STS Enters the Transnational Covidscape: The Political Ecologies and Inequalities of COVID-19 and Sustainable Academia, and the subplenaries on the main themes of the conference: The temporal fabric of technoscientific worlds, and Locating matters, all important both conceptually and politically.

Many of the panels were extremely inspiring for the study field of gendering research and innovation. One cannot give credit to all panels worth mentioning, as it was not possible to follow them all, and I pick up here just two of them.

EASST4S Prague

Continue reading “Inspirations from the EASST4S virPrague conference 2020”

Doubts around what gender equality means in practice hamper working for an inclusive work environment in ICT

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Interviewing women working in ICT and listening to their professional life stories confirmed for one more time that women working as minorities in male-dominated workplaces experience harassments, exclusionary attitudes and routines that treat them as those being in the “wrong place”. In one extreme case, a woman who was the only woman among the employees in her workplace told us that she had experienced a work meeting being held at a sauna. These routines do not only prevent women making a sense of belonging to the field, but also exclude them from informal networks that are actually organized to have supportive function for career development. Continue reading “Doubts around what gender equality means in practice hamper working for an inclusive work environment in ICT”

Innovation ecosystems and industry-research relationships

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Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

When writing this, my very first Triple Helix Conference has been going on online for a couple of days. To me in some shared sessions there was a bit of an all-male panel vibe (with the mandatory woman here and there) but in fact some of the most interesting speeches in the conference have been by women. One such a speech was Joanna Chatway’s keynote on transformative innovation agendas and the need for new direction for Triple Helix, to which I will come back later in another blog post.

At least two prominent speakers thus far, the former prime minister of Finland Esko Aho and Martti Hetemäki, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance of Finland, have stressed the importance of the ecosystem related to innovation. Aho put the rise and fall of Nokia in context by stating that the Nokia success story was first and foremost an ecosystem success story and the loss in the end was an ecosystem loss. Hetemäki saw ecosystems as key to successful policies. He compared EU ecosystems to the Bay area (e.g. Silicon Valley) and raised the question, whether they could produce similar results than in the Bay area.

In the panel session on Innovation Expectations of 2020, the crisis relating to the corona virus pandemic was hoped to create stronger possibilities to utilize digitalization in Europe. This would, however, require such a speed that some of the industry representatives saw this as difficult, since political decision-making processes are slow. Time seems to be of essence of Triple Helix relationships between different stakeholders: while researchers have a longer perspective to the future, in business there are expectations of a relatively brief and clear view to making business out of discoveries. On the other hand, over time, findings from basic research can be quite important in innovations. Another issue important to industry–academic research relationships was transparency. Contrary to what one might expect, none of the panelists really saw lack of a common language as a problem in the relationships.

I’m on my third day of the conference, and hopefully the theme of innovation culture scheduled for today will prove to be interesting.

Minna Leinonen

“You don’t see it before you believe it” – FixIT in collaboration with Nordwit

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Last week we ended a project that has been working in close collaboration with Nordwit in Norway: FixIT – a project that has developed and organised activities to increase women’s participation in innovation projects. We developed a “gender balance competence package” for increasing awareness of and knowledge about gendered structures in research and innovation, with a brochure with guidance and tools for organizations to work towards gender balance. A balance competence course offered to innovation actors from private and public sector.

This of course, required knowledge, and this is what Nordwit provided: research-based knowledge about women’s experiences in the field of tech-driven R&I as well as organizations’ and employers’ attitudes and strategies for increasing women’s participation in this field.

Continue reading ““You don’t see it before you believe it” – FixIT in collaboration with Nordwit”

Another sorry tale? Why career women end up staying at home…

One of the notorious issues working women face is the dreaded work-life balance. In the Nordic countries where portfolio careers with multiple employments (in various projects, to varying degrees, over diverse timespans) is a norm among academics and researchers during the early and middle years of their careers, it is, indeed, often not only the work-life balance that is at issue but also the work-work balance, i.e. the question of how to do justice to the range of demands of your various projects, not least when they are in different geographical locations and in different organizations.

Once women have children or other care responsibilities their room for manoeuvre becomes increasingly curtailed as they are – even in the Nordic countries – largely left to pick up the domestic pieces. Our research has shown that women in tech-driven careers are more likely to sustain such careers, indeed embark on them, if they have a partner with regular predictable hours who can work from home and effectively take up both house and care work. Where this is not the case, women struggle and can end up leaving academe (if they have worked as researchers there) for a less onerous role in the private sector where they undertake research but are not required also to publish, apply for funding etc.

Shani Orgad’s (2019) Heading Home: Motherhood, Work, and the Failed Promise of Equality (Columbia UP) explores why women in high-powered careers in London end up staying at home to look after their children and what the effects of this are. Orgad interviewed 35 highly educated career women who decided to become stay-at-home mothers, and 5 men. Challenging ‘preference’ and choice feminist views of women supposedly choosing to stay at home, this volume tells a story of impossible work demands (the idea of ‘balance’ is plainly laughable), partners who are largely absent due to their own impossible work demands, and relentless pressures to be everything: high-flying career woman and super-mom. Men are not confronted with any such demands; for them the work-life imbalance in favour of work remains largely unquestioned.

One man Orgad interviewed maintained that ‘the tech industry, particularly the social media end, has so many more female execs because their working model is much more family friendly, intrinsically is much more life friendly, they don’t have work-life separation, they have a kind of ménage and that works much better.’ (Orgad, 2019: 160) This is not, however, how the women Orgad interviewed saw it. Indeed, the covid-19 pandemic may be teaching some people that working from home – on the edges around keeping children entertained and partners from getting depressed – is often not very easy. Both female and male colleagues of mine have told me that they have got nothing done in the past 10 weeks because of being locked down at home. Those who have been productive have often been people living on their own for whom nothing much had changed in terms of their daily work routine as a function of covid.

Covid is certainly shifting the employment paradigm – work from home if you can – but it is also highlighting what the limitations of that imperative are. It may, in time, lead to a thorough review of the work cultures that many take for granted and that urgently need a serious overhaul to re-balance work and life.

Gabriele Griffin 

Thinking Nordwit research with Joan Acker

Gender, Work and Organization dedicates its last issue of 2019 to Professor and feminist sociologist Joan Acker (1924-2016) celebrating her work, life and legacy. Joan has had an enormous impact on feminist sociology and organization studies through introducing  well-known conceptualizations such as gendered organizations and gendering organizational theory, gendered processes of organizations, the abstract bodiless worker and inequality regimes. Joan’s theoretical views are based on a careful and rich empirical work and analysis. She binds the empirical observations and theoretical thinking together so that they form thought-provoking insights. Continue reading “Thinking Nordwit research with Joan Acker”