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

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

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.

ICT Changes Everything! But Who Changes ICT?

10pctwomenWe know that the proportion of women in IT education has been low for decades, but it was still disconcerting to welcome the students to the brand new Bachelor’s degree in information technology in Sogn and Fjordane last week, and find that there are only 3 women among the new students in a group of close to 30 students.

Clem Herman, Radhika Gajjala (WNRI team), and myself have a chapter in press with the title “ICT Changes Everything! But Who Changes ICT?” Through examples we illustrate the effects of a feminist gaze on ICT, including the importance of questioning who is producing and shaping technology.


Information and communication technology (ICT) has a changing power and digitalization is gradually changing society in all aspects of life. Across the western world, men are in majority in the ICT industry, thus, the computer programs that change “everything” are most often made by men. Unless questioned, this male dominance can be perceived as a “norm” and becomes invisible. Against this background, this paper will provide three examples of how a feminist gaze can contribute to raise important questions and produce an awareness of how exclusion mechanisms have produced a highly homosocial tendency in design of ICT systems in the western world.

The three cases illustrate how a feminist gaze leading to feminist interventions can make a difference in various ways. The first author presents a case study of a pilot for involving programming in public education in secondary schools in Norway, where a complete lack of gender awareness makes this an offer for boys in most schools. Author two presents a case study comparing the situation in the IT business in the UK and India, finding challenges not only to the situation in the western world, but also to white western feminism. Author three discusses alternatives ways of involving women in ICT work, through practices of feminist pedagogy, emphasizing hands-on work.

To be published here in September:

Welcome, Gilda!


You might have noticed her name, as she has already been part-time involved in Nordwit. From 1th of August, Gilda Seddighi will be working full-time at Western Norway Research Institute (WNRI), where one of her main tasks will be to participate in Nordwit.

Gilda has a PhD from Department for Information Science and Media Studies and affiliated with the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research from University of Bergen, with the thesis “Politicization of grievable lives in Iranian Facebook pages” (2017). Gilda’s main research interests are focused on construction of meaning, gender and identity in relation to information and communication technology, emphasising an inclusive and democratic society by making visible marginalised voices.

We are happy to welcome Gilda as a member of the Nordwit team!