I have a bachelor’s degree in educational psychology and am only a matter of weeks away from completing my master’s degree in gender studies. I have read my fair share of feminist theory and have adopted the epistemological stance that all knowledge and knowledge production is necessarily subjective, culturally and temporally situated (see for e.g. Haraway, 1991). Science, as I understand it, has the responsibility not only to produce new knowledge, but also to critically examine that knowledge and the conditions and processes in which it was produced, in order to minimize the effect of cultural bias and socioeconomic privilege.
I have, however, the good fortune of being close friends with an engineering student, and over the past year or so, we have had many fascinating discussions about epistemology and the philosophy of science, and I have come to understand just how foreign human sciences are to those who primarily deal in the natural sciences and technology. Continue reading “Equality in the newly formed Tampere University”→
Publishing is one of those things many academics do as part of their daily job, but the details and mechanics of it – beyond the question of where and/or with which publisher one publishes – are often not discussed. The question of indexing one’s volume (an issue for those in disciplines where publishing books is part of the norm), for example, raises its head at the end of a long process when one’s work has gone into production. For a long time it has been common to ask authors if they want to index their own work, or have it done professionally (set off against any royalties, which are mostly negligible). Indexing can be time-consuming so the latter option often seems sensible.
However, for the first time I have just encountered a serious academic press, Manchester University Press, stating that it is no longer providing indexing services. Now authors has to secure such services which typically apparently cost £350-£500, themselves. So, not only do authors do all their work for the publishers (the researching, writing and preparing of the book) themselves in advance and without remuneration (their ‘research’ time usually not covering that activity, however vital it is for the ranking of their institution); they now also have to organize, and pay out of their own pockets (or via their institutions) for, indexing. One wonders what book publishers actually do . . . Authors, beware!
On 18 September Marja Vehviläinen from Tampere University and her team there, together with Hannele Varsa of TANE, the Finnish Council for Gender Equality, hosted a high-level seminar involving representatives from the Finnish regions, from Nordic national innovation and research funders, and from NGOs in debates about gender equality in research and innovation. The event was part of the work conducted by Nordwit, our Nordforsk-funded Centre of Excellence looking at women in technology-driven careers.
The seminar highlighted prominently the different ways in which policy makers within the Nordic countries but also beyond seek to address gender imbalances in research and innovation, from the very structured process-oriented view of the Swedish funder Vinnova to a more diversity-oriented approach by Business Finland. Regional difficulties were made apparent in debates that indicated how European structural funds favour male-dominated industries with the effect that female-dominated ones that are equally necessary in the regions such as care and social work are not supported through those funds. Innovation is thus often already gendered through the very policies that are intended to encourage economic change. The entanglement of economic with social change remains a fraught phenomenon – more research, please!
On 18 September a major conference on Gender Equality in Research and Innovation was held at the Music Centre in Helsinki. The afternoon was devoted to questions of research and innovation in different Finnish regions whilst the morning was devoted to Nordic and European perspectives from the position of funders, policy makers, ministries etc. Discussion about the regions threw up some interesting issues including, for example, the problem that European structural funds tend to favour male-dominated professions (forestry, industry) but cannot be used for the female-dominated ones such as carework etc. In consequence there are significant labour shortages in those areas in some Finnish regions. What is more a study on a small town into which a significant car manufacturer was introduced showed that whilst this created 4000+ jobs, not least for young men, there was no equivalent for women, with a dramatic result on the demographics of this place where young men were very dissatisfied with their life situation because, if heterosexual, they could not find partners. Food for thought! Economically driven innovation needs to be matched by considerations of their social and cultural impacts – young women (also) go where they can find work and life opportunities, and one without the other is clearly not enough.
During some busy weeks this autumn we are inviting research and innovation environments, including research projects, higher education, R&I funders, private and public IT sector, schools and science museums and more, across the western part of Norway to dialogue meetings about competence and recruitment.
Recruiting the “right” competence to technology driven research and innovation can be challenging, in particular in the rural region. Simultaneously we see that very few women apply for IT education in this region – this year only 3% against the national average of 26% women. Our research also indicates that there are few women working in the private IT sector in this region. An important question for the IT sector in general, and in this region in particular, is therefore: how can we recruit the best from all, not only half the population?
Based on our Nordwit research and in collaboration with FixIT, we have developed recommendations to the research and innovation environments for how they can build a strategy for better gender balance, how to remove discrimination and secure diversity in recruitment processes, and to identify how the organization can develop internal routines to secure an inclusive environment.
In gender studies we often struggle with the question of how to study gender without reinforcing gender binary, how to undo the stereotypical understanding of women and men, or femininities and masculinities. On the one hand, in the studies of gender and working life, we need the statistics that show for example the number of women and men in different hierarchical professional positions or the pay gap between women and men. Though the questionnaires behind the statistics more and more include the possibility to choose more than two genders or to un-choose gender completely, the statistically relevant genders remain women and men. These statistics are of course important when we want to study and discuss the structural inequalities in working life.
In Nordwit, the focus on gender is mainly on how our study participants experience gender in their everyday (working) life. With our qualitative materials, we can interpret how gender is done in the interviews and workshops, like which themes does gender entangle with and how. However, to understand and develop the methodology of how to study and make visible how gender is undone or not going on, or how is it becoming with, in empirical projects, is still quite challenging. To tackle the issue, we are organizing a stream called “Beyond the gender binary: Empirical research and conceptual developments in times of transformation” in next year’s Gender, Work and Organization Conference at the University of Kent.
In our stream, we consider, for example: is it possible to empirically show that undoing and not doing is what is happening at a certain moment and in a certain place without either reifying old gender binary thinking or downplaying and overlooking the post-feminist rhetorics of equality and individual agency? What are the respective implications for sampling, research design, and data analysis? While established methods of data collection such as interviews, documents, visual analyses and observations are suitable for reconstructing happenings, doings and sayings, those methodological reflections are still under development that aim at reconstructing something that is being avoided, not talked about, forgotten or even set aside.
We are eagerly looking forward to this upcoming discussion next June. We invite you to join us with your theoretical, methodological and empirical reflections of researching doings and undoings of gender as well as other doings of differences.
The deadline for the abstract submission is 1st November 2019.
You can find more information about our stream here and about the conference here.
Stream Convenors: Ursula Offenberger
I originally approached Marja Vehviläinen, who at the time was one of my teachers, to ask her about the practicalities of the internship that is a part of my master’s degree. To my delight, she invited me to work with Nordwit as an intern and help the Tampere research team organise a seminar about gender equality in research and innovation, in collaboration with the Council for Gender Equality at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, to be held in September 2019. My duties as an intern have chiefly consisted of building the seminar website, as well as communicating about the seminar on social media and via email, trying to reach as many people as possible who might have an interest in or a need for attending the seminar. Continue reading “Organising a gender equality seminar as an intern for Nordwit”→