Programme

(T163)
Improving gender balance from below
Location 112b
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 1

Convenor

  • Knut H Sørensen (Norwegian Univ. of Science and Technology) email

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Chair Siri Øyslebøe Sørensen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

Short Abstract

The session explores gender balance issues in academia, with a particular focus on the situation at the departmental level, and inclusion-oriented strategies of improvement.

Long Abstract

Gender balance has remained a problem for academic institutions, not the least with regard to the relative number of women at the professorial level. The papers in this session argues that this challenge should be analyzed from the local level, departments of all disciplines and professions, rather than as a problem particular to science, engineering and medicine (STEM). They combine a gender studies approach with STS, arguing that improved gender balance has to be achieved by strategies combining a gender focus with analysis of scholarly practices as well as beliefs about gender in science (including engineering, medicine and human sciences). The papers present new findings about gender balance diversity and local strategies to address or ignore such issues. In this way, they contribute to STS research by developing an improved understanding of gender aspects of scholarly work as well as how such imbalances may be remedied.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Engaging or dis-engaging: How heads of departments approach gender balance issues

Authors: Knut H Sørensen (Norwegian Univ. of Science and Technology)  email
Siri Øyslebø Sørensen (Norwegian Uni.of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

The paper draws on science studies approaches to develop an action-oriented understanding of the role of head of departments and their scientific leadership in engaging with gender balance issues among scientific staff.

Long Abstract

Gender balance problems in science tend to be understood as structural, focusing on issues like gender stereotypes, "leaking pipeline", and gender attributions. In this paper, draw on an action-oriented inclusion perspective (Sørensen, Faulkner, and Rommes 2011) to investigate the commitment to gender balance among heads of departments and their preferred strategies of addressing the issue. Furthermore, in line with this, we contribute to the gender in science literature by exploring local theories of gender balance dynamics.

There has been a strong focus on management as significant for achieving the goal of improving gender balance in senior positions in academia (see Dahlerup 2010; Rustad and Ericsson, 2010). This is also reflected in the action plan for gender balance (2014-2016) of the university we study, which states that: "Committed leadership and targeted measures are necessary in pursuit of a gender balanced university." Meanwhile, it is well known that epistemic cultures are not easily controlled top-down (see for example Pfister, 2009; Knorr Cetina 1999). Thus, becomes crucial to explore how gender balance issues are considered and enacted among university head of departments?

The analysis is based on data from a survey of heads of departments. The survey was designed to study their attitudes and initiatives concerning gender balance, and to illuminate perceptions of causes and effects of gender balance. Above all, the survey shows large diversity in the level of engagement among heads of departments. Also, findings suggest that many head of departments have gender balance low on their list of challenges.

Interdisciplinarity as an instrument of improved gender balance

Authors: Marianne Fostervold (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)  email
Vivian Anette Lagesen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

The paper analyses the potential of interdisciplinarity as a strategy to redefine doing technology and how this may be a tool for improved gender balance, as a contribution to STS investigations into gender, science and technology relations. It also discusses if this strategy is applicable to universities.

Long Abstract

This paper contributes to the STS literature by investigating how a redefinition of what is means to do technology worked as an instrument to improve the gender balance of a large organization dominated by men engineers. This modification of the technology policy of this organization arguably was a renegotiation of gender power relations (Wajcman 2009). The strong, pervasive and durable equation between science and technology on the one hand and masculinity on the other has been used to explain men's inclusion and women's exclusion in STEM disciplines. This presents an empirical study the efforts to improve the gender balance in the Norwegian Public Road Administration (NPRA). By extending the concept of technology and introducing a greater emphasis on team-based interdisciplinarity, the NPRA has succeeded in improving considerably its gender balance with respect to managerial positions through a more interdisciplinary definition of what it meant to do technology, which allowed the inclusion of people (women) with a background in social science and landscape architecture. While the women engineers were held in particularly high esteem, also compared to men engineers, they were no longer the only category of women available for promotion. Thus, this paper shows how dualisms as technical-social, hard-soft and male-female can be bent and how an extended perception of technology provides for diversity in the conception of professional relevance. In the conclusion, the paper discusses whether this use of interdisciplinarity as a strategy for improving gender balance holds promise also in university contexts.

Publication patterns - gender gap or local practices?

Author: Siri Øyslebø Sørensen (Norwegian Uni.of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

This paper develops an actor-network theory oriented approach to analyse possible gender patterns with respect to publication rates, studied at the level of departments. A main contribution is in the idea of studying scientific publication as socio-material assemblages.

Long Abstract

In STS, gender differences in publication rates of scientists are often linked to marital status, motherhood, women's relative lack of confidence, or discrimination (Fox, 2005; Mason et al., 2013). Others have argued that invisible research specialization is the "missing link" to understanding gender-related publication gaps (Leahey, 2006). However, publication rates differ substantially between departments; therefore, observed gender differences may be a level fallacy. We ask: how does the pattern vary across departments by investigating departmental and related epistemic cultures (Knorr-Cetina 1999) as contexts for analysing publication patterns and gender differences. What do publication rates patterns look like at this level, and to what extent do measures of differences between staff vary between departments? Do we find gender differences also at the departmental level? Furthermore, the paper analyses how patterns of difference are co-produced with other organizational and cultural factors like departmental management, publication policies, and awareness of gender issues. Are there any common features of departments with and without gender differences in publication output? Investigating these questions, the paper challenges common theories of the alleged gender gap. As an alternative, it develops an actor-network theory approach, studying publication patterns as socio-material assemblages (Latour, 2004). The study is based on a database of all scientific publications by person, position, and departmental affiliation of scientific employees at Norwegian University of Science and Technology in the whole period of 2010-2014.

The dynamics of gender balance: Science studies perspectives and beyond

Author: Vivian Anette Lagesen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

The paper contributes to the science studies literature on gender by analysing gender balance differences across departments and how they may be accounted for.

Long Abstract

The lack of gender balance among university professors has been explained through the accumulative disadvantages theory (Cole and Singer 1991) or 'the Matilda-effect' in science (Rossiter 1993). Such theories help understand aggregate gender patterns in academia. However, there are huge and often paradoxical variations in gender balance, not well explained by this and similar theories. This paper uses other science studies perspectives to demonstrate the need for an approach that highlights the importance of contextualized action "from below". We analyse statistical data about gender balance at all levels of Norway's largest university (NTNU, Norwegian University of Science and Technology), a survey of heads of departments, and interviews with scientific staff. STEM disciplines are often seen as much more gender unbalanced than the human sciences. However, we find larger variations within such fields than between them. Further, we observe a huge diversity with respect to performances relevant to gender balance. We suggest to describe this as the difference between 'gazelles' (rapid increase of women), 'turtles' (slow increase of women), 'rhinos' (low and and no increase of women), 'lionesses' (women-dominated departments) and 'zebras' (gender-balanced departments). These analytical categories have been developed as communication devices when investigating gender balance, inquiring into the effects of critical mass (Etzkowitz et al. 2000) to contribute to lasting change in gender balance. We also use these terms to theorize about inclusion measures and the importance of local motivation to address gender balance issues, providing new input to the science studies understanding of the dynamics of gender.

The experience of academic cultures: Perceptions of gender inclusion and future career options amongst women early career academics

Author: Guro Korsnes Kristensen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

This paper contributes to the STS literature on gender in/of science, exploring how early career women scientists perceive the academic culture they work in and local inclusion measures, promoting an action perspective.

Long Abstract

The STS literature on gender in science shows how academic cultures, scientists' identity-making and gender intersect in multiple and heterogeneous ways. Still, gender is often reduced to be just as a barrier for women in making an academic career. Empirical studies of academic culture shows that gender stereotypes are shown to influence perceptions of competence and merit in peer review processes (i. e Reuben et al. 2014; Shepardson og Pizzini 1992; Tregenza 2002 ). Others have emphasized how discourses of ambition are inherently gendered, resulting in patterns of gender inequality (Benschop, Brink, Doorewaard og Leenders 2013). Scientists' self-understanding is shaped by diverse understandings of research purposes (Pielke 2007), but also influenced by gendered perceptions of the self (Søndergaard 2003). Also, the "leaking pipeline" argument highlights gender as mainly an exclusion issue. This focus on gender balance problems have provided difficult to translate into effective actions to change the situation. Thus, this paper is built on the idea that it is more fruitful to turn the attention towards inclusion mechanisms (cf. Sørensen, Faulkner and Rommes 2011) and how they may influence the perceptions of future career options among women early career academics. How do women in such positions experience their work culture, and what do they see as efficient strategies for improving the gender balance? The paper is based on qualitative interviews with early career women scientists at NTNU. The interviewees are selected from departments with different levels of gender balance and gender balance change patterns.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.