The purpose of this joint statement, developed at the initiative of the Nordic young academies and further reinforced with the support of the Baltic young academies, is to identify initiatives and strategies that may improve gender equality in academia. We take gender equality to be not only a matter of fairness, but also a powerful tool for greater diversity, leading to higher quality and excellence in science. This statement is aimed at universities, research councils and decision makers in the Nordic and Baltic countries.
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The Nordic countries are often referred to as the countries with the highest gender equality in the world. In such circumstances, explicit goals and initiatives for gender equality can be perceived as superfluous, as the current imbalance is expected to fix itself with time. However, if we want to achieve gender equality within a reasonable period of time, targeted initiatives should be introduced. Also, women may face specific obstacles at major points of career development preventing them from reaching the top (e.g. implicit bias,, stereotype-threat and outright discrimination). Such obstacles need to be addressed since they may not resolve themselves over time. According to a report by the Nordic Council of Ministers, there is a loss of women across the academic career pipeline, and all the Nordic countries have a relative underrepresentation of women among professors and in top research leadership positions. Moreover, discrimination on the basis of gender may be compounded by discrimination on the basis of sexuality and ethnic background, which means that for instance ethnic minority women risk facing double discrimination. A recent survey by the Young Academy of Norway found that women are less certain than men that they will be working in research in the future and are less likely to recommend a research career to others.
Academic institutions need to pay closer attention to these challenges and integrate gender equality goals within their overarching strategies, policies and culture, building on the important gender equality initiatives already undertaken by universities in the Nordic countries. We urge leaders and decision-makers at academic institutions, research funding agencies, and politicians to consider and adopt the following measures relating to recruitment, promotion and funding allocations; leadership and gender equality targets; working conditions; international mobility, and academic publishing and conferences.
We believe that visible and radical changes in gender equality can be obtained through changes to processes of recruitment, promotion and allocation of research funding. Institutions and committees involved in these processes should:
We see improvement of gender equality and a better balance of men and women in academia as a leadership responsibility. Leadership within academic institutions and funding bodies should use gender balance targets as a leadership tool, and:
For young researchers, the period when they are most likely to start a family often coincides with holding temporary positions. This is difficult for both male and female researchers, but since the length of parental leave that women and men take tends to differ, women may face particular challenges. We urge academic employers to implement initiatives directed towards young researchers in temporary positions to prevent the loss of talent from this group, and advise the following actions, whenever legally possible:
Internationalisation and mobility can increase the quality of research through, for example, the opportunity to collaborate with other researchers and experience different research environments. It is – and should be – a natural part of research and higher education. However, an increased focus on mobility and internationalisation in academia also raises several issues that should be taken into consideration when targeting gender equality. First, it may be difficult to take a family on a research stay abroad. Also, women often have a lower salary than men,, and may be more likely to give up their mobility ambitions once they have a family than men. Matters may be even more complicated for families with double careers. Also, the hosting country may have less availability of child care, which may also be very expensive. Finally, a more traditional gender structure of the hosting country may also make a research stay abroad more difficult for women. To meet some of these challenges, we advise institutions or funding agencies to:
In many academic disciplines, women are less likely to publish in prestigious journals and to be invited as plenary speakers at scientific meetings/conferences/workshops. We therefore urge organizing committees of conferences and journal editors to:
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 At NTNU in Norway, PhD and postdoctoral fellows with a parental leave exceeding six months can apply for a one-month extension of the period of employment.
 Swedish Higher Education Authority, (2018) Higher education in Sweden 2018 status report. Retrieved from https://english.uka.se/download/18.7f89790216483fb85588e86/1534509947612/Report-2018-06-26-higher-education-in-Sweden-2018.pdf External link, opens in new window.
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