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Gender equality is still far-off at UiA

There are far more male than female professors at UiA, and the male professors also seem to have more power, according to May-Linda Magnussen, project leader for research in UiA’s Balance Project.

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The Balance Project at UiA has been working on improving the gender balance of the top positions and research leadership at UiA.
May-Linda Magnussen

May-Linda Magnussen

"Our material indicates an imbalance in the power relations at UiA. The male academic employees have greater academic power than the females," Magnussen says. She is also a senior researcher at NORCE and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Sociology and Social Work. 

The study is funded by UiA and the Research Council of Norway’s Gender Balance programme and lasts for three years from 2015 to 2018. The Balance Project at UiA will work for improving the gender balance in top positions and research leadership. A number of different measures have also been initiated to get more female professors at UiA.

"More emphasis on excellent research at UiA makes women’s road to getting a professor title even longer. Throughout history and even today, it is first and foremost men who have defined the requirements for becoming a professor. These requirements have not been as well-suited for the women," Magnussen says.

The material also shows that the requirements are often not applicable to what women do and what they want to do as academics.

Informal power processes

For their study, Magnussen and her colleagues have interviewed, among others, female associate professors about their work days and research careers at UiA. Many find it challenging to attain the title of professor due to informal power processes. There, women are excluded, and the criteria render a lot of their academic work irrelevant.

"Many experience that men with the same position and same talent as the women are made more visible and get more chances. Respondents tell that inconspicuous and subtle ways are used to promote men who other men find talented. This is not done to the same degree for women. They are not talked about as often or praised in the same way as the men," Magnussen says.

Magnussen underlines that challenges related to equality and gender balance apply to all of UiA. But the type of challenges varies greatly.

"The faculties and the departments at UiA have to start looking at their local challenges. They must understand the social processes, what role gender plays and then investigate what can be done to even out the power and gender balance and facilitate increased diversity," Magnussen says.

Karen-Lise Knudsen is the project leader for the Balance Project and believes it is important to focus on the gender balance at UiA.Important for the university

"We want both genders to have equal opportunities to reach the top of their field. We must keep strengthening the processes so more women can become professors. This work cannot be completed in just a few years. This work will take a long time," Knudsen says.

Progress for women

Karen-Lise Knudsen

Karen-Lise Knudsen

When the project started in 2015, only 19 % of the professors at UiA were female. Now, it is 27 %.

"This is a step in the right direction. We have started a lot, but there is still work to be done here at UiA. We will continue working on this," Knudsen says. 

The Balance Project has initiated many measures to get more female associate professors to become professors. Among other things, the women receive guidance in writing applications for being promoted to professor status. They have also received help in assessing their professor competence prior to writing proposal.

"Such measures support the goal of increasing the percentage of female professors to 35. This is an ambitious goal, but it is not impossible for UiA," Knutsen says.

Finishing before Christmas

The Balance Project ends with a final conference at UiA on 7 December. There, Magnussen will present more results from the research and development project.