The report Spotlight on gender equality: When insecurity overshadows everything show that women face more obstacles than men in their academic careers. Academia is a highly hierarchical world, and that is one of the causes of gender inequality at universities and colleges. Women have a poorer situation generally in academia, which in practice means poorer employment conditions, a poorer working environment and greater difficulties with regard to both funding and promotions. Women are treated differently from men in a way that disadvantages them. At the same time, the upper echelons, those who have the decision-making power, still comprise a large proportion of men.
At the level of professor, the majority are men and the minority are women. Today, not even a third of professors in Sweden are women, and it is a statement of fact that it takes longer for women to become professors. The proportion of female professors has increased, but at a snail’s pace, and the danger is that we will have to wait another quarter of a century before we achieve gender balance.
Why is gender inequality a problem?
As well as the obvious issue of fairness, it is evident that there is a problem when it comes to quality. If academic careers are founded on other criteria than merit, the recruitment base will shrink and people with the potential to become excellent researchers and university teachers will be left on the sidelines. There is an increased risk of homogeneity in research and teaching when people with different backgrounds, genders and perspectives are not given opportunities to test their ideas and share their thoughts with each other. Environments characterised by equality perform better and utilising all the skills and competence at the disposal of an institution should be a matter of course for improving the quality of both education and research. Quite simply, higher education benefits from having people with different backgrounds and experience at the top, but that is not the reality in academia.
Facing obstacles due to your gender or having to manoeuvre around the prevailing norms takes time and energy that could otherwise be spent on gaining career development qualifications. Another energy-sapping factor is a poor work environment, and as the report shows, this affects greater numbers of women more than it does men.
In order for Sweden to be a leading knowledge nation, academic careers must offer decent – and equal – conditions for both women and men.
Read the report Spotlight on gender equality: When insecurity overshadows everything