ESOF 2018: NordForsk spotlights gender equality in academia

Photo: Jakob Chortsen

ESOF 2018: NordForsk spotlights gender equality in academia

More than 4 000 researchers, educators, business professionals, politicians and journalists from around the world took part in the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF), which is held every second year. This year’s conference was held in Toulouse, France, and NordForsk was responsible for a 75-minute session that included a panel discussion on gender balance and underrepresentation of women in academia.

Gender equality is essential for the development of democratic societies. The future of the knowledge economy in Europe and the rest of the world depends on our ability to attract the best qualified men and women. Yet there is still a long way to go before women and men have the same opportunities in academia. The underrepresentation of women in academia, especially in leadership positions, remains one of the most important issues in research and higher education.

NordForsk arranged a discussion on challenges and possible solutions in this area. Senior Adviser Lotta Strandberg and Director Arne Flåøyen, both of NordForsk, made introductory comments, after which Jesper Simonsen, chair of the programme committee for the Nordic research programme Gender in the Nordic Research and Innovation Area and Executive Director of the Division for Society and Health at the Research Council of Norway, discussed the ambitions and expectations of the programme.

After this, the two NordForsk-funded Nordic Centres of Excellence conducting research on gender balance and underrepresentation of women in academia presented their research. Uppsala University Professor Gabriele Griffin and Liza Reisel, Research Director for Equality, Inclusion and Migration at the Institute for Social Research, explained their ideas for meeting the challenges associated with the gender paradox.

The first part of the session was concluded by Marcela Linkova in her capacity as chair of the European Research Area and Innovation Committee’s (ERAC’s) working group Gender in Research and Innovation.

“There is an enormous need for research on gender equality in research and innovation,” Dr Linkova said from the podium. “What we especially need are comparative studies to obtain a better understanding of the field. The Nordic countries are already doing this, and we could use more research of this kind in the rest of Europe.”

After the first part had concluded there was a panel debate in which each panellist had three minutes to answer the question: “How should Nordic cooperation on gender equality in the research and the innovation sector be developed in coming years to achieve greatest effect?” This generated a lively discussion in which members of the panel fielded many questions about dealing with future challenges in the field.



EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF)
Established by EuroScience in 2004, the EuroScience Open Forum brings together more than 4,000 researchers, educators, business sector actors, policy-makers and journalists from around the world every second year to discuss breakthroughs in science.

See the conference website


Text and photo: Jakob Chortsen