Kumpula Campus Women in Science Network – what we did in 2019

For five years, Kumpula Campus Women in Science Network has acted as an informal network of scientists, researchers, students and staff at Kumpula Campus. We aim to promote Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), give visibility to women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), and support networking.

Our most traditional and frequent activity is a monthly lunch at Dynamicum on the first Monday of each month. Typically around ten people, representing all genders, gather together to share thoughts, ideas and news in a pleasant company. We do not have any specific agenda for our lunch meetings but we always have a lot of inspiring, important and timely themes to discuss.

In 2019, members from our network participated in several activities to promote well-being and diversity at Kumpula Campus. For example, in the beginning of the year, David Weir, Eija Tuominen and Samuli Siltanen were nominated as a small task force to compile Kumpula Campus Code of Conduct, after which they all have participated in several staff meetings to promote the code.

In October, many of us participated in Athena Swan and Project Juno Information Event, towards equal opportunities in academia, supported by the British Embassy, and organized by David, Eija, Samuli, David Whipp and Hanna Vehkamäki. In November, we attended the Second Conference of Nordic Network for Diversity in Physics, where Eija, Hanna and Katja Lauri served as the local organizing committee.

In December, we had our traditional Christmas coffee party. Our alumna Paola Elefante, currently working at Plan International as Digital Scaling Project Manager, talked about how achieving gender equality is impeded by the fact that we live in a world designed for men: e.g.  medicine, technical devices and safety accessories are designed for the size of men, not women (transparencies here).

Many of us also participate in other groups to promote inclusion. For example, Diversity in Physics Finland, FinDiP, working group of the Finnish Physical Society FPS, aims to improve diversity in physics in general and opportunities for female physicists in particular. Helsinki Association of Women Researchers HELWOR aims to improve the position of women in the scientific community. In Kumpula we also have an active LGBTI+ staff and student group, which organized several social events such as boardgame evenings and a picnic in 2019. Many of us are also members in departmental well-being groups, such as those at Physics&HIP and INAR.

People of all genders, professions and career stages are warmly welcome to join us! Via our mailing list and our website, we share information about interesting events, articles, thoughts, policies, and whatever we think might interest us. Together we can make our campus into an even more equal, diverse and inclusive place for everyone to work, study and visit.

Towards Equal Opportunities in Academia – Examples from Athena SWAN and Project Juno, UK

Information meeting about the Athena SWAN and Project Juno equality and diversity initiatives was held in the University of Helsinki Kumpula Campus on 11.10.2019.

These UK schemes seek to put processes that improve equality and diversity on a more firm footing within academic departments, and have seen very widespread adoption. With growing interest in similar schemes in Finland, we have invited some experts to continue the discussion.

After the opening words by UH vice-rector Tom Böhling, Gary Loke from Advance HE introduced the Athena SWAN scheme which covers all disciplines, while the physics-specific Project Juno scheme was presented by Professor Nicola Wilkin, University of Birmingham and chair of the Juno Panel. The presentations were followed by a panel discussion including Mark Hindmarsh, Department of Physics, and time for networking.

To find out more, please have a look on the video from the event by David Whipp.

Pictures from the event (photographs by Jennifer Ott):



More info: Eija Tuominen, Hanna Vehkamäki or David Weir.

Nordic Network for Diversity in Physics conference in Helsinki 4-5.11.2019

Although our summer holiday season is just beginning, let us mark our calendars for the second Nordic Network for Diversity in Physics (NORNDiP) conference that will take place in Helsinki November 4th-5th, 2019. Representatives of all genders are welcome to submit an abstract on either physical sciences or diversity/equality work in the field of physics. Special focus of the conference is implicit bias about which we have as the keynote speaker Prof. Jadranka Gvozdanovic, the author of a recent LERU report.

I had the joy and privilege to participate in the first NORNDiP conference last autumn in Stockholm. There, the specific theme was how to improve the diversity in physics. Several important points contributing to the diversity were discussed, e.g. awareness, transparency, policies, practical actions, management, data collection, surveys, statistics, measures of evaluation, role models, and the effect of implicit bias. Although the conference mostly discussed the theme of gender, we have to remember that diversity is diverse, including also the themes of gender identity, age, religion or belief, nationality, culture, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, seniority, health, disability, family situation, pregnancy or caring responsibilities.

You will find more info about the second NORNDiP conference, including links to presentations, in the conference webpage.

Support group for people who have experienced sexual harassment

As revealed by the recent survey by the Helsinki Association of Women Researchers, sexual harassment is persistent in the University of Helsinki.  Thus, the association will arrange a support group for people who have experienced sexual harassment in academia.
Meeting times during the Fall term are:
Wednesday, November 7th
Wednesday, December 19th
The place is on the Center Campus of the University of Helsinki.
For more information, please contact: helsinkiwor@gmail.com


Greetings from the European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education

I had the joy and privilege to participate in the 10th European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education (link), 20 – 22 August 2018 in Dublin Ireland with the kind support of the Finnish Cultural Foundation (Suomen Kulttuurirahasto). The University of Helsinki hosted the very first European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education in 1998. The next one will take place in Madrid in two years.

This conference was useful and pleasant for the same reasons that all the conferences are useful and pleasant: I learn useful information about the subject, I meet and network with great people – and I get extra confidence that I am doing the right thing for my work. Or, in the case of gender equality, I am doing the right thing for my side activity. After all, my main activity is to run a laboratory and study radiation detectors for particle physics.

Throughout the conference, several outstanding speakers emphasized that gender equality is equality for both men and women. It is widely acknowledged that diverse communities make better decisions. The significant underrepresentation of women in higher education institutes is not only injustice towards competent individuals but also a terrible loss of human potential. European countries just cannot afford to lose so many women in higher education.

Students are important for us in the Academic World. Several recent studies reveal that girls perform excellently in all the disciplines at school, including mathematics and physics. Nevertheless, at the Faculty of Science of the University of Helsinki, we see that young women are less interested than young men to enter the STEM disciplines. At that stage, role models play an important role: we women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics can show that this is the right place to be for everyone.

The importance of informal women’s networks (such as our Women in Kumpula network) were emphasized. These networks are not only for discussing gender issues and improving gender awareness but also for discussing scientific topics, providing role models and mentoring, and exchanging ideas. Networks can act as structures that are needed to fight the consequences of unconscious bias – a significant obstacle for female careers in science.

I gave a well-attended presentation about sexual harassment in Finnish Academia, based on the recent study by the Helsinki Association of Women Researchers (HelWoR). We investigated the frequency of occurrences of sexual harassment; the difficulty of defining what sexual harassment is; how seldom people report their experiences; and the negative responses people get when they report. Our study also revealed critical areas, which should be considered to prevent sexual harassment in future.

One confusing thing there was in this conference: European colleagues kept asking me why gender equality does not interest Finland. They were surprised that, among the 364 conference participants in this conference, only me and a lady from Tampere were from Finland. In addition, it was HelWoR who sent me, not my university. Nevertheless, let us be positive: let us hope that gender strategies will turn into good gender practices in Finnish Academia!