Improving Diversity in Science in Kumpula Campus in 2020

Year 2020 has been extraordinary everywhere in the world – and also in our Network of Kumpula Campus Women of Science. Most of us have mostly worked remotely – but some of us have met regularly online at our traditional monthly lunches. We have followed the instructions of staying safe and staying healthy. But the work for promoting equality and diversity continues is many fronts. 

It is a well-known fact that diverse communities make better science. People representing different genders, nationalities, ethnicities, cultures and personal characteristics bring in diverse experiences, practices, perspectives, values, and motivations thus increasing the quality of the process and effectiveness of scientific inquiry (Hunt et al, 2015; Medin & Lee, 2012, Nielsen et al, 2018; Schiebinger et al., 2017).

However, especially women are seriously underrepresented in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), resulting in so-called gender tweezers (EU She Figures, 2018). The same trend is visible in the UH Faculty of Science (Staff of the faculty, 2019). Paradoxically, in Finland where the The Global Gender Gap Index measuring gender equality is particularly high, the proportion of females graduating from STEM disciplines is particularly low (Stoet & Geary, 2018). Simultaneously at Finnish primary schools, girls perform better than boys both in mathematics and in science (TIMMS, 2015).

Although the reason for the Finnish gender equality paradox remain unclear, there is a wide body international studies about the reasons for the under-representation of females and minorities in scientific career. Especially, there is increasing amount of research about implicit biases in Academia and their effect on women’s careers (Gvozdanović & Maes, 2018). In the fields dominated by white males, the lack of role models and mentoring has an effect, too (Quimby and Santis, 2006). Furthermore, demands for international mobility affect the career development of scientists with family responsibilities (Ward & Wolf-Wendel, 2004).

Sadly, the problem of the under-representation of minorities in science does not disappear by itself. The extremely slow development in STEM disciplines during the last two decades is clearly seen e.g. in EU She Figures, published every third year (EU She Figures 2018 & EU She Figures 2006). According to a recent study, if the current situation continues, it will take more than two centuries before female physicists rise alongside their male colleagues as senior authors of physics articles (Holman et al, 2018).

Luckily, proactive methods in promoting the careers of females and other minorities do pay off. In our Faculty of Science, we have paid special attention in the importance of increasing the diversity in our campus. Thus, although we still have way to go to the desired fraction of 40%, we have excellent development e.g. in the amount of female and non-Finnish physics professors during the past 25 years, see the Figure compiled by Dean Kai Nordlund about the percentage of female and foreign physics professors during 1995-2020 at the UH Faculty of Science.

The situation of diversity can be improved – but proactive methods are needed for making the change. In our faculty, we maintain continuous and active discussion and sensitization about the importance of diversity. For example, we have special talks and presentations in the faculty and department meetings and colloquia. In addition, we continuously organize training events about how to combat implicit bias and sexual harassment. Furthermore, as scientist we understand the value of data and, thus, we continuously collect statistics about the diversity in our faculty.

An important factor for creating an attractive and inclusive work place is the level of work well-being. In our faculty, we strive for a better working environment by several methods. We have special well-being working groups in every department. We have volunteer low-threshold contact points who have got special training for supporting staff and students in the issues of well-being. We even have A4-notes scotched in the walls of every toilet of the campus to guide people to find help in any cases of unpleasant events they might have experienced. We were the first UH Faculty to introduce Code of Conduct that clearly, positively and proactively states how we be behave in our campus and what kind of behavior we expect from each other.

In our Faculty of Science, we participate in several networks in promoting diversity. These include Diversity in Physics Finland (FinDiP) of the Finnish Physical Society (https://blogs.helsinki.fi/diversityinphysics/),  Kumpula-LGBTQIAP+ (https://blogs.helsinki.fi/kumpula-lgbtq/), Helsinki Association of Women Researchers (HELWOR) (https://blogs.helsinki.fi/tutkijanaiset/), EU GENERA Network (www.genera_network.eu) – and the Kumpula Campus Women in Science Network (https://blogs.helsinki.fi/kumpulawomen/).

 

References

EU She Figures (2018). https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/she-figures-2018_en, Fig. 6.2, opened 02.12.2020.

EU She Figures (2006). https://ec.europa.eu/research/swafs/pdf/pub_gender_equality/she_figures_2006_en.pdf, Fig. 3.2, opened 02.12.2020.

Gvozdanović, J., & Maes, K. (2018). Implicit bias in academia: A challenge to the meritocratic principle and to women‘s careers – And what to do about it. Technical Report 23. Advice paper.

Holman, Luke, Devi Stuart-Fox, and Cindy E. Hauser (2018). The gender gap in science: How long until women are equally represented? PLoS biology 16.4 (2018): e2004956.

Hunt, Vivian, Dennis Layton, and Sara Prince (2015). Diversity matters. McKinsey & Company 1.1: 15-29.

Medin, Douglas L., and Carol D. Lee (2012). Diversity makes better science. APS Observer 25.5.

Nielsen, Mathias Wullum, et al. (2017). Opinion: Gender diversity leads to better science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114.8: 1740-1742.

Nielsen, Mathias Wullum, Carter Walter Bloch, and Londa Schiebinger (2018). Making gender diversity work for scientific discovery and innovation. Nature human behavior 2.10: 726-734.

Quimby, Julie L., and Angela M. De Santis (2006). The influence of role models on women’s career choices.” The Career Development Quarterly 54.4: 297-306.

Schiebinger et al. (2017). Gender diversity leads to better science, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 114(8), 1740.

Staff of the faculty (2019). Faculty of Science, University of Helsinki (2019), https://www.helsinki.fi/en/faculty-of-science/faculty/staff-of-the-faculty. Opened 02.12.2020.

Stoet, Gijsbert, and David C. Geary (2018). The gender-equality paradox in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. Psychological science 29.4: 581-593, Fig. 3.

TIMMS (2015). IEA TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, international assessments in mathematics and science, Exhibits 1.10 http://timss2015.org/download-center/ . Opened 02.12.2020.

Ward, Kelly, and Lisa Wolf-Wendel (2004). Academic motherhood: Managing complex roles in research universities. The Review of Higher Education 27.2: 233-257.

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.

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

 

Upcoming event: NORNDiP Conference

The Nordic Network for Diversity in Physics, NORNDiP, was created in 2017. The organization aims to “establish a strong, wide, and inclusive network of women and men in physics and related sciences, who live, work, study or have scientific collaborations within the Nordic countries, in order to increase awareness on important topics such as equality, gender balance, and diversity and decrease the gap at all levels between male and female scientists.”

The network will have its first large-scale event, the first annual NORNDiP conference on diversity in physics on October 24-25 at the Albanova Centre in Stockholm, Sweden. The conference will feature a mix of scientific talks, talks on topics related to diversity, and a phenomenal panel discussion. Everyone is very welcome!

You can find the conference details and registration information at: https://norndip.com/nordip-conference-2018/