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.

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