Few women professors in Sweden

2006-08-28 14:51

Why is it that Sweden and Norway - countries that have invested actively in gender equality for a long time – have not been as successful as the Baltic countries or many Eastern European or Mediterranean countries?

This question was raised by Liisa Husu, Doctor of Social Science at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies at Helsinki University. Husu gave a lecture entitled “Europe needs more women researchers” on the international women’s day in Stockholm.

– The Swedish government probably has the best gender equality rhetoric, and they have launched countless measures and goals since the 1980s to improve the gender balance in research. Despite this, the number of women professors is no higher than the European average. The increase has been insignificant and slow.

In 2002, according to Liisa Husu’s compilation, Lettland, Portugal, and Finland had the highest number of women professors, twenty percent. In many countries in the European Union such as Denmark, Holland and the Czech Republic, less than ten percent of the professors were women. In Sweden, the figure was fourteen percent.

– It is especially thought-provoking that Sweden, Norway, and Denmark had a lower percentage of women graduate students in 2001 than the other European countries on average, says Liisa Husu.

But Finland differs from the other Nordic countries with 46 percent women Ph.D.s, as compared to 39 percent in Sweden and 34 percent in Norway.

– Apparently, it is not countries with an active and long-term gender equality politics that are at the top of the class, said Liisa Husu.

This does not mean that gender equality politics should be completely discarded. The slow pace of change reveals, rather, something about the resistance to increased gender equality and how deeply rooted the gender dynamics in the academy is.

What can be done, then, to change the situation? More women in executive committees in research and research politics in the European Union are some suggestions, according to Liisa Husu. It must be easier to combine research and family life, ‘academic excellence’ must be scrutinized through gender glasses, gender research must be strengthened, and women’s participation in research in science and technology must be increased. There is also a need for more international studies to increase the understanding of how male dominance is produced and reproduced in the academy

– Even as women’s competence is increased all the time, said Liisa Husu.

Author Lena Olson
Source The article is also published in the journal Gender Research in Sweden.
show more news ›