I’m only just starting to wet my toes in the complicated seas of university politics, but shudder at Lisbeth exhausted post and Torill’s only slightly cheering followup about struggling as a new academic trying to make a difference.
Torill mentions the added difficulties of being a young woman in this system. I suspect young men have their problems too, but still, at our university they’ve noticed that far more women than men drop out in that transition from writing your PhD thesis to teaching and researching as a junior staff member, which is exactly where Lisbeth is right now.
My university is actually trying to help with this transition, and they do have lots of information on gender in the university and their attempts to attain a better balance. They’re starting up a mentor program. I find it amusing that I don’t qualify for the program. I finished my PhD a few months too early and am already in transition you see, on my second or third short-term contract, I’ve lost track, but hey, I’ll be alright, I’ve found myself lots of mentors and peers and support already, and I love the centre of my job, the research and the teaching, despite all the annoyances, so I’ll be sticking around.
But I do notice being in the minority. Almost all my colleagues are men. Correct that: apart from the secretaries, the only woman I work with and regularly attend meetings with is Hilde. Thank god for the internet and the telephone: using them I do have lots of contact with women in other departments and institutions. But it does make a difference to work almost exclusively with people of the opposite sex. I’ve never experienced explicit discrimination, men are great, it’s not that, it’s just that it would be really nice and a lot easier to figure out my role in this strange new world of actually being a nearly fully-fledged academic if there were more women around.
Here’s a table showing the gender imbalance of the academic staff here. This includes everyone from people with PhD fellowships (you’re not a student, here, when you’re working on a PhD, you’re in a recruitment position and your salary and pension rights and so on are about the same as a nurse’s, though you don’t get extra pay for the night shifts…), through post docs up to full professors. Blue is for women, burgundy is for men, and “år” means “years”.
It’s even worse if you look at the positions people are in. This table shows gender related to your title. In Norway we skip assistent professor, you only get hired if you have a PhD and if you have a PhD you’re an associate professor (førstestilling) straight off. There are more women than men doing a post doc because a lot of post docs are only for women, to help women qualify for full professorship earlier. The stipendiats, or PhD fellowships, are also awarded with an intention of gender balance, but it’s obviously not quite working.