Gender Studies Talks: Abstracts

Dr habil. Sigrid Schmitz →About

Senior Researcher and Project Leader, Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies, Humboldt University of Berlin

Title: Bringing Gender into STEM: a need for a change of culture to promote gender equality

No question, the number of women in the academic fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has increased over the last decades. Highly qualified, ambitious and competent female academic scholars, however, still face barriers when it comes to entering the leading positions within these fields. This glass ceiling effect is, not at least, based on often hidden prejudices about women’s minor skills in rational reasoning, mathematical abilities or technical competencies. Gender studies in STEM have uncovered the naturalized assignments to women of having less intellectual capacities or preferences for scientific work that are anchored in the scientific knowledge production itself. Gender research, instead, has raised awareness on how gendered beliefs, norms and gendered societal structures impact the individual development as well as the scientific knowledge production. A transfer of knowledge between gender studies and gender equality issues, therefore, is at stake to promote gender equity with a change of culture in STEM fields.

In this talk, I will present and discuss mutual approaches that target such a change of culture. They encompass (a) Top-Down initiatives from the League of European Research Universities for installing a gender-aware governance of science and technology, (b) transdisciplinary dialogues between STEM and gender scholars on the inseparable nature-cultures entanglements in all research phenomena, and (c) new formats for including differentiated gender knowledge into the education of science and technology.

Dr Nina Steinweg →About

Senior researcher at the Center of Excellence Women and Science (CEWS) at GESIS – Leibniz-Institute for Social Sciences

Title: Role Models, Gatekeeper & Gender Experts – “Agents” of Gender Equality in Academia

Gender Equality in Academia is considered to be one of the top priorities of science policy in Germany, but change is only gradual and relatively slow considering the efforts made. Lately, the focus has been on measurable effects of change, like the number of women professors. The representation of women in the Grade A positions is supposed to be raised by a number of different instruments like binding targets based on the cascade model, the women professor program and the Research-Oriented Standards on Gender Equality of the German Research Foundation (DFG). But representation is only one aspect of gender equality. Progress in cultural and structural change is more difficult to tackle and to assess. The concept of the “homo academicus” is deeply embedded in the scientific community. Gender stereotypes and biases have a large impact on the assessment of performance, on recruitment procedures and networking structures. Gender Equality Legislation, policies and programs address these problems but need to be implemented and acted upon to be assertive. In order to achieve substantive gender equality, “change agents” play a key role. The talk will focus on role models, gatekeeper and gender experts as agents for gender equality. Based on empirical studies as well as contemporary societal phenomena the scope of action and the responsibilities of these groups are discussed. What is the role of Agent Scully for young women interested in the STEM? What are the responsibilities of gatekeeper in talent management? How can gender experts foster gender equality without reinforcing group-related stereotypes?

Prof. Dr Elisabeth Kelan →About

Professor of Leadership at Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, England

Title: Gender and Leadership

From boardrooms to the science lab, women are underrepresented in leadership positions. While the lack of women in leadership is regularly lamented, increasing the number of women in leadership is progressing at glacial pace. Popular approaches to changing the underrepresentation of women in leadership often take the form of ‘fixing the women’ through special training and programmes. Such approaches to fixing women often target individual actions rather than allowing women to understand some of the systematic challenges that they might encounter on their leadership journey and how to navigate them. Many of these systematic challenges emerge from the traditional notion of how a leader looks and behaves and are routed in stereotypes and biases. Those notions are closely aligned with traditional conceptions of a heroic masculine leader. While helping women to understand these systematic challenges to their leadership, it is evident that organisational cultures and societies more broadly need to change to allow women to unfold their leadership. Men in leadership have a crucial role to play here because they can be change agents in redefining the gender and leadership relation. It is thereby suggested that rather than just looking for individual solutions to collective issues, it is important that aspiring women leaders recognise systematic challenges and that men in leadership become change agents for gender equality.