PhD hats in a row

A long way to go before academic careers are equal

Gender differences in academic careers persist and the first years seem to be crucial for the development of women’s academic research careers. This is presented in a new research review of Nordic research on equality in academic career, conducted by Charlotte Silander at Linnaeus University together with three colleagues.

Despite the fact that Sweden is one of the most equal countries in the world, there is still a far way to equality between the sexes when it comes to making a career in the academic world.

The number of women professors in the Nordic countries has increased from 14 percent to 29 percent since the start of the 21th century. Thus, development has moved forward, but there are still traditions, cultures, and structures within academia that delay this development.

In their study, the researchers have carried out a review of existing research on gender and academic career in the Nordic countries, during the period 2003–2018. In total, 74 articles from Web of Science (WoS) during the stated period have been analysed. Among other things, examinations have been carried out of the methodological and theoretical approaches that the authors have used in their research.

Men publish more

“The result shows, among other things, that publication patterns continue to differ between men and women. Men publish more, although these differences seem to decrease. What is more, it takes longer time for women to become professors than for men, and having access to networks is critical for the careers of young researchers of both sexes”, says Charlotte Silander, associate professor of political science and senior lecturer at the Department of Pedagogy at Linnaeus University.

Young men seem to have better access to networks than young women, which seems to contribute with a cumulative advantage. The neoliberal university environment seems to have a negative effect – or at least not a positive effect – on equality within academia.

The results also show that, within the field of research, there is a connection between the gender of the researcher and what type of research is being conducted.

“Men more often carry out bibliometric surveys of publication patterns and career paths using quantitative methods. Women more often choose to study women’s experiences from the academic world and the effects of NPM on equality in academia through, primarily, qualitative methods”, Silander concludes.

The artice Nordic research on gender equality in academic careers: a literature review, is published in European Journal of Higher Education.

The other contributing researchers and co-authors of the study are Leif Lindberg, Linnaeus University; Ulla Riis, Uppsala University; and Ulrika Haake, Umeå University.

During spring 2021, Charlotte Silander will present further research in which she, together with colleagues from other Nordic countries, has studied in what equality activities the Nordic higher education institutions engage.