Social responsibility & women in science at University of Gdansk

2021-09-21

The University of Gdańsk is the largest university in the Pomorskie Region of Poland. The University of Gdańsk has been implementing structural change for several years through the realization of numerous projects from HORIZON 2020, like STARBIOS2 and RESBIOS, referring to responsible research and sustainable development goals. In a recently launched video series, MINDtheGEPs colleagues share their experiences. 

Ewa Lojkowska
Professor Ewa Łojkowska

“We cannot have women, 50 % of society, be discriminated against in certain domains and not able to develop their careers. We need to create conditions for work-life balance, where family and home life can be carried out in parallel with research careers. Making it something that supports, not interrupts,” says professor Ewa Łojkowska, who leads the MINDtheGEPs work at University of Gdańsk.

Her colleague professor Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka explains how diversity work at universities is about building a work environment where teams can really benefit from the fact that people are different. Starting by attracting people of different genders, ages, with different experiences in different disciplines and from different cultures. Working to create workplace conditions that will allow them to thrive, and the research to profit.

Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka
Professor Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka

“The social responsibility of the university is to build solutions that meet the needs of the members of these diverse teams,” says Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka. Creating conditions for them to work together to find the most innovative solutions. If groups are heterogeneous, they achieve much better results, she continues, stating that this is the kind of work environment that can generate profits for universities, such as better grants, better scientific results, and greater innovation.

Working in a specific societal context means society places certain expectations upon us. One set on women and another on men. We also place these expectations on ourselves to some degree. But there are also some purely external conditions at play, with differences of opinion and different ways of prioritising that uphold gender inequalities in the workplace.

“From my experience, I would say maybe 90% of men who work in science would rank work as their top priority. Whereas women often have two parallel projects of equal importance two them, the research at work and the family at home. It is often the women who are the primary caretaker of their home, children and family,” says Ewa Łojkowska.

Women constitute the majority of research employees at the University of Gdańsk as well as the majority of research assistants and lecturers. Looking at professorships, the situation is, of course depending on the discipline, reverse. But in recent years, the gap is starting to close. Salaries are actually quite similar, but gender still plays a big role in the difference between the earnings of professors. Which seems strange, Ewa Łojkowska continues, “because science can quite objectively verify the work of scientists, but even at this highest level, there is a difference between the salaries of women and men”.

 “There are several experimental studies showing gender bias in academia, for example conference abstracts that were submitted to a conference and were associated with a female name, compared to those with a male name, were rated as lower in quality and less interesting for possible collaboration. Similarly, in a world of science where efficiency of one’s career is measured with impact factors, those scientific publications written by women are cited less often than those written by men. These are examples of gender bias where equally competent work or scientific outlet seems to be less valued when a woman produces it. It can maintain the image of the man as the true scientist,” says Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka.

An important way forward is finding ways to highlight the presence of women in research. To change the stereotypes that uphold gender inequalities.

By Anna Holm

Watch the episode (in Polish)

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Last modified: 2022-09-19