14/11/2016 Gender equality in Arctic STEM fields

Recruiting women for STEM research is not always easy, but CAGE has succeeded on all levels from PhD candidates to professors. Photo: Torger Grytå

CAGE has achieved gender equality among its scientist on all levels. How did this Arctic Centre of Excellence break the glass ceiling within fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which many others are struggling to reach? 

Text: Maja Sojtaric

Women are still underrepresented in leading positions within natural sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Most countries and scientific institutions struggle with recruitment of women to STEM fields.

CAGE – Centre for Arctic Gas hydrate, Environment and Climate at The Arctic University of Norway, has however achieved gender equality in its scientific ranks.

“We have 50 percent women in our scientific staff. Five out of seven of our senior leaders are women. That is way above the average of 25 percent women in STEM fields in the OECD countries, and significantly above the average 16 percent in Norway.” says director Jürgen Mienert.

Recruitment strategies consider gender in STEM

Fields of research at CAGE include marine geophysics, geochemistry, biology, oceanography, glaciology, and numerical modeling.

“Our recruitment strategies aim to improve gender in marine geoscience, and this shows in our statistics. We have a very conscious attitude towards recruitment of women to our team. We recruit internationally, among the best candidates, many of who are women. “Norwegian social systems, and our exciting research and expedition opportunities, attract many excellent women to the Arctic. “ says Mienert.

Many CAGE cruises on RV Helmer Hanssen to the Arctic have a balanced gender representation and women are often chief scientists on the demanding expeditions to the Arctic Ocean. 

Combining career with family life

The conditions for career development are very good for early career scientists at CAGE. The excellent maternity leave system in Norway allows building an earlier career pathway for young women at the same time as they establish a family.

UiT The Arctic University of Norway also has the best track record in the country for career development for women. Almost 32 percent of professors at UiT are women, while the average for the country is 27 percent. But UiT aims higher, and plans to increase career advancement pathways, identifying and promoting women for excellence in science, and  giving them guidance to further develop their careers. Associate professor Giuliana Panieri from CAGE was recently chosen to join such a program.

“We are required to attend monthly courses and workshops for two years to increase our potential to advance to a professorship. It is very time consuming, and intensive, but I have faith in the program which enables us to find still potentially weak areas in our CVs and improve our performance underway.” says Panieri.

All these factors combined lead to an equality minded working environment.

“Norway presents a very good example of how a system can be organized so that it allows for both family planning and career development. For us at CAGE it has meant a successful combination in terms of gender equality. It shows that a family friendly society together with intensive and competitive scientific career planning, and excellent Arctic research opportunities, adds to equality in Arctic marine geoscience. “says professor Karin Andreassen, associate director at CAGE.

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