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4th National Conference on Gender and Science

4th National Conference on Gender and Science Print page

On Wednesday 22 June 2016 the Wallenstein Palace of the Senate of the Czech Parliament hosted the 4th national conference on gender and science titled My Institution, My Responsibility. The conference was organized by the Centre for Gender and Science and the Senate of the Czech Republic. Over 140 guests including Ivan Netuka and Stanislava Hronová, senior management of the Czech Technological Agency, Siri Ellen Sletner, ambassador of the Norwegian Kingdom and Michèle Pranchère Tomassini, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and Tamar Newberger, scientist and wife of the US ambassador also attended.

The aim of the conference, held under the auspices of the Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Bělobrádek, Minister of Education, Sports and Youth Kateřina Valachová, and Chairman of the Czech Academy of Sciences Jiří Drahoš, was to explore ways of supporting gender equality and the professional growth of women scientists in universities, colleges and research institutes.

The conference was opened by Zdeněk Berka, senator and representatives of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Czech Academy of Sciences, under whose auspices the conference was held.

The keynote speaker of the conference was Curt Rice, Rector of Oslo and Akershus College who is a globally recognised promoter of gender equality in science. In his speech he highlighted the different evaluation systems for women and men in science. He also stated that a higher representation of women contributes to the quality of science and research institutes. Professor Rice also talked about the positive effect quotas have on the quality of selected candidates despite voices which critique this approach.

The issue of quotas stirs emotions and provoked discussion and questions from participants. One participant argued that such a measure works against women candidates who in consequence are viewed with doubt as to their quality. Therefore women are among those in opposition to quotas. Professor Rice admitted we are not capable of objective evaluation in science and the performance of women scientists without quotas is not objectively evaluated. “Women that are against quotas should be against all gender quotas including those that have benefited men for centuries,” said Curt Rice.

Kateřina Cidlinská and Marta Vohlídalová of the Centre for Gender and Science presented data and outcomes of research which illustrate the difficult situation of Czech women scientists. According to Cidlinská, women scientists are under threat from the outset of their scientific career. Work uncertainty caused by the lack of positions, increase in temporary contracts and potential motherhood makes young women scientists weaker competitors compared to their male counterparts. Vohlídalová focused on the issue of work-life balance. She argued women are mobile but not in the “right” way. What counts most in science is a long-term fellowship abroad. However, women cannot often apply for these because their partners are often not willing to join them abroad or help with child care. Men, on the other hand can often count on their partners’ willingness to be mobile and shoulder the responsibility for childcare. According to recent data, Vohlídalová argued, the difference in mobility between men and women scientists in the Czech Republic is one of the biggest in Europe.

The next panel was attended by Jaroslav Bielčík of the Faculty of Nuclear and Physics Engineering of Czech Technical University (ČVUT), Rut Bízková, former chairwoman of the Technological Agency ČR, Petr Pavlík, chief consultant of the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports and Olga Rusňáková of the Faculty of ČVUT Faculty of Nuclear and Physics Engineering. The panel focused on the motivation of the panellists to promote gender equality, reflected on positive developments in the past 15 years and barriers that obstruct gender equality in science and research. The panel was moderated by Marta Vohlídalová of the Centre.

The motivations that have inspired the panellists to act to promote gender equality are diverse. Some were inspired to support the women around them and give them the chance to make freer career choices, which they do not have today, while others wanted to tackle nonsensical gender stereotypes, achieve better science, stop wasting the capital of qualified women, and achieve fairness and democratic principles. Rut Bízková discovered the subject of gender in/equality thanks to statistics revealing the massive disproportion in representation of women in science produced on yearly basis by the Centre for Gender and Science.

The panellists unanimously agreed there has been much progress in promoting gender equality in the past few years. The media is more willing to cover the issue of gender equality and the negative backlash from academia has decreased. There has been progress in negotiating with the technology Agency CR and Grant Agency CR. The Ministry of Education supported the existence of the Centre, launched the Milada Paulová Award and implemented gender equality in the operational programme, Science, Research, Education.