Gender study presented in RunAn

​How can academia attract more women? To find out, WiSE – Women in Science – ordered an interview study with PhD students and their supervisors. The new findings are presented in RunAn on December 1.

​Note: Read more about the seminar and register here!

Chalmers, like other workplaces, is struggling with gender balance when recruiting. One trend is quite clear: The further up the career ladder, the fewer the women.

– The percentage of women is much lower among postdocs than among PhD students. What happens in this transition? Is there a difference in attitude towards an academic career in female and male PhD students? We had this question in WiSE, and also wanted to know if the attitude changes with time during the PhD period, says Sabine Reinfeldt, WiSE project leader, Associate Professor at Signals and Systems and one of the profile leaders in the Life Science Engineering Area of Advance.
– We need to increase awareness to work with these issues. The idea of doing a study came up a few years ago, but we didn’t have the possibility to realize it. But when I met Ivan Mijakovic, director of Life Science Engineering, he and two other Areas of Advance – Building Futures and ICT – decided to support us. We managed to engage Helena Stensöta, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science at GU and previous consultant at Chalmers on gender related issues, to conduct the study.

The study aims at answering how selection processes from PhD to a further academic career proceed. It builds on interviews with 20 PhD students from four departments represented in the Areas of Advance supporting the study: Signals and Systems, Computer Science and Engineering, Applied Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences. They answered questions on what made them pursuit a PhD, the positives and negatives of being a PhD student, their views on future careers in academia and their relation to the supervisor.
– We have been interviewing supervisors too, to get a grip on this relationship from both sides, Helena Stensöta says.
– We are now analyzing data. There doesn’t seem to be a big difference between male and female PhD students, which was a bit surprising. But there are a number of issues pointed out, issues that are important for creating a creative and inclusive academic environment.

The report is presented at the symposium on December 1, 09.00-12.30, and discussed by panelists from different areas. There will be possibilities to pose questions about the report and participate in a lunch mingle.
– I hope that both women and men will come. It’s important to get a mixture in order to reach out broadly. These are important questions that affects everyone in the organization, especially those involved in recruitment of senior researchers, Sabine Reinfeldt says.

The symposium does not mark an ending. Instead, the study will contribute with data for future work, and is also an integrated part in the gender equality work at Chalmers. Johanna Andersson, Chalmers representative for gender issues, will also talk about this in RunAn.
– We believe that the relationship between PhD students and their supervisors is a key to insights in academic careers given to the PhD students. It’s important to work with these results together with supervisors. WiSE will also discuss the study further and we aim to influence the gender issues in departments, Areas of Advance and management level. We hope for our study to have a big impact, Sabine Reinfeldt says.
– Statistics speak loud and clearly. The percentage of female professors has increased slightly during the past years, but is still at a very low level. I don’t think that Chalmers is the worst, but we still need to improve our recruitment of female senior researchers. Sometimes we are told that there are very few female applicants, but if the industry manage to recruit women – why can’t academia?


Women in Science (WiSE) was founded in 2010, with the vision of creating a dynamic and inspiring network for women in science.
WiSE was the product of a collaboration between the Department of Signals and Systems at Chalmers and MedTech West. One of the cornerstones is the notion that we need to see people like ourselves, but further along in the career, in order to visualize ourselves in that position. Therefore, female professors are invited to give seminars, talking about their research and their path to the position/role they have today. Everyone is welcome to the seminars, both women and men. Read more about WiSE.

Text: Mia Malmstedt
Photo of Sabine Reinfeldt: Oscar Mattsson

Published: Mon 07 Nov 2016.