male-dominated fields, long-term recruitment

A study on long-term recruitment measures for gender equality in education finds that the measures work, but require a sustained commitment for success

With technology studies and education fields being largely male-dominated, the labour market after university reflects similar gender ratio statistics. This is one of numerous reasons why women earn less than men on average.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has recruited a larger amount of women into technology study fields than other institutions have done. This study looked at the impact of long-term efforts to get women to make non-traditional career choices, recruiting for more women to both choose and complete their education in a technology field.

5% of leadership positions in the tech sector held by women

Published in the European Journal of Engineering Education, the renowned Ada Project is one of the gender-balancing initiatives used at NTNU, striving to help women in male-dominated studies stay interested in completing their studies despite potentially larger amounts of men in their fields of study.

The Ada Project additionally offers its own career networks and follows the women up closely, but the effect of the measures has been found to fade quickly if recruitment efforts are not kept up with.

This study also found that high school girls require similar support and encouragement if they are to choose ICT studies in higher education too.

Line Berg, the managing director of the Ada Project said: “So, it’s important to continue these recruitment projects over a long period of time. We get a return on the investment. Not just for the women, but for the men as well.

“Long-term measures like this work. More women choose to study technology subjects when we actively encourage it over time.”

Supporting women in the long-term pays off, but the effects can fade quickly

An interesting note the researchers found with their measures to recruit and retain more women is that more male students completed their ICT education when more women study with them, too.

It was found that a greater gender balance creates a better culture with more diversity, and not even just gender diversity. Greater diversity allows gender-balanced fields better to be apart of for both women and men.

Vivian Anette Lagesen, a professor at NTNU’s Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture, stated: “This indicates that a better gender balance makes the study more attractive for both men and women.”

Improved well-being for everyone as more men succeed, too

Education and employment in certain fields like technology can often become more gendered and therefore, more difficult for smaller minority groups when a field is very male-dominated or female-dominated. The minority is often more likely to feel treated as different.

Consequentially, a better gender balance can reduce these kinds of patterns, leading to better well-being for everyone. Other fields of study that were formerly male-dominated, have now either a majority of women, such as medicine, or are mostly balanced in their gender ratios.

Professor Vivian Anette Lagesen added: “Gender imbalance can arise quickly in fields that are rapidly evolving, so it’s important to be aware of this and work on it before it takes firm hold.”


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