Case: The University of Oslo emphasize gender equality through mentoring
Every year, The Gender Equality Coordination Group at the University of Oslo (UiO) facilitates a mentoring programme aimed at female post doctors. This is part of UiO’s action plan for gender equality. Findings indicate that despite the increasing number of female students at UiO, there are still more male professors employed in the university’s research positions. The purpose of the mentoring programme is to increase the number of women in open research positions by assigning the female post doctors a mentor who can help them promote their careers.
The Gender Equality Coordination Group aims at continuing the facilitation of the mentoring programme to increase the number of women in open research positions at UiO. Studies from 2017 show that despite the fact that the number of female students at UiO is higher than male, there are still more men sitting in academic positions within research than women at UiO.
- Number of students at UiO: Women: 61.1% and Men: 38.9%.
- Number of post doctors at UiO: Women: 47.8 % and Men: 52.2%.
- Number of professors at UiO: Women: 32.7% and Men: 67.3%
(Source: The gender equality report 2018, UiO)
Being a post doctor at UiO means that you hold a PhD and subsequently have been employed in a temporary research position at the university, as you over time want to qualify for a permanent position as a professor. Since 2013, The Gender Equality Coordination Group at UiO, in collaboration with KMP+ House of Mentoring and our Norwegian partner, Institutt for medskapende ledelse (IML), have facilitated an annual mentoring programme for 20-25 female post doctors across UiO’s 8 faculties. Every female post doctor is matched with either a female or male mentor among the professors at UiO. KMP+ and IML are contributing with strategic considerations regarding the organising of the programme as well as the facilitation and evaluation of the mentoring programme.
“The mentoring programme itself - which means the co-activities - had an effect on me. They made me a bigger feminist than I already was. (…) We know what role the women have at the university and how unequally distributed it is that men have the important positions – it is men who are the professors, it is men who are employed in the manager positions. In a way, the mentoring programme gives awareness of that we actually have a role to play as a female. This is a very important effect of the mentoring programme.” – Mentee, UiO
Every year, KMP+ tailors a unique mentoring programme to The Gender Equality Coordination Group to ensure an optimal learning context and to ensure that the mentoring programme complies with current trends in the Norwegian and global labour market as well as updated with the current trends within mentoring. In collaboration with IML, KMP+ also provides professional training of the mentors and mentor/mentee learning workshops with the purpose of creating the best possible learning context in the collaboration between the mentors and the mentees.
“My main focus has been the direct contact with my mentee. I have also participated in the joint programme. I know that the programme is closely monitored which sets my mind at ease. (…) Without a well-established joint programme there will be no fertile conversations.” – Mentor, UiO
Together with the physical materials that every mentor/mentee pair are supplied with at the kick-off workshop, the Mentor+GameTM is a central part of the mentoring programme. It helps to increase the benefits of the conversations between the mentor and the mentee and it also strengthens the collaboration.
“The effect of the workshops: “It creates a frame for dialogue with mentor, and I also think it was very useful to meet other mentors and mentees – to create a self-identity by knowing that we are many female post doctors who are ambitious (…) becoming acquainted with that there are other women in the same situation as me.” – Mentee, UiO
A positive response to the mentoring programme
The Gender Equality Coordination Group experiences a positive response to the mentoring programme, which is expressed through an increasing number of applicants each year. For example, the programme is praised for being network-creating due to the female post doctors get the opportunity to meet across UiO at the workshops where they can talk with each other about how they experience their professional field. In addition, they are confirmed that they are not alone in having a dream of a future career as a professor. For instance, the co-feeling is aroused from lectures in the mentoring workshops where experienced women from the labour market are invited as key notes to share their experiences about management positions.
“Many of us are in the same situation when it comes to temporary positions. (…) I am surprised how much I have in common with the others when it comes to career challenges. My mentor has strengthened my confidence so I feel more comfortable with taking career struggles with my institution.” – Mentee, UiO
The fact that it is not only the female post doctors the mentoring programme is valuable for is an essential part of the programme’s success. The mentoring programme has also created a learning potential for the mentors, for example, through workshops, where they have the opportunity to share experiences with other mentors. In addition, it is valuable for the mentors to be useful for their mentees when sharing their experiences through advice and support. When the mentoring programme is over, some of the mentor/mentee pairs maintain contact with each other. For example, through co-research and professional partnerships.
“I have always enjoyed learning new things. Meeting professional colleagues from other faculties has been exiting to me. In addition, the interdisciplinary conversations have an intrinsic value at the university. We must be open to knowledge sharing among the colleagues. In my point of view, such conversations are mutual fertile, especially in relation to what the university has done for many years in building networks.” – Mentor, UiO
Furthermore, the mentoring programme has been praised for its continuous assessment. The final closing activity for all mentors and mentees is considered to be a good end to the programme because it gives the individual mentor/mentee pair the opportunity to share knowledge from their collaboration and also hear what the other mentor/mentee pair have achieved during the programme.
“There has been both evaluation, support and advice from UiO, KMP+ and IML during the programme in the form of e-mails and in the co-activities where there was room for discussions and feedback.” – Mentee, UiO