On March 1, 2022, the EUA hosted a webinar entitled Women in academia: breaking the glass ceiling or rebuilding the house? In the U.S., we have often talked about the glass ceiling(s) and thus, I was intrigued by the notion of ‘rebuilding the house” which I believe is the path to follow. Although ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ is still important, I would encourage efforts that take on the system (the house) and rebuild it to be more inclusive, welcoming, and affirming.
Prior to the webinar, the EUA published a report in November 2019 which provided an overview of inclusion and diversity at 159 higher education institutions in 36 European systems and provided the foundation for university leadership to develop and implement strategies to build more inclusive higher education. The webinar presentations and discussion were mostly about women in academia including those in leadership positions in Europe. The panelists provided an update on demographic data and interactive website, and strove to address the following questions: Is gender parity now a reality in academia? Are more women from all backgrounds taking on leadership positions in academia? How can academia benefit from this cultural change?
The panelists shared detailed information about women in European higher education, offered their reflections on women in academia and their journey to leadership, and shared some strategies for change. The panelists and links to their presentations included:
- Annick Castiaux, Rector, University of Namur, Belgium (narrative about her journey into academic leadership – see YouTube recording)
- Mina Stareva, Head of Sector – Gender, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission
- Ella Ghosh, Senior Advisor at the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (KIF), Norway
- Kathrin Müller, project manager, U-Multirank, Germany
- Kamila Kozirog, Policy & Project Officer, EUA
- Thomas Jørgensen, Senior Policy Coordinator, EUA
The webinar and the handouts are available on the EUA website and YouTube Channel. On this topic and others (open science, inclusion, teaching/learning), the EUA has made tremendous progress over the past 20+ years of its existence and nations around the world, including the U.S., should take note and learn from their experiences.
Although the focus of the webinar was about women in academia, there was also some mention of others who tend to be marginalized from and within academia. From my perspective, inclusion of this kind will need rebuilding of the system and will require systemic change.
Toward the end of the webinar, the issue of work-life balance arose and was quickly identified primarily as for women (and men) around child care. The notion of work-life balance also applied to elder care. In the U.S., we have had these discussions and have expanded these work-life balance efforts however they are so named but they are still mostly situated from the gender perspective. Work-life initiatives should be expanded beyond the notion of work life balance routinely beyond gender and family responsibilities to include others experiencing work-life disruption due to personal crisis and individual challenges such as disability, mental and physical health, and even social injustices. At the Virginia Tech Graduate School, the work-life assistance program also started with female graduate students for birth and adoption and expanded to include male graduate students within a couple of years. More recently, the program was expanded to include what we called significant life events (e.g., elder care, family or personal crisis, death).
Shall we break the glass ceiling or rebuild the house? We must change the system and rebuild the house.