The first open meeting of the FarU Women's Club Association brought together almost a hundred people interested in joining the Club in the Auditorium of the Gdańsk University of Technology. It was devoted to inequalities between men and women in the workplace, which is the academic environment.
Let's remember that female researchers and employees associated with the University of Gdańsk, the Medical University of Gdańsk, and the Gdańsk University of Technology established the association on June 21, 2023, at a meeting at the Welcome Centre UG. Since then, the Club's Board of Directors has been active and wants the Association to become the largest organisation of its kind in the region, bringing together women of science and working in academia.
The numerous participants were welcomed by the President of the Club, prof. dr hab. Ewa Łojkowska. In her introductory remarks, she explained the origins of the Association, which is primarily aimed at mutual support, cooperation, exchange of experiences and building awareness of equality issues. ‘Over the past twenty years, both in Poland and worldwide, the situation of women, including female researchers, has improved enormously,' said prof. Łojkowska. 'However, despite this significant improvement, we still need to work towards achieving full equality of male and female researchers in scientific, social or political life. I very much hope that the role of women in scientific and social life will gradually increase. I also place this hope in our work for gender equality. I wish us all success and achievement in our professional and family lives, equal treatment, and the gender solidarity that is expected as a result. Let us remember that it is only when gender equality is implemented that science and other areas of our lives will be able to realise the full potential of our entire population,' she concluded.
The rectors of Fahrenheit University then took the floor. The first to welcome the attendees was the Rector of the Gdańsk University of Technology, prof. dr hab. Krzysztof Wilde, who stressed the importance of sharing experiences and support in the workplace related to the scientific community. ‘This is an important initiative, which is in line with current social trends that increasingly refer to the need for non-discrimination,' he said, 'It is also another step towards federation and closer cooperation between the Gdańsk University of Technology, the Medical University of Gdańsk and the University of Gdańsk. The very name of the Club brings together the idea of increasing the role of women in these three universities. I am full of praise for such a high turnout.’
Afterwards, the meeting’s attendees were addressed by the Rector of the University of Gdańsk, prof. dr hab. Piotr Stepnowski, who recalled that one of the priorities in the passing term was to take specific measures at the University of Gdańsk to eliminate the disparities in the academic career path and the level of salaries between female and male scientists. ‘We are fortunate at UG that our community is made up of many extraordinary women, which is why I wholeheartedly support the idea of the creation and operation of the FarU Women's Club,’ he stressed. ‘I believe that strengthening the voice of this part of our university's employees will bring measurable results and benefits not only to those concerned but to all of us.’
The last representative of the university authorities to welcome the guests was the Vice-Rector for Science of the Medical University of Gdańsk, prof. dr hab. Michał Markuszewski, who, agreeing with the statements of the previous speakers, summarised that 'science is a woman'. He was rewarded for these words with loud applause. 'I say this with full awareness of the role and achievements of Women in Science at MUG and our FarU member universities,' he explained, 'I am proud that we have a Women's Club of FarU universities in Gdańsk. I don't know if there are other clubs of this kind in our country, but I am convinced that our local 'climate' is conducive to the emergence of such progressive ideas, which proves that this is a great place to live happily, work successfully, and develop dynamically,’ he concluded.
Another highlight of the programme was the long-announced lectures by Tri-City female scientists. The first of these was a board member of the FarU Women's Club, prof. dr hab. Ewa Lechman from the Gdańsk University of Technology, who spoke about understanding gender gaps in the labour market. Let's first clarify what the concept is! Gender gaps are quantifiable differences between men and women reflected in, for example, differences in pay, positions held and access to education. The sources of the gaps are primarily to be found in accepted social norms and prejudices, but also in religion. During her speech, the speaker referred to the results of the work of this year's Nobel Prize winner in economics, prof. Claudia Goldin. She is an American who, in 1990, became the first woman to be recognised with a permanent tenured professorship in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. In 2023, she was awarded the Nobel Prize 'for deepening knowledge of the situation of women in the labour market'. It is worth adding that this was the first Nobel Prize in economics for a woman to be awarded individually rather than jointly with another researcher. By sifting through archives and collecting data from the USA regarding the period of 200 years, Claudia Goldin has shown how and why gender differences in earnings and employment rates have changed over the years. The conclusion is one! Women have been and continue to be underrepresented in the labour market, and when working, earn less than men. Her research significantly enhances existing knowledge of the situation of women in the labour market. The Nobel Prize for this research into the causes and primary sources of the persistent gender disparity perfectly legitimises the measures that the Fahrenheit University Women's Club plans to introduce.
‘Research on gender gaps is a growing area of scientific interest,’ said prof. Lechman ‘It is an essential strand of interdisciplinary research, showing the problems of effective use of work and skills, raising issues of discrimination against women and so-called empowerment and agency. It should be remembered that the wage gap, the gap in access to education or the labour market, in the long term, transforms into measurable losses in productivity and economic well-being for the whole society,’ she stressed.
The stage was then taken over by dr hab. Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka, prof. UG and dr Magdalena Żadkowska from the University of Gdańsk, who, perversely reflecting on whether Fahrenheit could have been a woman - or rather, how he would have fared as a woman - talked about the importance of investing in gender equality in academia. They began by presenting a chart showing how the careers of female researchers and researchers in academia are shaped. It shows that undergraduate and master's degrees are completed - with a slight advantage for women - by a similar number of ladies and gentlemen. The staircase begins at the doctoral level. Men bounce up, and women bounce down. Scientific careers are still pursued in greater numbers by men and, interestingly, they are the main winners of Nobel Prizes. Since the beginning of the award in 1901, a total of 64 women and 901 men have been awarded the Prize in all fields until 2023.
The researchers outlined five leading causes of gender inequality in the scientific community. These are primarily the need to combine family and professional roles, career absenteeism, inferior access to resources, biases in the review process and a sometimes unfavourable working environment climate for women.
What should be the outcome of the equation for such inequality in the scientific community? Its logical solution is almost always inclusivity, which influences a sense of security, greater creativity and innovation among all male and female employees. ‘By answering the title question - 'Could Fahrenheit be a woman?' - we wanted to show that it depends first and foremost on the institution in which female scientists work,' dr Magdalena Żadkowska told the audience, 'Thanks to solutions such as Gender Equality Plans and the resulting support mechanisms, women have a real chance to count on effective mentoring, support in the realisation of family plans, working in teams that share knowledge, and being looked after by competent supervisors. In all of this, it is also essential to be inspired by female researchers who have succeeded in demonstrating the real possibilities for women and making science a sector accessible to more than just the privileged,’ she added. Both researchers emphasise that when implementing effective diversity management tools, such as training on the benefits of equality or mentoring programmes, it is vital to monitor the effectiveness of the measures taken. ‘To this end, it is vital to conduct research in this area,’ adds prof. Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka. ‘Following best practice, the University of Gdańsk is also taking such steps. In December, we will survey the sense of equality and inclusiveness of our working environment.’
The issues raised during the lectures were discussed by the guests and guests of the meeting for a long time after the official part, during the time allocated for networking.
Throughout the event and during the networking, interested parties were able to fill in membership declarations entitling them to join the Fahrenheit University Women's Club Association. All those who expressed their wish to join the club will soon receive an invitation to the next interesting event organised by the FarU Women's Club. This time, it will take place at the Medical University of Gdańsk on February 26, 2024. In the meantime, we encourage you to follow the Club's profile on FB, where interesting information on the Association itself and the environment for women in science will appear regularly:
All activities of the Fahrenheit University Women's Club are related to implementing the MINtheGEPs project .