A more flexible educational system in universities, more emphasis on education in gender studies among students in preschool, compulsory, and upper secondary school teaching; a campaign against stereotypes on all school levels; increased support for underprivileged students and immigrants: these are all suggestions in a new report exploring the gender ratio in higher education.
The report is called Stereotypes in universities („Staðalímyndir í háskólum“). The author is Laufey Axelsdóttir, post-doc in gender studies at the University of Iceland's Faculty of Political Science, for the Forum of Equality Officers at the Icelandic universities with support from the former Ministry of Education and Culture. The report was discussed at the final event of Equality Days; a one-day conference, and a recording can be accessed online.
The aim of this project was to shed light on the unbalanced gender ratio in Icelandic universities, and whether gendered stereotypes have an impact. The project also included issuing an action plan to even out the gender ratio looking both to what has already been done in Iceland and actions that have proven successful abroad.
The report points out that the emphasis in study choices is already gender-based at the upper secondary school level, and the difference follows both men and women into higher education. Despite various counter actions and legal changes, it seems that stereotypes in education and careers still contribute to gender-based study and career choices. "The findings, furthermore, indicate that drop-out from studies is higher among men than women, both at the upper secondary school and university level, with more women graduating from both levels," it says in the report.
The author is Laufey Axelsdóttir, post-doc in gender studies at the University of Iceland's Faculty of Political Science, for the Forum of Equality Officers at the Icelandic universities with support from the former Ministry of Education and Culture. The report was discussed at the final event of Equality Days. image/Kristinn Ingvarsson
Emphasis is placed on reducing the drop-out rates whilst working against the ideas of gender-based roles and stereotypes when it comes to education and careers. There are thus various suggestions pertaining to both university operations, other educational levels, and society as a whole whilst taking into consideration a different community profile. "Dynamic actions and improvements in the school community with the support of the authorities can work against social obstacles, increase the educational level in the country, and create opportunities for all in our community," is stated in the report.
Following are a few of the suggestions in the report:
- Ensure that students learning to become teachers and staff within the education system be educated in gender studies and that the study programme become a part of education in pre-school, compulsory, and upper secondary school studies.
- That universities work with the education system, authorities, and municipalities against gender-based stereotypes in all forms. A reference is made to the British experimental projects Gender Respect and GECM that have proven useful and could work as a prototype for Icelandic actions.
- Work systematically against gender-based stereotypes in nursing, preschool, compulsory and upper secondary teaching, and STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) with dynamic promotions and research on the experience of men and women in these fields.
- Universities should explore possibilities of adopting a more flexible education system to open up opportunities in higher education for a broader target group.
- Reach students from underprivileged and immigrant families with support and collaboration between school levels, thus contributing to more equal opportunities in education.
- Increase access to undergraduate language programmes for people, who for whatever reason, cannot take part in the traditional form of teaching in Icelandic.
Increase access for refugees and asylum seekers to higher education.
- Universities should improve registration and dissemination on international students in order to better monitor their status.