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You are here: Gender Issues/Bridging the Gap

We are here reporting the gender issues project and plan of activities approved and implemented by the NANOFUN-POLY Network. Barbara L. Kenny and Patrik Fernberg have developed the project and are in charge of it.

… whoever gets to define what counts as a scientific problem also gets a powerful role in shaping the picture of the world that results from scientific research. (Harding 1991:40)
The current world equilibrium relies on, and perpetuates on, the base of technological development. There is a “technological divide” which separates poor countries and rich countries and also classes, gender and race inside the rich countries. Many times while speaking of technological divide (or gap), scholars mostly refer to the use of technology rather than to the development of technology even though the gap is as relevant in the context of technology development. European data on full professor charges in the field of science and technology may serve as one example of such gap. In Europe there is a one to ten ratio between women and men. Therefore it becomes important to underline that technology is not neutral and that technological products reflect the vision and orientation of the specific groups that elaborate them (generally white occidental men) this means that gender is automatically and silently integrated in technological systems. In this sense there is a strict connection between production and fruition that goes far behind economic discrepancies. The gender asymmetry is built in different stages of an individual life: it has it’s origin inside the family and the scholastic system, through the different socialization intended for boys and girls, it then gets reinforced through orientation mechanisms and definitively confirmed by cultural gender models in the work-market. Summarizing we can speak about a gender inequality in both in use and development of technology which reflects a men power structured society. The Nanofun-Poly, Network of Excellence has the ambition to contribute to reducing the gender gap within European research organizations.

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Activities for 2005

The activities that will enable a bridging of the gender gap inside the Network of Excellence Nanofun-poly will be centralized around two main tasks.

1. The first task will be focused on the development of a framework for gender issues through the realization of an inventory of the theoretical, statistical and political aspects of “Women in technologies” with specific focus on “Women in nanotechnologies”. This framework will serve as a basis for further fieldwork.

2. The second task will be a pragmatical one and aims at opening a gender discussion inside the Network through an interactive space for women. This will be done through two main actions:
- Launching a Gender Awareness Group and linking the Group with the international network of Women in Science (NGOs, women lobbies, feminist groups that work on women science and technology, gender groups of researchers, transnational networks of women scientists).
- Creation of a mailing list and a gender issues web page in the Network’s official web page.
- Organizing a one-day Workshop on the role of women in nanotechnologies.
- A proposal of specific activities to be implemented in the second year inside the Network will be presented.

The analysis together with the planned activities aims to involve women and men into a gender discussion with the objective to develop internal policies “from below”. The gender plan is addressed both to men and women, addressing it only to women would be like identifying women with the problem, and so to think their participation into science and technology in terms of integration leaving the integrant subject intact.

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Activities for 2006

1.Collect, compile and report to network management on the participation of women at different levels and type of activities within the Nanofun-Poly.

2. Serve as contact node, monitoring and interacting with gender networks among the European community.

3. Continuous implementation and improvement of communication tools:

  • regular supply of relevant information and links to Nanofun-webmaster to be published on the webpage (i.e. publish results from 1. and 2.)
  • development of an e-forum to be used by internal network (is this part of the gender awareness group or whatever we call it)

4. Meeting / workshop:

  • “Is it a real problem?” Annual workshop for women active within Nanofun-Poly. First meeting to be held in Rome in spring 2006, at the International House of Women. Aim of the workshop is to create a moment of encounter for the women of the network. The workshop will be focused on the discussion of problems related with gender and gender bias. During the workshop information will be provided and future activities settled. The gender awareness group will be constituted.
  • Workshop to be done during a Network Event about “Women in Science in the European Community: achievements and projects”.

5. Services and practical support offered to Nanofun-partners by the Gender Office upon request

- Guided and moderated discussion groups;

One of the activities to be performed will be, on the basis of a local request, a guided and moderated discussion group on gender and gender related problems. Target group: PhD students, working groups
Estimated time required: approximately ½ day
Objective: stimulate and initiate local discussions

- Gender training:

The gender training is meant for people in management positions; we want to give some clues and instruments to deal with issues related only to women’s personal lives.
Target group: people or group of people in management positions
Estimated time required: ½ day
Objective: improve gender relationship in working environments and therefore productivity

- Cineforum;

½-day workshop based on projections of movies and documentaries about women in science followed by a discussion and debate among the participants.
Objective: raise awareness among young researchers
Target group: Male and female undergraduate and/or PhD-students at the partners

6. Special activities addressed to Universities and High Schools:

- “I want to become a scientist” literary price for high school girls. This activity is going to be held in Italy under the administration of the Gender Office, indications and counseling will be available for those partners that have the will to organize a local prize.

- “Best doctoral thesis award” 2000 Euros Price for the best PhD thesis done by PhD female students of the Network. We have the aim to set up an annual award. Evaluators of the award are going to be the Scientific Committee and relevant women of the network.

- Projection of Women in science Film Festival (in collaboration with the Italian Women in Science association and the University of Perugia). Terni, March 2006, University of Perugia.

- Scientific orientation for high school girls

7. Chart of Recommendations:

Gender guidelines for the Network’s partners.

8. Production of educational booklets about women in science:

Booklets with basic information about gender activities among the network, women in science, gender bias, European Platform. Booklets will also provide a support during gender activities but will also be useful as an information tool during meetings.

Activities 1 to 6 are to be developed on an annual base, activities 7 and 8 are specific for 2006.

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