Female Empowerment in
Science and Tecnology Academia
Handbook On Resistance
To Gender Equality In Academia
Festa Resistance And Gender Main Causes & Indicators Main Forms & Symptoms Recommendations Analysis Of Stories Conclusion & References

Conclusion & References

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

In this handbook a picture of “resistance” was attempted from the eye of a gender equality project to suggest ways of counteracting it for the people engaged in similar endeavors. During the course of FESTA activities in the partner institutions, an environment was created where changes to internal structures to advance gender equality were recommended in relevant areas. As the FESTA teams introduced key steps and essential elements of these changes, they encountered several incidents of resistance. The resistance cases recorded by the FESTA consortium and the analysis of these narratives provided us with important insights on the intersecting dynamics of resistance and the change process.
 
From the analyses resistance appeared to be a most complex phenomenon. In some of the cases we experienced difficulties regarding interpretations. Between the partners who reviewed the same narrative differences of opinion could be observed at times. The story analyzed under the title of “Not all women cooperate” was one of such cases. In the story a woman academic first agreed to help the project when necessary. After a while, when she was asked for an appointment her response was negative. Although refusing to be interviewed she repeated that she is willing to help the project.   One of the partners who reviewed the first analysis of this case commented that “…. if someone doesn’t give you an appointment but still wants to support the project, I would expect some sort of further signs of resistance… to come to the conclusion that this is resistance”. Another partner asked “…why is not workload a possible explanation?” Taking both of these comments into consideration “time burdens” were added to the “being uncomfortable with gender” as another possible explanation of the decline of cooperation. The recommendations were then adjusted to meet this possibility. As a general solution in such instances we inquired “whether the partner submitting the story agree with our interpretation, i.e. if any of the expressions is correct, according to those people who know the context best”.
 
The complex nature of resistance was also reflected in the multiplicity of the recommendations it necessitated. It was not possible either to find the miracle formula to fit all or claim what must come first. In many of the cases we felt that structural strategies i.e.  institutionalization, diversity and inclusivity should be employed alongside such interpersonal methods concerning communication and dissemination or networking and collaboration. In some of the other cases yet improvements in teamwork and methodology also seemed to be required for increasing the effectiveness of one or more of the other strategies.
 
Efforts to deal with resistance involve different levels of intervention with different structures and different results at the top and the bottom. Finalizing the process of change depends on the bottom-top combination of policies. Some of these interventions may prove effective in a relatively short time while some of the others can only be expected to work in the future.  It is necessary to use both levels as well as formal and informal processes to succeed. We therefore proposed i.e. to involve people with strong positional power, commitment and willingness in the project teams as well as giving priority to reach PhD students and research assistants in different projects/programs. Enhancing the gender awareness and willingness to dedicate more resources of the university management was one of our recommendations for creating the capacity for change.  We knew, however, that when the culture/people in the institution are not ready to respond to the demands of equality, measures from the top will also be useless. Therefore, such inclusivity measures as involving more women and men in the organization in gender equality work or organizing enthusiastic kick-off meetings to engage the whole institution, creating awards, etc. for disseminating gender awareness were among the recommendations for the bottom –top combination necessary for dealing with resistance.
 
Change is a challenging process, which involves the interplay of many agents. Moreover, academic working environments have their own organizational cultures and structures which differ extensively even within themselves. Gendered dynamics in an academic work environment are not only related to the organizational culture but also to the social and cultural dynamics in general. Any project to implement change to create gender equality ‎in academia should try to foresee the resistance provoked by such dynamics and take into account a multiplicity of interventions.  This handbook aims to be of assistance to those engaged with this task.  It does, however, makes no claims to contain all the right answers. It should rather be considered as a starting point for discussion and research on all the other possibilities in the diverse social, cultural and structural contexts. Although it was not among the expected tasks of WP7 in the FESTA project the handbook also serves to be an “awareness raising tool” by illustrating some of the “grey areas” in the culture and the daily life of academic institutions.
 

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