In what way can you highlight equality in project activities, and why is it important? These were questions that people, working in Botnia-Atlantica funded projects, thought about during a gender equality seminar in March.
Speak to and treat one another in an equal way, so that everyone feels seen, heard and appreciated regardless of gender. This was the core message delivered by lecturer Malin Gustavsson. Malin is a gender equality expert and the CEO of Ekvalita, a consultancy bureau that works with equality and similar treatment of all in organizations, schools and companies.
– The way we act and the way we see other people is largely dependent on what kind of gender norms we follow. Here we ourselves can make a difference within the projects we are running, by making the gender norm inclusive and welcoming instead of excluding, says Malin.
By “including norm” Malin means a way of treating people that make you feel appreciated, that your knowledge and opinions matter and that other factors, like e.g. gender, isn´t what decides if you fit into a group or not.
– Take for example a project that is about technology. Even if one could instinctively think that it is a field dominated by men you can make the project inclusive for all by the way you express yourself, who you choose to cooperate with and who you appoint as the target group; Simply think about whom you want to include and how, says Malin.
Malin emphasizes that we maintain the heteronorm we grew up with, every day. In the society this norm is about fitting in either as a man or a woman with all the attributes that we see as male or female.
– It can be interesting to think about how you might be maintaining the heteronorm within the project activities. You can ask yourself: what kind of a group do we want to have within the project? If we do not want to create a group that consists of solely persons of the same gender, with the same education and working experience, how can we create a more heterogenic working group, cooperation network or target group. How can the project group approach its target group in a way that makes everyone feel considered? The norms are there in everything we do in the projects: In whom we invite to meetings, who we choose to be part of the steering committee, how we communicate and in the ways we choose to market the project.
According to Malin the road to equality within project work has four steps. First we simply need to recognize if there are issues that prevent equality, then understand wherein the problem lies, then motivate yourself and the project group to work with the issue and finally make the right decisions so that change can happen.
– In all projects you can start by studying your goals and which values you work in accordance with. We can all think about how our work affects others and in what way we might be making a difference between genders in the way we operate. By daring to challenge our norms we can break old patterns and instead increase the diversity and equality in the projects.
Within Interreg Botnia-Atlantica extra focus has been put on demand for equality during the project period 2014-2020. Equality integration in projects include gender theory and equality politics. The seminar in Vasa targeted people that work in Botnia-Atlantica funded projects, for which the R&D departments of Novia University of Applied Sciences or University of Vaasa has the lead.
Written by Catrin Sandvik
(translated by Heidi Smart)