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Report: Higher education institutions need to pay attention to equality for staff members belonging to ethnic minorities

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 7.11.2022 13.00
Press release

A recent report shows that Finnish higher education institutions still have much work to do in promoting equality for teaching and research staff. Commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the project examined how gender equality, non-discrimination and diversity in higher education communities are realised and promoted in Finnish higher education institutions. The project’s final report was published on Monday 7 November.

“Equality and non-discrimination, as such, are important values that should be promoted, and they are also the way to healthy workplace communities and to better research results and educational outcomes. That is why we wanted to produce research-based knowledge on experiences of discrimination. This gives higher education communities tools to tackle problems with determination,” says Atte Jääskeläinen, Director General at the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The report produced completely new information on experiences of discrimination based on ethnic background encountered in higher education institutions. One of the project’s key findings was that ethnic minorities experience discrimination almost twice as often as ethnic Finns.

“Research on ethnic equality in higher education institutions is scarce, and we do not know enough about it yet,” says Julia Jousilahti, director of the project consortium. “So far the debate has focused on gender equality in Finland,” she says.

“Finland and its higher education institutions are becoming increasingly international in scope. Finland desperately needs international talent, so we must be more mindful of ethnic equality in higher education institutions,” Jousilahti says.

The study also produced new information on gender equality. The report shows that in all academic disciplines the gender ratio in research groups led by women was more balanced or the groups were more female-dominated than those led by men. Women also observed discrimination in higher education institutions slightly more often than did men.

In universities, the clearest statistical indication of gender inequality becomes manifest in the sharp decline in the number of women in the highest ranks of academic careers. When examining university careers, it can be seen that female undergraduate students outnumber male undergraduates, whereas the number of men in top posts in academia far exceeds that of women.

Recommendations for promoting gender equality, non-discrimination and diversity

The project’s final report lists recommendations that higher education institutions can use for promoting gender equality, non-discrimination and diversity. The key ones are to:

  • improve the implementation and monitoring of equality and non-discrimination plans,
  • step up national support for equality and non-discrimination efforts,
  • introduce mandatory gender equality and non-discrimination training for managers in higher education institutions and for staff members involved in recruitment, and
  • provide resources for collecting and researching data on gender equality and diversity in higher education institutions.

The study was conducted by Demos Helsinki, Innolink, Oxford Research, Includia Leadership, Researcher Inkeri Tanhua and Professor Liisa Husu in close cooperation with stakeholders, i.e. staff, management, funding bodies as well as organisations in the field of Finnish higher education institutions.

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