International Women’s Day

08.03.2023. / news / About the University

Dear and esteemed colleagues,

International Women’s Day is once again an opportunity to review the state of gender equality at universities and beyond, as well as to open up some new discussions. While a few women were recognized and renowned in the history of science, the numbers have improved today. Although only thirty women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in the past hundred years, from the beginning of 1901 to 2000, the same number of women have been given this most prestigious prize in the last two decades. Today, women are far more present in all segments of public life and there is a better dialogue on the topic of gender equality and the challenges surrounding it.

The Gender Equality Index, published annually by the European Institute for Gender Equality, shows continuous improvement. In spite of that, according to the estimates, the progress is slow; the score of 68.6 at the level of the European Union indicates we are far from full equality.

Furthermore, lagging behind the countries of northern and western Europe is evident. Women have achieved better equality in those countries, as demonstrated by a score surpassing 80, while the score for eastern and southern European countries barely reaches 50.

The publication She Figures, published by the European Commission, provides data on the state of gender equality in research institutions. Women make up almost half of all Ph.D. students, accounting for around 42% of women in the academic world, but only 26.2% of women are in the highest academic positions, and just 23.6% are in leadership positions. More women work on fixed-term contracts; they are less successful in attracting research funding; and only 10% are innovators. By comparing European universities, data from the U-Multirank Gender Monitor illustrated that women are particularly underrepresented at research-intensive universities, and the student world is still divided in such a way that women dominate in the field of education and health while men dominate in the fields of technology, energy, and computing.

In short, despite improvements in science politics, and initiatives, the change is slow, gender inequalities persist, and gender is still a key demographic determinant of both status and financial disparity.

Deep-seated and unidentified stereotypes and prejudices slow down and hinder progress. What is more, there are even movements and initiatives that openly resist the establishment of equality and blatantly aim to reduce the space for freedom, human rights, and equal dignity for women.

Therefore, we must expand the spaces of freedom and equality for everyone, all year round, and not only on the day that internationally marks the importance of the fight for women’s equality – without faltering or discouragement, in spite of all. There are various ways to do so, and many of them are good. However, science and education are the only guarantees of long-term success because they reduce ignorance and prejudice as key causes of violence in society. Universities are of particular importance, as they preserve knowledge.

To all who believe in a more equal and freer world for everyone, let’s spend International Women’s Day in goodwill and trust that women’s equality will only grow stronger with each passing year. Certainly, we will make it our mission.

Semper magis!

Prof. Snježana Prljić Samaržija, Ph.D.
Rector of the University of Rijeka

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