Precarious Researchers in Italy: Gender Asymmetries in a STEM Department

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Rossella BOZZON, Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento, Italy
Annalisa MURGIA, Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento, Italy
Over the last years, the Italian academic system has been characterized by several reforms, which strongly modified the recruitment system and the current academic population. Despite these substantial changes, the gender gap – especially in STEM disciplines – seems instead to be stable over time. Although there is a (slow) increase in the presence of female PhD candidates and post-docs, women continue to be highly underrepresented among the highest academic positions.

In this paper we discuss part of the results of the GARCIA project – Gendering the Academy and Research: combating Career Instability and Asymmetries, financed by the FP7 Programme of the European Commission. The project, with a three-year duration (2014-2017), involves seven countries (Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, Iceland, Slovenia) and focuses on gender differences in the early phases of the academic career, in which the presence of temporary positions, not included in tenure track paths, has enormously increased in recent decades. Adopting both a quantitative and a qualitative approach, we analyse a case study conducted in a medium-sized university located in the north-east of Italy.

From a quantitative point of view, we disentangle the above-mentioned gender gaps within STEM disciplines, looking at the individual and family characteristics.

The qualitative analysis is instead based on twenty in-depth interviews conducted in a department of Information Engineering and Computer Science. The interviews involved both male and female post-docs and fixed-term researchers currently working at the University, and PhD holders who worked in the past with temporary positions in the studied department, but who are now continuing their careers elsewhere, in academia or in other fields.

In the conclusion we discuss the implications of recent changes in the Italian academic system, from a gender perspective, highlighting how the current processes are not able to encourage female scholars in constructing a successful scientific career.