Women and Leadership 2019

"Leaders in academia have much to learn from leaders in other fields," says HR Manager at the Faculty of Humanities, Helga Reiss. This fall, MultiLing organized its second Women and Leadership Roundtable at Campus Blindern.

Picture of the audience in Auditorium 3, Helga Engs hus.

The roundtable gathered many students, members of faculty and others for a day of engaging talks and conversations.

Broadening the scope

In 2018, MultiLing had the pleasure of organizing the first Women and Leadership Roundtable at the University of Oslo. The event focused on leadership within academia. This year’s Women and Leadership event extended the scope beyond higher education, and recruited speakers from both the public and private sectors, including the field of politics, NGOs, business and technology. "This was a good decision," says main organizer at MultiLing, Kellie Gonçalves: “We know that the next generation of female leaders and university students will not all pursue an academic career. By broadening the scope, we were given insight into other career trajectories and were informed about the challenges women face in the political sphere, tech sphere and non-profit sector.”

Postdoctoral Fellow at MultiLing and main organizer of the event, Kellie Gonçalves, is delivering her introduction. She is standing in the front of the auditorium and is speaking into a microphone. She is holding a piece of paper, but is looking up and in the direction of the audience. The audience is not visible in the image.
Postdoctoral Fellow at MultiLing, Kellie Gonçalves, introduced the event.

“We know that the next generation of female leaders and university students will not all pursue an academic career. By broadening the scope, we were given insight into other career trajectories and were informed about the challenges women face in the political sphere, tech sphere and non-profit sector.”

 Kellie Gonçalves, organizer

Ethiopia's Minister of Science and Higher Education

One of the speakers at the event was Her Excellency Hirut Woldemariam, the Minister of Science and Higher Education in Ethiopia. Previous to her appointment, she was Professor of linguistics at Addis Ababa University. When putting together the current cabinet in the fall on 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made the decision to appoint half the ministerial posts to women. Reforming the cabinet was a great step towards increased gender equality in Ethiopia. In her talk, Minister Hirut spoke about leadership in the Ethiopian context, and shared with the audience some of the skepticism the new cabinet has met. She pointed out that the issue women leaders face is not whether they have the capacity to lead, rather about people’s perception of their ability to lead. This was a recurring topic throughout the day.

Just two weeks before the Women and Leadership event, it was announced that Prime Minister Abiy would be awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. His dedication to gender equality in the Ethiopian government was mentioned in the announcement. This made Minister Hirut's visit even more relevant, and MultiLing was honored to host her.

Her Excellency Hirut Woldemariam is speaking into a microphone while giving her talk at the Women and Leadership event.
H. E. Hirut gave a talk about developments in gender equality in the Ethiopian context.

Female leadership in male-dominated spaces

The University of Oslo’s Vice Rector for Research and Internationalization, Åse Gornitzka, continued on the note set by H. E. Hirut, addressing issues connected to the lack of women leaders in higher education. The Secretary General from the Norwegian Institute of Directors, Gro Brækken, spoke about her own career, and shared experiences and advice from the perspective of an experienced women leader in several traditionally more masculine fields, including the oil and gas sector. 

The speakers enjoyed the other talks of the day, and added important perspectives in the discussions that followed.

Solveig Busk Halvorsen, a field team leader in the Norwegian branch of MSF – Doctors without Borders, spoke about her experiences of leadership in a context of crisis, and pointed out some of the challenges of being a women leader of culturally diverse teams. Professor Allyson Jule (Trinity Western University, Canada) gave a thought-provoking talk about the gendered language of leadership, and the Head of Operations at the German tech company Jimdo and agility coach, Nadja Macht, spoke about how she uses coaching in her approach to leadership.

"The varied backgrounds and topics of the speakers elevated the event, and provided great insight into different leadership positions and practices."

 Helga Reiss, HR Manager at HF

Taking on a leadership role

“One of the points I came away with from this year's event is that many of the women who are currently in leadership positions did not necessarily plan it or even feel like they had leadership qualities.”, Kellie Gonçalves said. “Moreover, they never felt quite ready to take on some of the challenges leadership requires, but as Macht informed us, you never really are ready because the tasks and requirements of a leader are constantly changing. Once you decide to take on a leadership role (if that is really what you want to do), you simply have to go for it and learn your lessons along the way. That being said, having a mentor or coach to discuss things with can be an excellent idea for women leaders starting out. “

A woman in the audience is holding a microphone and speaking into it. She is engaged in a plenary conversation or discussion, making gestures with her left hand.
The audience were engaged in the conversations and discussions following the talks, and many, including MultiLing PhD Fellow Elisabet García González, participated actively. 

The Faculty of Humanities' Action Plan for Gender Equality

Women and Leadership 2019 was generously funded by the Faculty of Humanities and the Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, and attracted roughly 80 participants of all academic levels and from several disciplines. The event was organized in conjunction with the Faculty of Humanities' Action Plan for Gender Equality. 

Helga Reiss, HR Manager at the Faculty of Humanities, was very pleased with the content and organization this year's event, and pointed out that many women leaders and leader candidates could learn a lot from this year's speakers. "The varied backgrounds and topics of the speakers elevated the event, and provided great insight into different leadership positions and practices.", Reiss states, and continues: "Many of the talks were based on the speakers' own experiences, which was informative and provided intriguing perspectives."

For more information and the full program, see the event website.

By Mari J. Wikhaug Andersen
Published Dec. 17, 2019 11:56 AM - Last modified Dec. 18, 2019 11:56 AM