Vilnius University has become the first academic institution in Lithuania to evaluate gender equality
At the request of Vilnius University (VU), the evaluation of gender equality was performed by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson. A unique research method called ‘gender equality ruler’ was used. VU is the first higher education institution in Lithuania that has participated in such research, a press release from the university states.
VU employees assessed gender equality situation in 6 different broad subjects. After questioning academic and non-academic staff, some conclusions could be made. For instance, areas evaluated the most positively by the academics were employment, promotion opportunities and organisational culture. The administrative staff reported organisational culture as the most advanced area regarding gender equality.
Although there were no particular complaints, one trend could be observed – approximately in all valuated areas male respondents seemed to feel braver and more confident compared to females.
The Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson of the Republic of Lithuania Agneta Skardžiuvienė welcomed VU determination to create an environment favourable to everyone in its organization and says that: "assurance of gender equality is a complex process and it is a pleasure that Vilnius University administration takes this issue seriously and strategically".
According to the Vice-Rector for Community Affairs of Vilnius University Dr. Birutė Švedaitė-Sakalauskė, the university has been focusing on disability for the past three years. However, from now on more attention will be appointed to gender equality and related issues.
'The evaluations we have received is a pretty good result and state the common feeling in the air which gives us an insight into what we should improve', said the Vice-Rector. She also noted the university is determined to pay more attention to measures which could help employees manage work and personal life more easily.
When responding to questions about recruitment and promotion processes, males, more than females, are more likely to agree that promotion procedures are transparent. Moreover, men more often think they have real opportunities to be promoted.
In general, VU academic community is well aware of what gender inequality is and how it occurs. As a result, only few respondents were uncertain how to respond to the questionnaire. Although cases related with gender equality at the University are scarce, survey revealed that females more than males are facing dignified behaviour, unpleasant comments and gender related jokes.
Regarding the issue of equal pay, no distinction was observed between both groups.
Among less appreciated aspects were career breaks and conditions of returning to work from maternity leave. Also, females more often than males could not answer if their employers provide an opportunity to take a few days off or work at home.
Main principles of gender equality are included in the legal base of the university, such as Academic Code of Conduct, rules regulating the recruitment and selection procedures as well as evaluation principles.
Although the University already has a number of aspects embedded in its internal legislation, payroll procedures, selection and other measures, the Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson observes that
employees still lack of information and attention to the issue of gender equality. The necessity to have a policy for equal opportunities is stated in the new Labour Code of the Republic of Lithuania and the obligation to ensure equal opportunities at work place is provided by the Law on Equal Opportunities.
The Gender Equality Ruler is a tool created by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson in order to help public and private sector organizations to assess the situation of gender equality in their workplace. Also, it can be used as a measuring tool if assessed periodically.