Representations of women researchers in Finnish print media: top researchers, multi-talents and experts


A recently published article by Prof. Liisa Husu, one of the founding members of EPWS, and Prof. Liisa Tainio addresses the portrayal of Finnish women scientists in print media.

The article was published in the special issue of Investigaciones Feministas, by Madrid Complutense University in Spain, on gender equality in academia (Vol 7, No 2 (2016) Monográfico: Des(igualdad) de género en la Universidad: retos actuales y oportunidades futuras), which includes articles in Spanish and English.

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Women’s underrepresentation in the scientific community is currently on the agenda of science policy, both in Europe and internationally. The significance of media as a provider of female role models, on the one hand, and in reproducing stereotypical images of scientists, on the other hand, is often mentioned in this context. However, there is relative lack of research on how women researchers are depicted in the media, especially outside US and UK contexts.

Finland provides an interesting context to study media representations of women in research, as a relatively gender equal and research intensive setting seen from a global perspective. The media representations of women researchers in Finland were explored by analyzing person interviews in Finnish printed media: newspapers, women’s magazines and magazines aimed for general public. The data consists of 107 interviews of women researchers from all fields of research, published in 1997-2014. Overwhelming majority of the interviews was written by female journalists.

The analysis focuses on both social and linguistic aspects of the interviews from a gender perspective. Women researchers were found to be represented by a variation of frames, the most common of which were the Expert and the Top Researcher. Their family context was frequently mentioned, and the interviews frequently commented their appearance (e.g. hair, physique, way of moving). The fact that the interviewees’ family context was often highlighted in the interviews may serve to convey a message that it is possible and common to combine a career in research and family. One main result of the study was the diversity of representations of female researchers, compared to US and UK studies.

The diversity of the media images of female researchers suggests that the media may provide important role models for young women, encouraging women to choose research as a profession.

Keywords: Research career, media, Finland, public representations, academia.

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