AuthorColumban, Alexandra
  1. Introduction.

    Gender in Romanian Academia and at Babes-Bolyai University

    Gender continues to be a topic of interest in Social Sciences and Academia, particularly in the West, in part due to the advancement of feminism, human rights and democracy. Nevertheless, gender studies remain underdeveloped in Romania and topics related to equality between men and women are often marginalized and approached unsystematically. The current study aims to contribute to academic research in Romania on the topic of gender by analyzing the perceptions of students at Babes-Bolyai University on four dimensions: attitudes towards gender equality, prevalence of gender stereotypes, gender-based violence, and discrimination.

    Babes-Bolyai University (hereinafter BBU), with its 44,676 students for the academic year 2017-2018 (Universitatea Babes-Bolyai, 2018), is the largest university in Romania according to its student body, as well as the highest-ranking university in the country--among the top 601-700 universities in the world, according to the Shanghai Ranking (Academic Ranking of World Universities, undated). It is composed of 21 faculties, 12 of which have extensions in other cities. The majority of its students, 74%, are enrolled in bachelor studies, while 23.4% are studying for their master's degree and 2.5% are PhD candidates. In terms of its gender structure, 65.5% of its students are female (Universitatea Babes-Bolyai, 2019). These numbers are in line with national statistics which indicate that women, as students, are better represented at all levels of higher education: in 2017, in Romania, 40,627 women and 30,498 men earned a bachelor's degree, 30,067 women and 18,170 men earned a master's degree, and 1,027 women and 861 men earned a Doctorate (EIGE--Eurostat, 2016).

    Furthermore, the proportion of female staff has steadily increased in Romanian Academia, from 29.45% in 1975 to 50.02% in 2015 (The World Bank, 2019). Nevertheless, on average, females occupy lower teaching positions than men and their numbers decrease among higher teaching positions: in 2015, 39% of managerial positions were held by women, while in 2013, 30.9% of university professors (the highest rank in Romanian tertiary education) were women (Institute for Educational Sciences, 2015, p. 7). Lower representation of female faculty, as well as increased gender segregation in study fields may negatively impact students', particularly women's, perceived self-competence and career choice (Ulku-Steiner, Kurtz-Costes and Kinlaw, 2000, p. 297; Kurtz-Costes, Helmke and Ulku-Steiner, 2006, p. 151).

    In addition, gender segregation in higher education remains high and has declined very little across decades: for instance, a cross-sectional study on eight European countries from the 1960s to the 1990s shows that the elevated gender segregation can be explained along the humanities-science divide, as well as the care-technical divide, which together account for more than 90% of gender segregation in the countries under study (Barone, 2011, p. 158). In turn, the choice of fields of study alone may be responsible for 14% of the gender income gap (Bobbitt-Zeher, 2007, p. 13). Although no data was identified for the gender structure across fields of study at BBU, it is reasonable to conclude that similar segregation is present at the institution.

  2. Legislation and public policies on gender equality in education in Romania

    Nondiscrimination in general and, more specifically, gender-based discrimination in education is prohibited by national legislation in Romania. The National Education Law states that the principles governing primary, secondary, and tertiary education in Romania, as well as life-long learning are 'the principle of equity--according to which the access to education is carried out without discrimination' and 'the principle of ensuring equality of opportunities' (art. 3, National Education Law no. 1/ 2011). Nondiscrimination in the access to education and professional training is also prohibited by Ordinance no. 137/ 2000 on the prevention and sanctioning of all forms of discrimination (art. 1(2-e-V)), as well as by Law no. 272/ 2004 regarding the protection and promotion of the rights of the child (art. 6(b)).

    In addition to prohibiting and sanctioning discrimination, a series of legislative acts govern the introduction of educational content promoting gender equality. Concretely, art. 14 (2) of Law no. 202/ 2002 states that 'educational institutions of all levels, social factors involved in instructional-educational processes, as well as all other providers of training and development services, authorized by law, will include in national education programs themes and activities related to equal opportunities and treatment between women and men'. In addition, the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence), ratified by Romania in 2016, requires states to 'take, where appropriate, the necessary steps to include teaching material on issues such as equality between women and men, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non-violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, gender-based violence against women and the right to personal integrity, adapted to the evolving capacity of learners, in formal curricula and at all levels of education' (art. 14). In fact, Romania committed to similar measures as early as 1981, when it ratified CEDAW (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women). Article 10 of the Convention states that parties shall take appropriate measures for '(c) the elimination of any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education by encouraging coeducation and other types of education which will help to achieve this aim and, in particular, by the revision of textbooks and school programs and the adaptation of teaching methods'.

    At the central level, steps towards the implementation of education for gender equality have been taken primarily by ANES (The National Agency for Equal Opportunities between Women and Men), an agency under the Ministry of Labor, which has detailed their policies in the National Strategies for the Promotion of Gender Equality 2006-2009, 2010-2012, 2014-2017, and 2018-2021. Some of these measures include: the creation of a guide for gender mainstreaming in preschool education; training programs on gender equality for teachers; and the creation of CONES (The National Commission for Equal Opportunities between Men and Women) which has a consultancy status in national policies concerning education (ANES, n.d., pp. 12-13). While these actions are encouraging, they remain insufficient, as studies have shown that education for gender equality is systematically marginalized in primary and secondary education, as well as in the teacher training programs (both initial training in universities, aimed at future teachers, and professional training for acting teaching staff) (David, 2020, pp. 48-49).

  3. Breaking down gender: gender equality, gender stereotypes, violence, and discrimination

    There are different approaches to defining and measuring gender equality--one of the four domains investigated in the present study. One such approach distinguishes between gender parity (or formal equality), which measures the access to and participation of men and women in different fields and services, such as education and the labor market, and equality of outcome (or substantive equality), which takes into account the biological differences, as well as the social constructs that disadvantage women in relation to men, thus focusing on the quality of the educational or work experience--i.e. that women enter, take part and benefit from the experience as much as men (Figure 1). While the former is a static indicator, the latter is dynamic and stems from equality of treatment and equality of opportunity, mechanisms which rely on the principle of non-discrimination (Subrahmanian, 2005, pp. 397-398).

    According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, which designed the Gender Equality Index, a comprehensive measure of gender equality understood as gender parity, Romania was the third least equal EU country in 2017 (based on data from 2015), followed only by Hungary and Greece. With an index of 52.4 (where 0 marks complete inequality and 100, perfect equality), Romania is well behind the EU average of 66.2. The index considers six core domains (work, money, time, knowledge, health, and power), as well as two satellite domains (violence against women and intersecting inequalities). The domain knowledge, of interest for the current study, places Romania at a score of 51.8: although the number of men and women graduates of tertiary education is equal (with more women than men graduates in the 25-49 age group), these are the lowest level in the whole of the EU. In addition, gender segregation in study fields remains high: 31% of women university students, compared to 17% of men students, are enrolled in education, health and welfare, humanities and arts, fields that traditionally perceived as 'feminine' (EIGE--Gender Equality Index, 2018).

    Although more difficult to measure and with a less clear connection to gender equality than the aforementioned factors, gender stereotypes may also constitute the cause or the effect of prevailing inequalities. A stereotype is a generalized view or belief about attributes or characteristics that are or should be possessed, as well as the roles that should be performed by members of certain social groups (Cook and Cusack, 2010, p. 9). Consequently, a gender stereotype is a belief or preconception about the attributes, characteristics and roles of women and men (Cook and Cusack, 2010, p. 20). In other words, gender stereotypes are both descriptive and prescriptive, implying a risk of some form of sanction in case of failure to...

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