January 31, 2022No Comments

Teuta Sahatqija on Cybersecurity and Kosovo

Teuta Sahatqija talks about development of cybersecurity capacity in Kosovo since 1999, gender equality in the technology industry, cybersecurity, cybercriminal and cyberviolence occurrences, and the importance of technological development. Teuta Sahatqija is a Women in Tech Ambassador for Kosovo Chapter and an Advisor to the Mayor of Pristina for Digital Transformation and Smart City.

Interviewer: Zrinka Boric

October 19, 2021No Comments

The Teflon Road: resignification and policy vacuum normalise gender microaggressions

Author: Julia Hodgins.

Published with the support of Sofia Staderini and Leigh Dawson.

"Drilling holes in the patriarchal permissiveness" Image Source: https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vector/woman-road-worker-jackhammer-vector-20961675

Countering equality

Recently issued UN Report Our Common Agenda states “No meaningful social contract is possible without the active and equal participation of women and girls,” certainly for good reasons. The global and growing trend of gender equality awareness constantly collides with multiple Nemeses, resulting from the trivialisation at the very least – invisibilisation mostly – of gender matters and milestones. In the pursuit of gender equality, or even of partial alleviation of struggles that women face daily, trivialization and invisibilisation divert attention from relevant points. It seems like women are sentenced to walk a Teflon Road where nothing sticks or sticks briefly. Plentiful actions, debates, discussions, roundtables, publications, reports, books, films, protests, advocating for gender equality are not enough to either extinguish the re-signification of gender milestones, or to fill the policy vacuum in equality, sometimes counterproductively rolling-back advancements as recently seen in Afghanistan and Texas.


A salient example of resignification is the commercialization of the International Women’s Day. March 8th is a commemoration day that seeks bringing to mind multiple events happened along the last century and a half, having all in common the push for advancing gender equality, whether voting rights, work and safety rights, health and reproductive rights, access to resources and power, economic security, education, reward and income parity; the list just goes on. Media and sales treat March 8th as another yearly business opportunity with messages that transpire the flavor of either a late Valentine’s Day for unmatched women, an early Mother’s Day for single mothers, or a sort-of-birthday for women with ‘an attitude’. At the very best, male partners and colleagues honor women for complying with specific behavioral traits such as being kind, brave, sweet, maternal, and for ‘selflessly’ performing with many roles, always silent and patient. A critical eye would rather see indoctrination efforts leading women on complying with such roles.

Policy Vacuum

A dantesque example of policy vacuum is the worldwide difficult access to period products, still called feminineproducts. Estimates show that about 800 million people on the planet menstruate daily. Despite that women are unemployed, underpaid, and have a heavy glass-ceiling limiting their advancement, period products are taxed as luxury goods. In some countries, girls lose school due to both lack of access to menstruation and hygiene resources and to stigma; this last one perpetuates feelings of shame around an organic function that women cannot opt out from while generating an environment of fear and insecurity, all which hinders societal advancement. Period poverty is reported globally, to which only Scottish lawmakers have responded properly by making such products free to their citizens. In addition, while in some contexts women advocate to have paid period leave, in other contexts women struggle for lost productivity due to menstrual pain. 

Both Nemeses in action

On a side note, resilient capitalism found a way to resignify and exploit women’s physiology when suggesting that, “Learning to sync your female hormonal cycle with your work and life schedule is the ultimate bio-hack … helping women harness their energy and productivity.” Such bio-hack would sound better if harassment and public shaming would not exist.

Normalising microaggressions

The structural level – lack or insufficient policy – and the individual level – attitudes and beliefs – articulate to support a patriarchal system whose connecting lines are often invisible. Sylvia Walby argues that patriarchy is a cumulative product base on everyday practices. Often, those practices happen in the form of daily micro-aggressions in family, school, or workplace contexts where women are systematically ridiculed, laughed at, unheard, ignored, disbelieved, disregarded, dismissed, held back, or blatantly silenced. Women are called to endure those practices under the premise that those are not–ill-intended or lacking harm intentions; doers remain unaware and sometimes disinterested in the outcomes of their actions. Two lenses come relevant here. First, the logic of intention—effect. At this point of history, we know better that no matter the initial intention – or lack thereof – we evaluate actions based on the outcome, which in human relations is the effect in the other: pain, suffering, fear, stress, trauma, etc. Second, what Hannah Arendt calls the banality of evil. Under this perspective most of wrong doings are not intended but inertial acts that follow preestablished social patterns, introjected as normal.

Mansplaining, public-shaming, belittling, discounting, gaslighting, harassing, controlling, subjecting women to higher standards are understood as relational misdemeanors, therefore treated as a natural part of interactions that women should take lightly. However, such misdemeanors weave a support network that eventually upholds lack of accountability for major aggressions –physical violence, rape, femicide. The cultural permissiveness based on lack of bad intentions leads into an inertial indulgence supported by education, where women are thought to not take issue and be tolerant, reframing the micro aggression while bearing the burden of abuse. Women are expected to program into their brains that men are ‘like children’, granting green-light to the micro-aggression, not even a yellow.

The psychological science available, therapeutic resources, communication, and leadership training, amongst other tools to improve relations, did not stick enough to provide safe grounds for women. In fact, an over-indulgent look at systemic and cross-cultural gender abuse enables its perpetuation. This pattern constitutes the resistance to laws, policies, regulations, and codes of conduct, and the reason those fail to protect and support women; those laws, policies, etc., do not permeate beliefs, attitudes, and interactions. The Teflon paved roads between laws and behaviors precludes the advancement of gender equality, no matter how many glass ceilings women break.

Drilling holes in the (Teflon) road ahead

Women’s and supporters’ work, therefore, is instead to visibilise – signalling yellow at least – and not let micro-aggressions pass unseen; to stop making excuses for abusive behavior of any size. The immediate goal is to corrode the cements of gender-based violence aiming to debilitate inequality in daily interactions. Ultimately, the resistance to major aggressions should ebb leading to the decrease of sexual harassment, child-marriage, female genital mutilation, rape, femicide, etc. Besides breaking glass-ceilings, we must drill holes in the Teflon Road, everywhere.

May 31, 20212 Comments

Give a little yelp for our vets: the hidden pandemic

By: Sofia Staderini, Leigh Dawson, and Julia Hodgins.

‘Death row dogs’ is not a headline that would be warmly welcomed at any time of the year, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. With over 164 million virus cases and nearly 3.5 million deaths worldwide, it is hard to argue against the fact that COVID-19 has shaken the foundations of humanity to its core. Cases of rapidly deteriorating public mental health have skyrocketed, caused by excessive lockdowns, the closure of businesses, disconnection from loved ones and lack of time outdoors. The Australian Government has invested more than $5.7 billion (AUD) in mental health services and support in the past 12 months alone - and Australia has had very little COVID-19 spread since the virus’s inception. To cure our boredom pangs, the world turned to pet adoption creating a boom for the pet sector.  

However, as lockdown restrictions eased, people grew tired of their four-legged friends and began handing them into shelters, putting them up for further adoption and treating them with neglect. With many rescue centres at capacity due to ‘buyer’s remorse’, many pets are being euthanised - as they had not been adequately socialised with humans during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, this began to overwhelm the vet services market worldwide - especially women veterinarians. Unfolding from that, and considering the safety protocols, a main consequence of this boom is the stress amongst vets, a factor powerful enough to impact human security and community health. 

This month, the team Culture Society and Security discusses stress within vets reviewing the VetsSurvey 2020,conducted by CM Research Ltd., a multi-method study that collected data from 5000 veterinary professionals (veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and veterinary technicians) in 91 countries spread across the planet, contrasting with other perspectives.

The veterinary industry as a mirror of the effect of pandemic management 

With an approximate 25% rise in pet adoptions during the first pandemic months, the stress level of new owners had a positive effect, inversely proportional to the psychophysical pressure felt by veterinarians. Indeed, to overcome the stress of anti-contagion measures, many people considered the possibility of adopting an animal.  Workers in the healthcare industry covered one of the areas that had been most challenged and jeopardized by the pandemic. According to the findings of “VetsSurvey” conducted by CM Research LTD, 66% of vets feel they have too much work and not enough time. 

Unsurprisingly, the countries with the highest stress levels among vets are in line with Bloomberg's "Covid Resilience Ranking," which analyzes both the Covid-status and the quality of life, based on government actions and the consequences at the societal, political, economic, and health levels.  The increased adoption of puppies is closely linked to lockdown interventions and the need for psycho-physical comfort. The policies of the respective governments, which have resulted in high levels of stress on the part of the vets, show a managerial incompatibility between the interests of different citizens. 

The study, on the other hand, points to a larger problem.  As we find great similarities between the data concerning the veterinary industry and global dynamics, we can only emphasize that the stress experienced by veterinarians is a drop in the bucket of the psychophysical consequences caused by the pandemic and its management.

Gender equality and stress

The “industry gender domination” argument turns into a fallacy with intoxicating ‘alpha-male-ish’ aftertaste, to say the least, when females are numerically superior. Gender distribution in the vet industry, unusually, looks as 68% women and 31% men, explained by an 8% increase of women entering the trade since 2016 based on comparisons of earlier data with survey findings. Despite women outnumbering men two-to-one, CM Research observes that this industry is, simply, as unequal as others.

While figures might suggest female domination, a juicy catch to dispute inequality at least in STEM, female superiority is not the equivalent of equality. The study found that women seem “more likely to want to remain an employee”, speaking volumes about career expectations and a supportive environment. Furthermore, female vets report being suggested to interrupt a pregnancy as it harms their careers, and being “the wrong sex” as reason for not being promoted or offered a partnership.

Figure: Vets' Career Prospects by Gender. CM Research - VetsSuvey 2020

Consequently, the levels of stress are more pronounced in women vets, who likely are the main caregivers at home while coping with higher workloads due to the COVID ‘Pet Boom’. According to the researchers, stress levels decrease over age but gender patterns prevail, proving to be structural. Interestingly, the gender difference in the “compassion fatigue score” is smaller than in other categories, suggesting that despite increasing demands women still find ways to exercise compassion. 

In the business of caring for animals, non-dimmable compassion added to consistent resilience do not mean drivers for women’s career advancement. Topping this with the peculiarity that women’s socialisation unfolds into greater empathy, seeking protection, and nurturing the group in the midst of crises, as analysts observed. Why is this happening amid numeric superiority? Why are we not surprised?

Figure: Levels of Stress, Burnout and compassion fatigue. By CM Research VetsSurvey 2020

The overwhelming surge of workload for vets worldwide disproportionately affects women despite gender outnumbering, suggesting that global trends, pre-COVID and COVID-driven, are profoundly underpinned in society; here is a call for policy support at local governments and professional unions levels. A larger and more urgent task is to explore new avenues to reach gender equality, as numeric superiority - let alone parity - do not work. Rather, those exacerbate the stress in female vets who exercise high levels of resilience, holding compassion up at the expense of their own sanity while enduring ferocious competition from their male colleagues.

As COVID-19 edges the planet into a multifaceted security crisis, its ripple effects on human and non-human beings are still to be spotted and understood. Amongst those taking the hardest toll, furry buddies and their female Vets should be counted.

April 4, 2021No Comments

Mrs Vicky Pryce on Women vs Capitalism, British Economy, COVID, & Brexit

As one of Britain's top economists and business consultants, Mrs Vicky Pryce discusses her latest book, Women vs Capitalism, elucidating the reasons why the free capitalist market cannot bring about full gender equality, especially in a post-Brexit era still affected by COVID-19.