Sociology of Gender








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Unit of Gender Studies
Institute of Sociology and Social Policy
University of Tartu
36-405 Lossi St., 51003 Tartu, ESTONIA
Phone: +372 7 375930
E-mail: gender[at]

The Unit of Gender Studies is connected with the Faculty of Social Sciences. The unit acts as an academic program, research and information center.

Aims of the unit

  • promotion and co-ordination of gender studies;
  • women’s studies and gender research;
  • teaching and curriculum development;
  • advocacy (governmental institutions, women's NGOs, other interested groups);
  • documentation of research results;
  • databases of persons related to gender studies, institutions and women’s NGOs, men’s NGOs;
  • lectures, seminars, and courses for non-academic community;
  • co-operation between institutions, academic community, and with the women's NGOs.


Gender studies courses have been optional in spite of society’s need for specialists in this area (implementation of gender sensitive legislation, national gender equality machinery).

There is no degree program in gender studies. The university offers baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degree programs. In applied subjects diploma programs are available.

At the moment there are following courses concerning gender issues in the UT:

  • Social construction of gender
  • Feminist perspsectives in sociology
  • Sociology of gender
  • Gender and economics
  • Classic texts in feminism
  • Feminist literary criticism
  • Sociology of family
  • Psychology of family


Unit has partners on the basis of projects. Since 2003, the Unit of Gender Studies has invited several young researchers as Katri Lamesoo, Kairi Talves, Ülle Kukk and Kadri Soo. They have been active in the EU Framework Programs and in other projects.

Very good partners to the Unit have been Tiina Laur, Judit Strömpl, Terje Kuusemaa, Anneken Metsoja. Co-operation with other research units has been fruitful.

Head of the Unit has been Anu Laas since 1995. She became to the field of gender studies in the beginning of the 1990s, but institutional development of the Unit has been slow.

Anu Laas, laas[at]
Head of unit

Research area:

gender stereotypes, gender (in)equality, gender and employment, gender and entrepreneurship


 Katri Lamesoo, Researcher
Research area: prostitution, sociology of social work, qualitative research methods

Kairi Talves, Researcher
Research area: qualitative research methods, gender and democracy


  Kadri Soo, Researcher
Research area: sexual abuse, violence against women


Untypical employment, low pay and low skills (Network project LoWER3, 2004-2007)

Gender stereotypes in SET (European Commission Framework Programme 6: BASNET project - Baltic States Network ‘Women in Sciences and High Technology’, 2006-2007; Women in SET - Tackling gender stereotypes, 2004-2006); fostering gender mainstreaming in the ICT sector 'Gender-IT, 2008-2010)

European Commission Framework Programme 5: Enlargement, Gender and Governance (EGG, 2002-2005)
Construction of gender in Estonia (1999-ongoing)
Gender inequality in Estonia (1999-ongoing)
Research on men and fathers (1998-1999)
Women’s employment and entrepreneurship (1997-ongoing)
Gender stereotypes in Estonia and Finland (1996-1998)
Career paths of university graduates of 1992 (1996)



The gender-IT project aims to contribute to innovative and attractive VET practices in the ICT sector in order to cover the existing gender gap with women accounting for less than 20% of computer systems designers, analysts and programmers in the EU27.  

Daphne II project GVEI

The project aims to: Design social indicators for measuring and shedding light on the multidimensional effects of gender violence on women’s life, in order to improve social policies dealin with gender violence.


EU FP6-project BASNET (‘BALTIC STATES NETWORK “WOMEN in SCIENCES and HIGH TECHNOLOGY’, 2006-2007) project was initiated by the Lithuanian Women Physicists, project coordinator is the Vilnius University. Estonian partners in the BASNET project are University of Tartu and the Ministry of Education and Research.

Further reading:



European Low-wage Employment Research network LoWER has been active near ten years. Focus of the LoWER3 is on The Insecure Perspectives of the Low Skilled in the Knowledge Society. Network does not support research process, but it supports meetings, conferences and publishing research results.

Anu Laas is a member of Steering Committee

Further reading:

Expertise on gender and employment to the EU DG Employment

The European Commission's expert group on gender, social inclusion and employment (EGGSIE) was set up under the European Commission's fourth action programs on equal opportunities for women and men in the European Union to provide expert advice, research and policy evaluation to assist the Commission's Equal Opportunities Unit located in DG Employment. Anu Laas has been selected as an expert from Estonia to this expert group EGGSIE.

EGG project (2002-2006)

European Commission Framework Programme 5: Enlargement, Gender and Governance (EGG, 2002-2006). The main objective of EGG is to analyze the extent to which representative institutions and other organizations (such as political parties, trade unions, NGOs and social movements) enable women's participation and representation in political decision-making and governance in EU candidate countries. By looking at how the history of communist rule has affected women's current political position, the project will provide recommendations to the Commission and candidate country governments in order to underpin effective future policy-making.

EGG is distinct in its emphasis on government and civil society, as there has not yet been a systematic analysis solely of gender and enlargement, the civic and political participation of women in CEECs, or the effectiveness of attempts by the Commission and candidate country government to legislate on gender equality. It is also unique in the size and scale of its research, bringing together academic experts from all ten of the CEECs that will become EU members in 2004 and 2007.

Further reading:

Gender and Sexuality

In partnership with the Working Group for Cooperation on Children at Risk (WGCC).

Co-ordinator from Estonia is Mare Ainsaar. Survey about sexuality and related issues is carried out in many countries (Norway, Sweden, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia), data on Estonia is in gathered, data analysis is on a way.

Unit of Gender Studies is one of partners to analyse gender aspect in this international research project.

Further reading:


Unit’s library

The unit is established in 1995. Preparations for the unit started in 1990 under the Unit of Family Studies. The University of Tartu has not financed the unit. There is no fixed annual budget – activities are founded on the basis of projects. The reason for this kind of financial instability is the novelty of gender studies in Estonia.

There was created a small library of gender studies, where some books and copies of articles from different fields were available for the academic community and women’s NGOs.

This library is very useful for professors and students. In recent years the purchase of the books has been quite rare. In the nineties the library has enjoyed the support from the international institutions:

  • 1997, the United States Information Service in Tallinn (USIS Tallinn)
  • 1996, the Central European University (CEU)
  • 1995-1997, The United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

Lecturers and researchers involved gender research at the University of Tartu in 2005/2006

  • Leena Kurvet-Käosaar (feminist literary criticism)
  • Raili Põldsaar (feminist literary criticism)
  • Dagmar Kutsar (family research)
  • Ene Kõresaar (life histories, gender perspective in ethnology)
  • Anu Laas (feminist perspective in sociology, women’s entrepreneurship)
  • Anu Raudsepp (women’s history)
  • Judit Strömpl (qualitative research methods, sociology of deviance)
  • Sirje Tamul (women’s history)
  • Endla Lõhkivi (philosophy)

Academic system

The university offers baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degree programs. In applied subjects diploma programs are available. There is not degree program in gender studies. Academic year consists autumn and spring semester.

Partners since 1995

  • European Commission
  • USIS (United States Information Service in Tallinn)
  • UNDP (United Nations Development Program)
  • OEF (Open Estonian Foundation)
  • ILO (International Labour Organisation)
  • ETUI (European Trade Union Institute)
  • UNESCO-CEPES (European Centre for Higher Education)
  • Gender Equality Department at the Ministry of Social Affairs


Unit of Gender Studies is interested in co-operation:

  • exchange programs: information, students, lecturers
  • common projects with other scientific units.

More information about University of Tartu:

  • Unit of Gender Studies
  • University of Tartu
  • Tartu
  • Ministry of Education and Research
  • Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in Estonia. Monitoring The EU Accession Process: Equal Opportunities For Women and Men
  • Statistical Office of Estonia
  • About Republic of Estonia




© Anu Laas, 2005   Last modified: 23.01.2012  Feedback: laas[at]