lunduniversity.lu.se

Gender equality – not just for show

2016-09-22

LTH is one of the faculties at Lund University that is considered to be single-gendered. This discussion focuses mainly on the number of female professors – a figure that at LTH is around 15 per cent, although the proportions vary greatly within the faculty. Obviously, we are not happy with this number; on the contrary, we will do our best to raise it. We must become more active and reflective in our calls for applications for vacant posts, and improve our recruitment process. However, there is no quick solution to this problem; rather, we must begin our efforts at an earlier stage – with our associate senior lecturers and doctoral students.

Some areas are looking quite good, but within my own discipline, Electrical Engineering, there is a significant male dominance. This is not unique to LTH – it applies to all of Sweden as well as the rest of the world. I recently attended a conference in microelectronics with men, men and even more men!

The problem with this gender imbalance begins long before the recruitment process. During all my years at LTH, the study programmes in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering have competed for last place in terms of the number of female students. The proportion of women on the Electrical Engineering programme is often well below 20 per cent, and in Computer Science, the percentage is in the single digits. We are very pleased to see many more female students on these programmes in connection with this year’s admissions, although the increase began from a very low starting point. I hope that this is the sign of a new trend, as we need more female engineers – not only to create a better atmosphere on our study programmes, but also to respond to society’s needs. How many talents are we missing out on?

Many different efforts are needed to create better balance, some of which are outside the scope of LTH. However, there is a lot that we can do, including self-reflection on how we approach each other. Is there a male culture making women not always feel comfortable and, if so, can we change it? We need female role models, and the student Elin Backlund, who last spring was named Sweden’s IT Girl of the Year by Microsoft is one example. We also have great hopes for our female visiting professorships, through the Lise Meitner programme, which have generated a lot of interest. I hope to soon be able to welcome the new female professors to LTH.

LTH continues its work on the project “Flickor på Teknis” (Women at the Faculty of Engineering) – a major initiative that targets upper secondary school students in Skåne, in which our student ambassadors visit these schools to inspire both girls and boys to apply for studies in the field of engineering.

So, am I writing this as a way of trying to be politically correct? Or because the University Board, funding bodies, and the Swedish Government are currently sending these signals? Naturally, I listen to them, but I am also personally convinced that a more diverse workplace is a better workplace. Diversity changes the working environment and improves the discussion climate. The way I see it, this does not only apply to the proportion of women and men, but all forms of diversity.

When it comes to recruitment, the issue is almost always discussed in terms of the proportion of female professors which, in my view, is unfortunate. I understand that this figure holds much symbolic value, and we must do our best in this area, but in order to achieve our objectives, we need to begin our efforts at an earlier stage. Furthermore, a similar gender imbalance can be found within the administration, but with the opposite inequality. This should also considered, given what I said earlier, that a more diversified workplace becomes a better workplace.

We have a long way to go, but together we will strive to create a better balance between men and women at LTH. This is needed to develop both LTH and society at large.

Viktor Öwall
Dean at LTH


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2015-01-22

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Viktor Öwall
Dean of the Faculty of Engineering LTH

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