The power of having and finding role models

The 8th March every year gives rise to a concentrated cluster of equality issues, analyses and events. This is always pleasing to see, even if it can paint a bleak picture of how far we have come in terms of equality. It is taking such a long time and there is still a great deal still to be done – despite the fact that many people seem pretty much agreed that equality is a question of quality and therefore of critical importance for Swedish competitiveness.

Like many other organisations, KTH addresses these issues on an everyday basis. Questions such as, for example, how can we persuade more girls to want to become engineers? How can we make academic career paths attractive? Or how can we create an equal organisation and a workspace that works, in this respect? A safe workspace is crucial if we are to maximise all our talents, both male and female.

We have numerous initiatives and ideas of how to do this. But I would like to come back to the idea of role models – that is to say, the picture of those who have gone before us. Because there always has to be someone who is the first and some one or several others who follow in their footsteps.

The Karolinska Institute, Malmö University and KTH have chosen to lead the way in launching a research and cooperation project that aims to combat sexual harassment and gender-based vulnerability in academia. The thinking is that we, as knowledge institutions, and also in this case employers, know how to develop and gather knowledge to map these issues in the form of instances, causes and consequences within the whole of academia and its categories – teachers, researchers, students, administration personnel etc.

At the introductory seminar, someone argued that three decades of policies and education have clearly not been enough to bridge the gap between knowledge and action. However, the more comprehensive and correct picture we have of the lay of the land at our universities, the more we can be oriented to change things that are foul and rotten. An international high quality education and research environment such as KTH, needs equal and good conditions, that will then make the study and work environment a more attractive and creative place.

Apropos role models. this makes me think of singer-songwriter Robyn who launched the Tekla Festival four years ago in partnership with KTH, to inspire and encourage young girls to investigate technology together with female role models. This year, the festival is being exported.

In partnership with the Swedish Institute and the Swedish Embassy, the festival was launched internationally in Washington DC on 8-9 March.

A big thanks to all of you who lead the way.