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Equal working environment – crucial for the academy

He has such potential. An expression that is often used by men about men but that is by no means an overwhelming endorsement. Perhaps when young and promising is but a distant memory?

In yet another report on how it is not a level playing field for men and women when it comes to pursuing an academic career, the Swedish Association of University Teachers (SULF) in Med ljuset på jämställdhet – när osäkerheten överskuggar allt  (In Swedish) describes what the obstacles and differences can look like – from precarious employment conditions to research funding and promotions.

In numbers between male and female professors, the proportions change slowly but slowly, but the difference is still great. Of KTH’s 335 professors, 270 are men and 65 women according to the latest annual report.

Qualifications are what should determine your position. But what should count as qualifications? Is it solely your publications and your H-index? Or is it the capacity to collaborate with the enterprise sector and the world outside? Or of being mobile and daring to develop by changing university?Or getting work to proceed more smoothly in the research group, involving yourself in work groups, arranging series of seminars, being seen in debates or developing programmes?

All the above take time away from research and publishing and this sometimes falls under the concept of “academic housework”?

Work that someone has to do and that is often most clearly noticed when it is no longer being done and that tends to be done by women to a greater extent within an organisation where time is often in short supply. This work is necessary to be able to find the finance to both cover the costs of and develop research projects.

There is a big risk that this system will be self-perpetuating in a closed circle where the more resources, the more research and the more qualifications. Even though KTH has come a fair way along the road when it comes to weighing in different aspects of qualifications, we have plenty to gain from expanding the way a researcher is viewed today.

The system is also reflected in what I said about potential in my opening sentence. The expression suggests that this is someone that has not done that much so far, but it is only a matter of time and he has his whole future ahead of him to deliver on his promise. Women on the other hand, often have to do a great deal and ideally quickly in the form of publications and expert adviser assignments before they can even be considered for an assignment.

Creating good conditions to be a teacher and researcher at a university is almost a matter of fate. It must be attractive to work at KTH in a good and developing working environment and conditions to do your best. If anxiety, worry and stress take over, the potential teachers and researchers of the future will choose a different career. It does not benefit KTH’s development in the long run. That is why we work so focused on gender equality and equal opportunities for women and men.