Raising awareness about gender equality

Only about 25 per cent of the students and 20 per cent of the faculty members at ITM are women. To address this gender imbalance, and raise awareness of the issues facing women and minorities in academia, a number of initiatives are now under way.

Visual interpretation: Sofia Ritzén in stairwell with green plants in the background.
Sofia Ritzén, Professor and head of the department of Machine Design

We had a talk with Professor Sofia Ritzén, who is the head of the department of Machine Design, and is responsible for gender equality, diversity and equal treatment at ITM.

What causes gender imbalance in engineering?
– Engineering has traditionally been a typical male activity and women remain largely under-represented. It’s our goal to try to turn that around and reach a better balance between male and female students and employees at ITM. In addition, it’s as important to create an equal environment, which is only partly achieved by adjusting the numbers of men versus women. For that to happen, we also need to address a number of other issues.

I believe that one key to this is to raise awareness. We need to bring issues of both numbers and culture up for discussion. All too often we stop at an ambition to increase numbers without even knowing what discrimination in our environment looks like. I definitely think that we need to speed things up and this is something that the whole ITM Management is clearly behind.

Can you tell us about some of your concrete activities?
– To start with, we will educate all our managers in gender equality, diversity and equal treatment. It’s a managerial responsibility to develop our organisation and to make sure that everyone has the same opportunities, which is why we choose to make an extensive training effort in this area. The training encompasses four full days and includes a closer look at workplace culture. Based on this, participants will formulate their own action plans.

We will also support formation of gender equality, diversity and equal treatment groups at every institution. It is an important part of nurturing the forces of change that already exist in the organisation. We will also review how we inform new employees about our multicultural environment, and how we communicate our values to make sure that everyone sees it as a natural part of working at ITM.

Text: David Andersson