“Equality of opportunity is no longer a fad or a question for just a few passionate souls. It’s a direct requirement from the government”, says Cecilila Kjellgren and Marie Eriksson.
The integration of equality is a way to plan the work in an organisation to make sure that all decisions take into account how the decision will affect the power (im)balance between women and men. During the last few years, a number of Swedish authorities have been given a special commission from the government to integrate equality into their activities.
Now it is time for the universities and university colleges to do this. On May 15, they were to present a plan for how each respective higher education institution will work with the integration of equality.
Many voices are included in the plan
Cecilia Kjellgren and Marie Eriksson were given the commission to develop Linnaeus University's plan for the integration of equality.
How did you proceed with this?
"We have been in contact with a large number of people at the university to make an inventory of the equality work that has already been carried out and what is going on right now. We have also asked these people what they think needs to be done in the future".
So, some stuff has already been done?
"Yes, a lot has been done, but still little has actually happened. There have been ambitious projects, but in reality not much has changed unfortunately", says Marie Eriksson.
"We have listened to the organisation and met with a lot of people. We've had many meetings and these have been very helpful to us. The voices of many people are included in the plan and many will recognise parts of the plan. This makes us feel confident that there is support and legitimacy also for the work that now needs to be carried out", Eriksson continues.
The work starts now
The plan is now in place and the rector has decided that the integration is to implemented, so what happens now?
"Now is when the real work starts! However, it can't be run by just a few passionate souls. There must be a structure and an organsiation for this, someone who is responsible for handling these questions. Equality of opportunity must be actively worked with, a plan is not enough", Marie Eriksson explains.
"It is very important that the university board is on board in this work, and that managers at all levels take an active part", continues Cecilia Kjellgren.
"Our work with equality of opportunity must be integrated in the university's ordinary activities. We are not talking about a project or one selective measure. If equality of opportunity is to become part of our everyday life it must also be part of our structure", says Kjellgren.
Ten areas pointed out
The university's plan for the integration of equality lifts ten different areas, among them are an upgrading of the university's steering documents, career paths within the academy, allocation of research funds, and gender-linked study choices.
"Yes, that's correct. However, what we primarily need is improved knowledge. Our inventory has shown that there is a lot of knowledge, but also that there are big flaws in this knowledge. Therefore, we suggest an education package to improve the awareness within the organisation", says Eriksson.
"What we have in mind is a basic education, but also special training for certain groups, for instance student counsellors and human resources partners. The office of student affairs has expressed a desire to be a pilot in this work and they have already scheduled an education for this autumn.
Work that can affect the university in its very foundation
The plan has an international perspective, which means that it also takes into account how gender interacts with different discrimination grounds like age, disablement and class.
"We have a number of proposals for comprehensive measures that would have an in-depth impact on the university if they are fully implemented. This type of work can perhaps make Linnaeus University stand out and become renowned for inclusion of both students and members of staff and for appreciating diversity", says Kjellgren.
"So far, no university has been HBTQ certified. What if Linnaeus University became the first?", Kjellgren concludes.