In its appropriation directions for 2016, the government states that all higher education institutions must produce a plan showing how they intend to move their work on gender mainstreaming forward, so as to contribute to achieving the goals of gender equality policy. These efforts began at Uppsala University in 2016 as a special initiative alongside ordinary equal-opportunities initiatives.
“It is a question of ensuring we become more aware about how we take decisions within the organisation. For instance, data used as a basis for decisions should include equality analyses or statistics broken down by gender. This applies to every decision at all times,” says Almgren, Equal Opportunities Specialist at the Human Resources Division, responsible for coordinating and supporting gender-mainstreaming initiatives.

The government’s initiative is based on research and reports produced by the Delegation for Gender Equality in Higher Education, where the overall results showed that there are still equality issues within academia.
“One example is the notion that academia is a clear meritocracy. This is not entirely correct – there are informal structures and we need more transparent decision-making procedures. Another example is bias, or unconscious prejudice, which plays a part when decisions are taken. We therefore need to consider how and why we do things and how our procedures for recruitment are structured, for example,” says Almgren.

The University’s gender-mainstreaming plan focuses on five areas: skills development at management level, the content and design of educational programmes, University-wide governance documents, recruitment and supply of skills and internal allocation of resources. These efforts have so far focused on heads of departments, equal opportunities specialists within departments and support functions such as local HR staff.
“We have run training courses for heads of department and recruitment groups, for instance. To get these initiatives going at every level, managers and academic leaders need to have basic skills linked to these issues.”

Another aspect of the initiatives relates to establishing new procedures. One example of this is that the Equal Opportunities Advisory Board will become the consultation body for University-wide governance documents.
“This has not routinely been done before.”
Implementing gender mainstreaming in a large and decentralised organisation like Uppsala University poses a challenge in many ways, according to Almgren.
“Change processes are always challenging. The conditions here are also very distinct in different parts of the organisation, both in terms of equal opportunities and gender mainstreaming. It is a matter of what support and conditions are provided by management for the University-wide equal opportunities initiatives, and whether time and a budget are set aside for them.”

The gender-mainstreaming initiatives will enter their final phase in the autumn in the form of evaluations and follow-up.
“We will also continue efforts relating to reinforcement and implementation. Integrating this approach into everything we do requires us to talk to each other,” adds Almgren.

 

Read more about equal opportunities and gender-mainstreaming at Uppsala University.