OPINION: International Women's Day will pass silently at Aarhus University this year – but there is plenty we should talk about

For the past few years, AU has organised well-attended workshops on the occasion of International Women's Day. In 2019, we met in the beautiful surroundings of the Aula. Unfortunately, Corona restrictions led to the cancellation of the Diversity Event in 2020, but in 2021, we had an exciting and again, well-attended online event. Now, in 2022, as the world re-opens to all manner of possibilities, there will be no celebrations at AU to mark International Women's Day.

This year the International Women's Day is held in resounding silence at Aarhus University. Graphics: Colourbox
Christine Parsons (Associate Professor), Kamille Smidt Rasmussen (Associate Professor, Head of Graduate Programme) and Ida Vogel (DrMSc, Clinical Professor) – all from Department of Clinical Medicine – is part of Linje X and writes columns about gender equality in academia for Omnibus.
The views expressed in this column are the authors’ own. Graphics: Astrid Reitzel

Is it because we have achieved equality at AU? Unlikely, given that we have almost 50% female PhD students, but only 24% female professors and 16% female managers

Is it because gender equality is no longer a strategic goal for AU? No - AU's Strategy Plan for 2025 is clear in outlining the continued goal of achieving greater diversity. And the Equality and Diversity Committee has been active in developing an Equality Action Plan.

It is an action plan that few staff members are very familiar with, but gives important information about progress. For example, the plan states that in 2020 as well as 2021, active work has been done on tenure track positions, to ensure a broader pool of applicants. It also provides information on the planned systematic investigations into why staff leave AU. What have these initiatives led to? Are they working? And are there lessons that AU will share with staff in an open, evidence-based discussion? And if so, why don't we meet - in the auditorium or online - as has become a tradition?

In the same breath, how are we going to get the culture change that gender equality requires if initiatives, action plans and strategies are mainly discussed in a closed circle at the managerial level? We need to engage individual employees, because if they are not on board, even the most skilled manager will fall short in implementing culture changes.

We need open discussions 

We need continued open discussions at AU about our vision for gender quality. If we are to have the culture change that gender equality requires, we need regular, meaningful times to reflect and discuss. And we need to keep celebrating the small steps forward for equality and diversity - because there are incremental improvements that staff and students should be aware of. For example, there has been progress relation to language quality assurance for job advertisements, so that advertisements are written with the intention of appealing to a broader range of applicants than previously.

Other major efforts have taken place regarding workplace culture. For instance, all staff at the Department of Clinical Medicine have just received survey results from an independent review by KVINFO of the department. The Department has made concrete efforts to examine workplace culture, to uncover what needs to be addressed in the future. We should highlight the examples of movement in the right direction, and showcase when institutes take exceptional steps towards gender equality. The 8th March is an appropriate opportunity, but what have we done with that opportunity this year?