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New action plan to promote equality in research environments at AU

A new action plan for equality, which has just been approved by the board, sets the direction for strengthening equality in research environments up to 2022. The action plan is anchored in AU's Strategy 2025 and will contribute to ensuring that the talent pool comes fully into play, so that the university can achieve its ambitions to conduct research, research-based education, consultancy and research dissemination at the highest international level.

2020.10.12 | Anders Hylander

[Translate to English:] “Enhver, der ser på tallene, kan se, at det går for langsomt med at få flere kvinder til at gå hele vejen," siger bestyrelsesformand Connie Hedegaard om AU’s nye handleplan for ligestilling. Foto: Lars Kruse, AU Foto

"Anyone looking at the figures can see that things are moving too slowly in terms of encouraging more women to aspire for the very top. This suggests that there are some barriers. We’re trying to remove these barriers with the new action plan. Qualifications are, of course, the first priority, but it’s important that those who recruit staff can spot the qualified women. Back in the 1980s, the Danish Parliament created immediate change when it decided that organisations should nominate both a man and a woman for public boards, councils and commissions. We’re trying to do the same thing now by demanding that more genders are invited for a job interview – so that we get the entire talent pool into play."

This is what Chair of the Board Connie Hedegaard says about AU's new action plan for equality, which was approved unanimously by the AU Board on 8 October. The board pointed out that it is important to have specific initiatives to ensure development in this area. 

Like its predecessor, the new action plan still has specific focus on equality in academic positions, because these challenges are particularly obvious. Overall, the action plan reflects ambitions to increase equality among managers and employees in general. This is emphasised by Rector Brian Bech Nielsen, who, together with Pro-rector Berit Eika, is heading the AU Committee for Diversity and Gender Equality. 

"After many discussions in the Committee and in the senior management team, we’ve decided that the new action plan should focus primarily on equality in academic positions. This is because the challenges with imbalance in such positions are particularly obvious. At the same time, efforts must be made to ensure equal opportunities for all staff and students at AU.” 

Work on the action plan is anchored in the senior management team and the AU Committee for Diversity and Gender Equality, with representatives from the faculties. The Committee was established in summer 2019, with a desire to accelerate the process of creating more diversity and a better gender balance.

The action plan identifies four main areas which the university will focus on up to 2022:

  • Recruitment
  • Career development
  • Management
  • Workplace culture

Support for the action plan 

Before the summer holidays, the action plan was submitted for consultation among university employees. There was general support for the aims of the action plan – including the proposed focus areas.

"On behalf of the senior management team, I’d like to thank you for the input we received during the consultation process. This is encouraging because it’s crucial for work to promote equality that there is support among our employees and general agreement that this is an area we need to prioritise", says Rector Brian Bech Nielsen.

Many consultation responses included proposals and ideas beyond the action plan. They have now been collated in a catalogue of ideas, which will be included in the Committee's further work.

Action through specific activities

Eleven specific activities have been formulated under the four main areas of the action plan. Examples include greater focus on equality in the university’s norms for recruitment, offering more systematic career development support, including increased gender equality in management contracts and a requirement for initiatives at department/school level.

The action plan also assigns responsibility for the performance of each activity.

One of the first activities in implementation of the action plan towards 2022 will be an adjustment of AU'S norms for recruitment. The activities related to workplace culture will also be addressed.

A new action plan will be prepared in autumn 2022 for the years 2023-2025. When updating and adjusting the action plan, activities concerning other aspects of diversity will also be included.

Facts: Gender distribution among members of academic staff in 2015 and 2019

Facts: AU work on diversity and gender equality

  • In the summer of 2019, the senior management team appointed a new central committee for diversity and gender equality at AU. Although there has been progress towards a more equal gender balance at AU, this step was taken in recognition of the fact that the process was moving too slowly.
  • Rector Brian Bech Nielsen and Pro-rector Berit Eika are co-chairs of the committee. In addition, each faculty is represented by a member of academic staff and a department head.
  • The committee’s first task was to produce a draft action plan for gender equality to replace the current ‘Action plan for more women in research 2016-2020’. In the autumn of 2020, the committee’s draft action plan was submitted to and approved by the AU Board.

More information:

Policy and strategy, Research, All groups, All AU units, Aarhus University, Research