Skip to main content
To KTH's start page To KTH's start page

Women more exposed to discrimination

A man and a woman in a corridor.
Women at KTH are more exposed to incivility and sexual harassment than in the rest of the sector.
Published Mar 05, 2024

Compared to the university and higher education sector as a whole, more people, especially women, both students, doctoral students and employees, are subjected to incivility or sexual harassment at KTH.
This is shown in the report "Double discrimination against women".

The report shows KTH-specific figures produced from a national survey of gender-based exposure and sexual harassment in the Swedish higher education sector, which is a collaboration between a number of different universities.
"It's not so surprising really, the research shows that in male-dominated fields such as technology and at male-dominated universities and groups such as KTH and Chalmers, we see this tendency," says Anna Wahl, professor of gender, organisation and management. She wrote the report together with Åsa-Karin Engstrand, associate professor of industrial economics and organisation and Equality Office at KTH.

Woman in blond hair.
Anna Wahl.

Among other things, the report shows that when it comes to incivility, which can include poor treatment such as being interrupted, not listened to, talked over or direct anger and attacks, female employees and students are more often affected at KTH than the entire sector. When it comes to sexual harassment, the survey responses show a similar picture, but female doctoral students and students are the most vulnerable. For example, almost 30 per cent of KTH's female doctoral students have had experience of someone making unpleasant sexual innuendos.

What can be done about it?
" The important thing is that we talk about it, become aware of it and name it. The hope is to be able to prevent it and that is also one of the ideas behind the report. Basically, it is a leadership issue and not an individual issue but part of a larger way of looking at an organisational culture," Wahl says.

If you repeat the survey in ten years, do you think it will give the same results?
"If you look back ten years, you can see that a lot has happened.It is more obvious, more accepted and therefore easier to work with change on these issues today."

Person in googles without hair.
Roh Petas.

Roh Petas is a gender equality and diversity strategist and works at the KTH Equality Office.
"The report contains suggestions for exercises and discussion questions. It can be a good starting point if you want to work with these issues in a newly formed group or if problems have arisen in an existing work team. It is important to work both preventively and continuously. It is also a good investment in the work and study environment."
Roh Petas also says that if you feel uncertain as a manager about these issues, you can always turn to HR and the KTH Equality Office for questions and support.
" Working with these issues is not a fixed idea for a manager, for example, but there is a solid foundation in the form of legislation, values and ethical policy to lean on. "
KTH is required by law to work against various types of discrimination and victimisation.

Nor does Roh Petas find the report's findings surprising, but also emphasises the importance of raising awareness and putting into words what incivility and sexual harassment can mean.
"You have to know what it is in order to be able to oppose, react and deal with it. It is not always easy. And it is important that anyone who feels victimised knows that they can turn to us or HR. "

Gender-based violence

The national survey was conducted during three months in 2021 and was aimed at employees, doctoral students and students at 38 higher education institutions around Sweden.The survey was answered by 38 918 people, of whom just over 18 000 were students, around 5200 were doctoral students and just over 15 000 were employees. The study was part of the research and collaboration programme against sexual harassment and gender-based vulnerability that was launched five years ago by KI, KTH, Malmö University and the National Secretariat for Gender Research at the University of Gothenburg. The report Double discrimination against women Gender-based violence (pdf 1.2 MB)
You can read more about discrimination, harassment, sexually harassment or victimisation  and who you could turn if you have questions.

Text: Jill Klackenberg

Belongs to: Current
Last changed: Mar 05, 2024