Skip to main content

"We are losing talent and the opportunity to change the culture"

Martin meets JML enthusiasts

Björn portrait
Björn Laumert is Head of the Department of Energy Technology at KTH.
Published Nov 20, 2023

In the ITM School's JML* group, mainly consisting of the heads of departments, the responsibilities have been divided between the participants. Björn Laumert, Head of Energy Technology, has focused on recruitment issues, and when Martin Edin Grimheden meets him, he is far from satisfied with the number of women at the department, but a plan is in place.

Björn, what is the situation with gender equality at EGI?

”We have looked at different groups and seen that women are underrepresented in all our forms of employment. We have more than 40 per cent female students in our courses, but we do not attract women to our positions. This is already visible in the doctoral positions. Unfortunately, this means that we lose many talents who choose other workplaces than KTH and Energy Technology. At the same time, this affects the development of our internal culture where we get stuck in old habits. We have seen some exceptions in the units that have or have had female managers – they tend to be more equal. We need to find ways to allow women to develop in our strategic research areas so that they become candidates for our positions”.

How do you go about changing this?

”You have to create awareness in the management team – all the time. Monitor the numbers, monitor the hiring. Dare to ask: did you really not have any female applicants? How did you get women to apply? In the management team we can decide to stop recruitments where there are no female candidates, we talk about what is going wrong, we have to take care of the issue”.

Two years ago, all assistant professors employed at the ITM School were men. Given the tenure track system, this risks affecting KTH's overall gender equality goals for a long time to come. But the last three assistant professors hired by EGI are women – what is happening?

"We make sure that the people we bring in as postdocs or on junior research positions – those who can and should have the opportunity to later apply for positions as assistant professors – are given the opportunity to qualify in their respective research areas. We look for female talent and we ensure that our employees, regardless of gender, are given time to qualify. We have been poor at this in the past. The three people we were hired resently have both applied to us but have also been actively recruited by our heads of unit”.

What tips do you have for other managers?

”Dare to question. Dare to realise that you are losing talent and opportunities to change the work culture if you do not succeed in recruiting women. See it as an opportunity to develop the culture of the organisation. Dare to realise that it may be your own culture that is the problem. Make this a management issue”.

 Interviewed by: Martin Edin Grimheden, JMLA at the ITM School

 *JML is a KTH concept that stands for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal opportunities. More about the JML work at the ITM School