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The gender balance at AU must be improved

In the wake of the conference entitled “How do we improve gender balance amongst researchers at AU?” that was held on 8 March, Rector Brian Bech Nielsen emphasises that efforts to create a better gender balance have to be given a high priority.

To speed up this development, we will be focusing on and addressing the problem more extensively in the Committee for Research and External Cooperation (UFFE) and the senior management team. Naturally, in our work going forward we must maintain a close partnership with the academic environments while also adopting the constructive tone of the conference held on 8 March. In this connection, I would like to thank everyone who participated in the conference and who shared their valuable ideas and experiences. 

As I stated during the panel debate, I am acutely aware of the implications of the gender balance problem at AU, and how important it is for us to confront and address both conscious and unconscious gender bias. 

First and foremost, we need to address the problem with gender balance because we need the brightest talents from both genders to ensure the highest possible quality in our research and education. That is self-evident. But unfortunately, it is not self-evident that this is actually what is happening. In management, we are responsible for creating the necessary frameworks to give our talents equal opportunities. This has to be part of the DNA of leaders, particularly research group managers and heads of departments and schools, so that remove any any barriers that might exist in their units. 

Five research projects will examine gender bias at AU

To gain a better understanding of the barriers, the Committee for Research and External Cooperation (UFFE) supported five projects to investigate gender bias in research at Aarhus University. The results of the projects are now available, and they articulate how the gender balance issue is experienced in various parts of the research and teaching environment at AU. The projects have revealed important and very real challenges, and in several cases also offer concrete proposals. We will draw on both in our further work to create a better gender balance at AU. 

AU has had an action plan for more women in research since 2016. As a result of the action plan, all departments and schools have formulated target figures for their efforts. Once a year, the senior management team takes a closer look at gender balance and reviews whether progress is being made with respect to recruitment to all academic positions. Generally speaking, we are moving in the right direction – but we are moving too slowly. In 2018, we still had only 21 per cent female professors. 

There are no easy solutions, but we have to raise consciousness of gender balance as an issue – and take active steps to equalise it. This is absolutely clear. Otherwise, as EU Commissioner Carlos Moedas has pointed out, if we continue at the current pace, we will not achieve gender parity in research until 2060. We cannot wait that long. 

A 50-50 gender ratio is a goal for the university as a whole. But there has to be room for variation, and 50-50 is not a rigid goal for the individual research and teaching programmes. We must have diversity, but there can be situations in which absolute gender parity cannot be achieved, for a variety of reasons. 

In short, we must bring all of our talents into the light.


Learn more about AU’s action plan, the conference, the five projects and more at www.au.dk/genderbalance