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Published: 20 May, 2022 Updated: 22 May, 2022, 20:01

Sexual harassment and gender-based vulnerability in academia

NEWS On 20 May 2022, two reports on sexual harassment and gender-based vulnerability in academia were published. One report is the results of a prevalence study of the higher education sector as a whole, the other is an analysis of the outcome for Umeå University.

For the first time, Swedish insitutions of higher education have conducted a joint national survey on the prevalence of sexual harassment and gender-based vulnerability in academia. In total, almost 39,000 students, doctoral students and employees responded to the survey, which was administered by Statistics Sweden (SCB). The responses show that young people, women, students and doctoral students are particularly vulnerable.

The prevalence study was conducted by the Research and Collaboration Programme on Sexual Harassment and Gender-Based Victimisation in Academia.

Read more about the Research and Collaboration Programme

Access the Survey on gender-based violence and sexual harassment in the Swedish higher education sector

The project will now be furthering its analysis of the survey results. Meanwhile, the steering group hopes that this initial report will lead to important discussions and activities in Swedish academia.

So what is the situation like at Umeå University?

To find out, the University Management wanted someone to look specifically at the figures for Umeå University. Britt-Inger Keisu, associate professor of sociology and director of the Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS) was given the task by the Vice-Chancellor. She enlisted the help of Johanna Lauri, a postdoctoral researcher at UCGS, and Nils Eriksson, faculty director of studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

"We see a clear pattern of a gender difference where women are significantly more likely than men to be victimised in all the areas measured," says Britt-Inger Keisu. "We believe that this sexism and abuse of power must be acknowledged and addressed. We do not usually think about it happening because it has become normalised and hidden in everyday processes. But they continue year after year, and in this way, they recreate the hierarchies and power inequalities that exist in academia."

An important tool

Vice-Chancellor Hans Adolfsson sees the report as an important tool with the systematic work environment management. "The analysis helps us to identify the problems and take the right measures. It is very valuable that we get a clear picture of how less obvious gender-based vulnerability manifests itself at our university. Then we can take the right measures and break down things that reproduce inequality and negatively affect the working environment," he says.

"This analysis is an additional tool for us to use in our long-term efforts to improve and strengthen our work to achieve our vision for equal opportunities at Umeå University," says Heidi Hansson, Vice-Chancellor with special responsibility for equal opportunities at Umeå University. "We are convinced that gender equality is a quality factor as well as a work environment issue."

Read a more in-depth analysis by Umeå University at umu.se