WONDER Retreat Related to Gender Mainstreaming and Work Environment

In the spring we got funding for a gender mainstreaming and work environment project (WONDER), and we have been working with this at the division of Vi2. The project team consists of colleagues Robin Strand (head of division), Ginevra Castellano (the Equal Opportunities Officer at the Department) and excellent Giulia Perugia.

The project is called WONDER (WOrk eNvironment aND wEllbeing) and is an organisational development project. We will work with health promotion and work environment improvement measures for everyone and with particular focus on the group of doctoral students and young researchers at the unit from a gender perspective.

In October this year the project organises a retreat at Krusenbergs Herrgård with the help of an occupational health expert. We will be discussing and learning more about work environment issues in academia during two days. An unusual amount of people have signed up for the retreat, and I have been discussing the content with the expert from PREVIA that we got recommended. There will also be a follow up seminar from PREVIA in November, and the plan is that we will also have additional seminars about gender mainstreaming and the work environment at the division.

We will also look into and try to evaluate our work environment from a gender perspective as a part of the project. We will look into space, time allocation and resources. I would also very much like to look into the issue of Academic household work, that has recently been discussed in media https://www.tidningencurie.se/nyheter/2019/08/27/vem-star-for-hushallsarbetet-i-akademin/. However, I am not sure that there is room for that in this project, and perhaps we need additional funding to look into this part.

Many people suffer from stress and we need to improve wellbeing in academia – especially for women who are more likely to suffer from stress. This project is an attempt to move things one step in the right direction!

The IT in Society Course with Collaboration with Region Uppsala Kicks Off This Week

I will be teaching the IT in Society course as usual this semester. The course starts this week, and runs until Christmas. The collaboration with Region Uppsala in IT in Society course began in 2002, and over the years the subject of the course has varied according to what Region Uppsala has proposed for projects. For a few years the theme was the medical records online for Journal Patients, other themes have been consultations on distance and positioning systems.

In the project, 15-30 students make a common type of “feasibility study” during a semester to understand an area, and how the area can be developed from a technical perspective. IT students from Uppsala University and an American university named the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

The collaboration with Region Uppsala roughly works as follows: 
1) The Region proposes a theme that suits them well. The topic may be small or large, but should include open questions that need to be investigated. Someone from the Region presents the theme of the course at the beginning gives suggestions on areas that could be explored. The American students are in Uppsala this week.
5) Week 39 to v 50: The students work on examining the topic of the semester. During this period, they need help with access to health care people who can help them understand the topic.
6) in December a first version of the final result will be presented at an open seminar where the region has invited relevant people who are interested. The American students are in Uppsala this week too. The region usually booked a room that is suitable, and the university stands for coffee.

The last few years the students have presented their results at the Vitalis conference, and they have done really good projects. Let’s hope that this years’ course is equally interesting and will be presented at Vitalis! The topic of this years’ project remains to be decided, and I am really curious about what it might be!

Aiming at NO Academic Guilt

Academic guilt is something that haunts many in academia. Academic guilt makes it difficult to be off work, as there is a fear that you might miss things. One such fear is sometimes called FOMO syndrome: the fear of missing out things when others have a great time.

My guess is that it is stronger in young academics and in PhD students. There are hilarious PhD comic strips about this found at for example http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive_print.php?comicid=732

For me academic guilt is connected to this feeling:

  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • I should be working….
  • ….

Academia is a tough place in a number of different aspects. It is a kind of competition with other people related to number of publications, H-index or receiving grants. There is always someone who will be more successful than I am. Someone who has read more, knows more and overall have a better career.

Academia is also a place where lots of people suffer from stress symtoms, and more serious conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders. I have decided to take up the fight against Academic guilt, and this summer I chose to be more off work than any previous year.

Of course this has its down sides – such as the fact that I did not give feedback on a few papers, I did not prepare blog posts for the fall and I did not finish one of the ten papers I should be writing. Instead I took long walks every day, sometimes went jogging, read around 10 non work books, spent a lot of time with my family and also met one of my childhood friends a couple of times (this hasn’t happened in ages).

After a few weeks of being really off I felt very related, had energy to cope with conflicts with my kids and overall it is a very satisfying feeling. I strongly recommend fighting academic guilt and to be off work sometimes!

Long-term, transparency and resources have made the Department of Information Technology at Uppsala University an role model for work with gender equality

This is a translation of an article in Universitetsläraren published in May 2019 about the Departments’ work with equal opportunities .

Long-term, transparency and resources have made the Department of Information Technology at Uppsala University an role model for work with gender equality.

The professors Åsa Cajander and Michael Thuné have, in their previous roles as equality representatives and head of department, pursued gender equality issues at the department.

– You usually talk about two aspects of gender equality, one is that there should be equal gender distribution, the other is that there should be equal work conditions and that there should be no gender differences. It often happens that the focus is on the even gender distribution, but we have tried to put the main focus on equal conditions and equal working conditions and create a good working environment for everyone, says Michael Thuné.
The institution’s gender equality work is nothing new, but Michael Thuné has been working on the issues at the department for 20 years.
– One of the things that I consider important to us was when we got a collaboration with a gender equality project funded by the EU, where they worked with action research. As an ombudsman for gender, I had a gender expert who came to all our meetings, was available to me to talk to several times a week, we discussed the different situations and meetings and the measures. It was continuous help for several years, says Åsa Cajander.
One important thing is also that there are financial resources.

– The Gender Equality Officer has ten percent in their service and also a budget of over one million continuously each year for gender equality projects and various measures. This is something that costs money, says Åsa Cajander.
One important thing is to move from informal structures to formal structures.- We have focused a lot on transparent communication and decision paths so that employees do not miss important information, which is a way of being overridden, says Michael Thuné.

Among other things, you send out information in advance even for smaller meetings, and you have introduced an institution-wide standing committee.

– There are many important assignments that have previously been designated a little informally, in small informal working groups, says Michael Thuné.
When it is now to be appointed, for example, a new director of studies announced that it is time to nominate.
– It has had a huge effect that we have received more women on management assignments in recent years. Today, all three leading positions are occupied by women, says Åsa Cajander.
All of these measures have led to a better work environment and even more women in total at the institution, but this is not a big increase. The number of women in the IT sector is few.

Why do you do this?
– My input is that a lot of problems follow with the digitization and the rapid pace of change contributes to unwanted effects. We need people who work with these issues who have values ​​other than the ones in the IT industry, we just need more women.
– I am more driven by both a fair and a quality perspective. There should be no gender-related differences in conditions and working conditions. It is a matter of justice. And both at the university and at the department, it is a quality issue that all employees and all students have the opportunity to perform their best without structures that hinder them, says Michael Thuné.
Another aspect of successful gender equality work is the importance of getting support from the management, both at university and faculty level.

The gender equality work at the department continues with work environment-oriented projects where one is pasting a department at a time.
– Recently, we have also introduced a career development program for all assistant university lecturers. The idea is that those who do not receive such support on an informal basis will benefit more from the fact that there is prepared support for everyone. We believe that this can promote gender equality and equal conditions in a broader sense, says Michael Thuné.

Kampen on Karolinska: Konsulterna by Anna Gustafsson and Lisa Röstlund

If you haven’t read the book Kampen om Karolinska: Konsulterna (the battle of Karolinska: The Consultants) and you work with eHealth or health care – you should definitely read it!

The book is written by two journalists working at DN which is one of the large high quality newspapers in Sweden. There has also been a large series of articles in DN related to Nya Karolinska. In short the building of this hospital has cost Sweden billions of money and there are numerous scandals along the way. Today the hospital still has a serious crisis as staff has quit, patients have died and very few people admit to have had the responsibility for the situation.

When writing the book the authors have done more than 200 interviews, read thousands of documents and spent several years understanding the process. In the book they have chosen to present their findings through stories from interviews and the book has a long list of references,

Others have also found this book interesting and Läkartidningen writes: “A book that ought to be a compulsory read”. Managers and leaders in health care should read this book, according to Läkartidningen.

In short the book is about the building of a new university hospital in Stockholm, New Karolinska Hospital, and the events related to management and organisations that is quite a horrible read.

Five things I found especially interesting while reading was:

    Boston Consulting Group earned enormous money from the implementation of management ideas that were really not very well tested at all. Moreover, many of the consultants had no experience from health care and were very young. They have 16 000 employees in 50 countries. I think academia have problems with impact in health care with research results, but obviously these people had no problems with impact at all. What did they do to be heard and listened to?
    Some of the ideas from Value Based Care are indeed good, such as a focus on patient’s values. However, they seem no to dominante the processes when implemented and many of the managers seems to have forgotten the patients in the change process. In the summer of 2017 60 cancer patients at Karolinska did not get their surgery on time! A result from money connected to patient value could be that areas where patients are quite well will have high numbers on satisfaction/value and hence get more money whereas hospitals treating people with multiple and complex problems would get less money.
    The ideas with metrics based control in their management strategy is indeed crazy, and I don’t understand how this idea could continue to be attraktive after the failures of new public management? When measuring there is a risk that people pay more attention to what is possible to measure independently on if it is important or not. Things that are not possible to measure will be seen as less important.
    A process oriented organisation without clinics seems really risky to implement. Where did they get this idea from, and how could they base the management strategy on the core idea that one patient has one decease when we know that there is is large group of patients that has multiple deceases?
    There is an interesting tension between the laws in health care and innovation. Some of the things they implemented at Karolinska was really illegal and did not for example comply with GDPR. However, I also think that sometimes the laws need to be tested as they are not really made for a digitalized society.

Gender Mainstreaming in Academia – the Wonder Project

My colleagues Robin Strand (head of division), Ginevra Castellano (the Equal Opportunities Officer at the Department) and I (deputy head of division) has received funding within gender mainstreaming from the central university. Giulia Perugia is also on the team and together we will work with making a difference in this area.

The project is called WONDER (WOrk eNvironment aND wEllbeing) and is an organisational development project. We will work with health promotion and work environment improvement measures for everyone and with particular focus on the group of doctoral students and young researchers at the unit. And from a gender perspective

The first part focuses on working environment and health with five seminar opportunities on preventing stress, depression and stress in relation to gender. We will also invite an stress expert to do workshops with us.

Part two focuses on inclusive leadership. We shall, among other things, develop a strategy for sustainable leadership, develop a policy for how internal resources are distributed so that, for example, the distribution of faculty resources and workload becomes transparent and can be followed up.  We will improve their information dissemination with skills-enhancing seminars, which in turn will result in a strategy for inclusive communication.

Celebrating Finishing my 10th Leadership Course

I have soon finished my 10th leadership course. I have also signed up for the 11th course and awaiting to see if I am accepted.

Why do I want to attend this many leadership courses?

Well, perhaps I am a slow learner? Or perhaps I need more courses in this than an ordinary researcher? Or perhaps I aim for a higher leadership position in Academia? The answer to all these questions is NO. 

The reasons for me to take so many leadership courses are many and here are the most central ones:

  • I change, and my life changes. There is always a new learning experience opportunity. The courses gives be a broader understanding of people and life. I am very interested in understanding people. And I never seem know all there is to know.
  • I deepen my understanding at every course. I can feel as if I am in an unstable state when it comes to some learning experiences. I do understand them at some point, but my understanding is not stable and I haven’t passed the threshold for really knowing them. One such area is for example being a middle manager and handling strange new decisions.
  • I love the discussions with other people that are interesting in leadership. Often leadership courses build on the idea of peer learning, and that works excellently for me!
  • I think that the course give me time to reflect on all kinds of different things.

 

About Talent Management

I have just read a super interesting book that I strongly recommend. The book is called “Talang för människor”. The author, Kajsa Asplund, is a trained psychologist and has a PhD in business administration. Her research at the Stockholm School of Economics focuses on the effects of talent management on employee motivation, self-image and loyalty.

_talang-for-manniskor-psykologin-bakom-framgangsrik-talent-management

Talent management is a phenomenon that includes all kinds of ways an organisation works with attracting, identifying and retaining competent people. It is outside my research, but can be seen as a part of our research on professional competencies. Also,  I am interesting in this book from a leadership perspective.

The book is not about academia  but is more general and when reading about the book I was thinking what the equivalent of “talent management” would be in academia? We have a very harsh culture, very gendered but there are indeed some people that are seen as more talented and get more salary than the rest.

The word talent is used in a variety of ways and can mean all people in an organisation, or just an exclusive few.

Some of the things I found interesting and that I would guess are transferrable to academia are:

  • In the future you need even more enable and empower people – no detailed micro management control.
  • People who are appointed talents in an organisation often experience that their expectations of the organisation increase. Somehow being labelled as a talent in any way makes people aware of the relationship with the organisation: What the work includes and what they get back for example. One interesting possible reaction is working less hard, increased cynicism, negative attitudes. One quite common reaction to being labelled as talent is actually to look for another job!
  • Many who are appointed talents look towards the global  market and start comparing what they have with other “talents” globally.
  • People who are appointed talents often become less motivated by the core business, and look towards management roles instead.

From the book it is clearly possible to say that talent management is complicated and it does not always go hand in hand with an engaged and motivated staff.

 

Interviews with Academic Leaders

I’m attending a leadership programme at the university this spring. This is the 10th leadership course I attend. I really like reflecting on leadership and change management, and I think that I learn new things in every course since life is constantly changing. One day I will be as wise as the owl in the blog post illustration, and those I interviewed are truly my role models and inspiration.

As a part of this course I was given the opportunity to interview three good leaders that I could think of. I chose three that I have as role models in different ways.

A common theme in the interviews I did was feeling safe and leadership. The first person emphasised that we are each other’s work environment linked to feeling safe and secure. It is important to positively give feedback to each other, to create a team feeling and encourage people in everyday life. You need to create a safe environment where people dare to be creative and make mistakes. I think that if people feel insecure, they do not dare to be brave and try to solve challenges or take on new tasks.

Feeling safe is also linked to how mistakes are received, the person I interviewed pointed out, and how to act as a leader when someone makes a mistake. If you see it as an opportunity for learning, you create a safe environment, but if you see mistakes as something consistently negative, you create uncertainty.
Person number two had a different perspective on security and talked a lot about safe relationships, mutual trust and trust. This person told me that you do not always need to be right, but that you should be safe enough to let others be the most knowledgeable and work independently.

In addition, this person pointed out that if you have mutual trust, it means that you do not have detailed control, but trust that people do their best and you hear from them if they need support in any way. In this interview, we also talked about the situation that there is no mutual trust and trust. The interviewee believe that leaders need to accept that it does not always work with mutual trust and trust in all situations. Sometimes the best thing to do is to invest in having a long distance according to the interviewee.

Person number three talked about feeling safe linked to listening, and believes that a consistent theme in successful leadership is to try to understand what the other really mean. This includes trying to be permissive and curious when listening and accepting people as they are through active listening. As leaders, we need to be aware of listening strategies and use methods such as mirroring, follow-up questions and other parts of active listening. In all difficult conversations you need to have a polite tone and be interested in understanding other people’s experiences and perspectives.

You also need to create a feeling of security through participation and equal conditions and not run people over with new decisions – you need to have a culture of participation. This person stressed that you should aim at not seeing the opinions and thoughts of other people as threats, but let things take time in change management.
I think my three leadership interviews were really interesting and educational. And I love management and leadership courses. I have signed up for yet another course this fall. That one is about being the formal leader and has different parts about economy, legal issues etc.

Lecturing about Gender in IT at a PhD Summers School on Virtual Characters & Computer Game Technologies

I have been invited as a teacher to a summer school on Virtual Characters & Computer Game Technologies organised by Animatas.  Animatas is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions project that aims to give researchers the necessary skills and international experience for a successful career. Animatas stands for Advancing intuitive human-machine interaction with human-like social capabilities for education in schools. The summer school is organised by my colleague at the department Ginevra Castillano. 

My topic for the summer school is on gender equality in academia and the work environment, and I will talk about my experiences as a woman in computing and also some things from carreers in technology from the NordWit Centre of Excellence.

You can read more about the summer school here:

http://www.animatas.eu/