Category Archives: gender equality

Attending Conferences and Bringing Kids Along

I have four kids, and I have frequently attended conferences when they have come along. Perhaps it is not always optional to bring them, but the alternative would be to stay at home – and I don’t want that. Then I think it is better for me to go and try to balance work-life as good as I can and I adapt the trip to the kid so that they get a nice experience too.

When my youngest son was one years old he had been to many countries (nine?), and one result from us travelling so much with him is that he speaks OK English at the age of six. This is many years before he starts English at school.

The picture below is from Gothenburg and ICSE 2018 where I did a key note, and my husband attended one of the workshops on computer science education. We also met our very good colleague Tony Clear who helped Sixten try the conference T-shirt.

Tony and Sixten

Some tips for making it work to bring kids: 

  • Perhaps grand-parents have the possibility to travel with you to the conference with you? It could be a nice experience for them and for the kid
  • If it doesn’t work 100% as expected that is quite normal. Having kids is often a bit like leaving the planning to someone else… 🙂
  • If you go to the conference as a couple you can share responsibility for the kid. We often try to share the responsibility
  • Plan something that the kid likes to do so that the trio becomes a positive experience for everyone
  • Be prepared to replan things, and make up a plan B if plan A fails.

Reframing to Equal Opportunities and not only Gender Equality – Do you have any tips?

I have been working with gender equality at the department of Information Technology for a few years, and I have really enjoyed this work. We have a great team at the department, and the support from management has been extremely good. Now it has been decided that the group will refocus and reframe into an equal opportunities group. The coming year we will be working on learning about equal opportunities, and I will spend time studying online courses, and attending seminars on equal opportunities. I am a bit worried about this reframing as we have had a great team working with gender equality with some very competent people. I guess that they are very competent in learning new things too, and we are indeed all very interested in the topic.

I might attend the Frontiers in Education Conference in 2018, as I know that they usually have presentations and workshops on gender equality and equal opportunities. Btw: It is very likely that this conference will be run in Uppsala in a few years 🙂

Do you have any tips on what we should read, or what conferences to visit to learn about the area of equal opportunities?

New Study : Managers and the Implementation of Medical Records Online

I am about to start a new study on the implementation of medical records online in different counties and regions in Sweden. This study is supported by INERA which is the coordinating organisation for you health services nationally in Sweden. It is also partly funded by my work in the NordWIT Centre.  The study is multidisciplinary, and there will be researchers coming from gender studies, medical Informatics and human computer interaction collaborating in the analyses and writing up of the data.

Next week I will do my first interviews, and later on we will distribute a survey to all regions and counties in Sweden. This study will focus on the implementation process and what happened in different parts of the country. The study will also focus on the experiences and careers of the managers and leaders who works with this.

The launch of medical records online for patients was indeed controversial in Sweden. Many physicians and nurses were worried that patients would read and become upset and anxious. Other concerns related to the work environment in healthcare, and the increased need of support from patients who might read their medical directors and be worried. At the same time many patients appreciated the system, and today the system is used by more than 1 million people in Sweden.

Sweden consist of autonomous County council and Regions when it comes to IT and eHealth. This means that they all individually decided what to show to patients, when to show it and also what not to show. In our study we will be investigating this process and what happened.

I am so thrilled about doing a study on my own again! Lately I’ve been supporting others very much, but now it’s finally my turn to do it myself again!

I will surely blog more about this in the future 🙂

Flipped Gender Equality Coffee Discussion Based on TED talk


As you might know the flipped classroom is a phenomenon in teaching and learning. Some even present it as the silver bullet of all the problems we have in Higher Education.

At my department which we though that we’d try concept at our gender equality coffee break discussion (in Swedish fika) next week. It will be “a flipped gender equality fika”.

The plan is to watch this TED talk before the fika and discuss it during the fika:

The idea of the TED talk came up at our last meeting in the gender equality group, and one of the participants found this TED talk.

Here are two questions that we will discuss at the fika: 

– How can we (as a society) make such a creative idea work?
– What are the challenges for the parents and for the child?

As usual the fika is open to anyone at the Department of Information Technology.  We’ll see how many show up.

Perhaps this is an idea that you could copy in your organisation?


On Being a Film Star for 30 Seconds at the NordWit Centre Meeting

“Please stand on the spot.  Hold the paper in front of you. No, not that high up: Your paper needs to be further down. Remember to smile.  Try to look natural.”

Last week did my first recording of a research presentation. The presentation lasted 30 sek and the short film will appear online soon on the NordWIT web page.

The whole NordWIT Centre team did films, and it will be interesting to see how well this spread in social media. One part of me wishes them to be very successful, since that would mean that people are interested in what we are doing. Another part of me really hopes that they will be NON- successful since I was awfully nervous and I both studdered and look completely NON-natural. I needed to redo the reading six times (at least)!!

Here are my observations from this experience:

  • 30 seconds is a very short time. I did many rehearsals but it was still difficult.
  • Given how nervous I was I think that doing a film using my computer would be easier for me. Quality would probably not be as good though.
  • Doing the films was almost a teambuilding experience

Equal Opportunities’ Team Retreat 2017

The equal opportunities team at the Department of Information Technology (previously gender equality group) goes on a retreat to beautiful Krusenberg herrgård every year. We spent 24 hours discussing and evaluating the work in the group and planning our work ahead.

I must say that we have an excellent group and there are so many great discussions. I especially appreciate the effort of my colleague Anna-Lena Forsberg who collaborate with me in organising and keeping track of our work. We also have excellent help from the equal opportunities expert Nina Almgren from the university administration.

Equal opportunities work should be integrated in all parts of the core activities in an organisation. It includes working with organisational culture and aspects such as transparency and knowledge. The aim is to create an organisation where everyone has the same opportunities, rights and obligations. This is not easily done though.

Next year our focus of the groups work is firstly to increase our knowledge of equal opportunities. We have an ambitious plan and the first thing that happens is the organisation of an Equal Opportunities course open for everyone at the department. I’m looking forward to attending this course and to learning more about the area. 😊

Organizing a Retreat for Writing Applications for Promotion

If you want to be promoted in academia you need to write an application for promotion. Research has shown that women are less likely to ask for promotion, even when qualified, and some would say that we have a very harsh view you of our own qualifications. Others would say that this is due to the context, as the assessment of women’s CV’s is gendered. You find an interesting paper on the topic here. I would say that the problem is the result of a mix of both perspectives.

Perhaps one way of handling this is to encourage women and to facilitate the writing of the promotion documents? In our gender equality work we think that this could be a possible way forward, and we therefore a fund a retret for writing documents for promotion.

Hence, in December, the gender equality group will organize a retreat for writing applications for promotion. People working at the Department of information technology want to write applications for being promoted to for example Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor or Excellent Teacher are very welcome to join. I will organize the retreat together with Aletta Nylén and Anna Eckerdahl from the UpCERG research group.  All three of us will also be writing applications for a promotion this fall.

The idea of the retreat is both to encourage people to write applications, and to create an awareness of what is needed to be promoted. We also hope that those who join the retreat will find support in each other, and that this network will help in the future too. And of course we hope that the retweet will result in a number of applications for promotion.

We have been in contact with all women at the Department who are close to being promoted, and sent them a personal invitation. We have also contacted men who we know are at this stage in their career. I must say that this part of the job was one of the most rewarding things done in a long time. People were very happy about being asked!  

Hopefully this will be an interesting and fruitful occasion. If you’re curious you find a tentative plan here, and I’m very glad if you want to reuse this idea! Perhaps you could organise a similar thing at your university?



Success, Having a Fighting Spirit and the Mindset of YET – and one of our research studies

There are researchers such as Angela Duckworth who argue that success is more about effort and a fighting spirit than it is about talent, genius or any other predictor such as health or looks. Her research shows that this particular fighting spirit called “grit” is more important to success than talent. She has done a very interesting Ted talk on the topic that can be found on her home page, here. Recommended! There was also a recent radio program in Swedish on the topic, and Angela Duckworth is interviewed on the show. You find the Swedish show here

One way of helping students, or yourself, attain more grit is to aim for the “Growth mindset” developed by Carol Dweck and others. A key word in this way of thinking is the word YET, and that even though you don’t know everything you have the possibility to learn. Carol Dweck has also done a very insipiring Ted Talk about this found here.

In short the Growth Mindset as presented by Carol Dweck includes the following key elements or ways of thinking:

  • We can all get smarter. Abilities can develop.
  • We know what efforts make us better, and we are aware of what we can do to practice.
  • We put in extra time and effort when we want to achieve things since we know this will pay off.
  • We focus on the learning process, and not the end results. Focus on the “I’m not there YET, but I will reach there”.

The opposite of having the growth mindset is a fixed mindset where you believe that basic qualities or skills such as intelligence or talent, are fixed traits. With this mindset you also believe that talend alone will create success and for those who are gifted success comes without any effort at all.  They’re wrong, and this mind set does not help you much. 

Note! In the context of the fixed mindset it should be noted that there is a gender issue with the fixed mind set. Studies by Ann-Sofie Nyström have investigated why boys have a tendency to believe that “Smart students get perfect scores without studying much” and there is a norm that the best boy should be an effortless achiever.

Our Study on Conscientiousness, Grit and Programming Achievement

In a study that was published at the 2015 ITiCSE conference we tried to find correlations between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement. The study was driven by Roger McDermott, and Mats Daniels and I collaborted with Roger McDermott on  writing it up.  Our study did find weak but significant correlations between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement and from the study one can draw the tentative conclusion that having a fighting spirit and not give up is a key success factor in computer science and that we need to provide learning opportunities for our students to practice.


We investigate the link between concepts of perseverance such as conscientiousness, tenacity, and grit, and the academic attainment of first year computing students. We give a review of the role that perseverance plays in learning models as well as describing the role of conscientiousness in the Five Factor Model of personality. We outline research that links this trait with academic success before focussing on recent, narrower conceptualisations of perseverance such as academic tenacity and grit. We describe one of the questionnaire tools that have been used to assess one such aspect of perseverance. We give details of an investigation that looked for correlations between student responses to Duckworth’s Grit Survey, the Big Five Inventory (BFI) Personality Survey and summative attainment scores in a first year programming course. The results suggest a weak but significant correlation between conscientiousness, grit and programming achievement. We discuss these results as well as the limitations of the method used. Finally, we make some observations about the importance of these concepts in Computer Science education and outline further work in this area.


Some Findings Related to Gender Equality at my Department, a Presentation from FESTA and Nina Almgren

Last week Nina Almgren from the FESTA project did a presentation in the Gender Equality Group at the department. She did an interview study in 2013 at the department, and now she did a presentation focusing on interviews with more senior women at the deparment.


One of the areas that she mentioned when talking about the notion of “Excellence” in academia was a dualism in how we talk about what we work with at the deparment:

This of course affects how we value work and people, and who is seen as excellent and not. There are of course both women and men in both these groups.

Excellence in research is really an interesting area from a gender perspective. We seldom say that women are excellent researchers, or world-leading researchers. Insted we use words such as hard working. Nina Almgren encouraged us all to think about this when we talk about other women in research.

There were some women who were critical towards the culture at the department, and they felt like they do not fit in (I recognize that to some extent…). Or as Nina Almgren puts it in her presentation:

There were women, but no men, who simply said that they just did not fit in the image of an elite mathematician or a computer nerd and, thus, had no possibility of becoming one. This is no wonder, as these stereotypes undermine women’s feelings of belonging in the information technology community—feelings that are critical for women’s decision to stay in academia and make a scientific career.

Informal Decisions and Decision Making

Nina Almgren continued with presenting some results related to informal decision making, and decisions and problems related to this area. Here are some quotes from the interviews:

Not to be asked to write large research proposals even though my project is included.

It might be to appoint any person as director of something, a competence center or whatever it may be, and then someone are just asked, and you could feel that could they not just have checked with me if I wanted to, though I realize that I have become asked in the same way without others being asked.

Information on how to obtain funding for PhD students/postdocs. Many years I thought that they will ask if they think that I should get some. Others asked if they could get a PhD, but I did not realize you could. I have missed things because I have not understood how it works

There were many people at the department who did not know how it works about different things that are really at the core of the organisation. I know that we have worked very much with this part at the deparment, and in a few weeks I am invited to discuss this work at a seminar.

On a side note I talked about gender equality and transparency in decisions with one full professor of Computer Science the other week. He did not think that informal decisions and transparency was something we should work with at the department. It was not worth the effort since it is simply common sense….

Nina Almgren also mentioned what can be done about the gender equality in academia. She recommended the following readings (in the Scandinavian languages):


To Ask or Not to Ask? A Critical Incident and Gender Equality

This week we had an interesting situation at the department when the new programme board for the computer science programmes were to be decided upon.I am a member of the department board, but did not attend this meeting due to the kick-off with the NordWit centre. However, what happened is really a critical incident worth reflecting some more on.

I work at the Department of Information Technology at Uppsala University, and we have around 26% women if you look at all employees, but there are much less women that are associate professors or full professors. If you are curious you find some figures regarding men and women in our gender equality plan, and our work with gender equality is presented by Virginia Grande in this blog post.

This is what happened in this critical incident:

The suggested programme board for the computer programme board was all male, and the board did not accept it due to gender equality. The department board hence postponed the decision related to who would be a member of this programme board.

This was followed by a discussion per mail, and a request for 1) a description of why only men were suggested, and 2) also a description of what measures had been taken to find women for the positions.

Here are some perspectives that has come up when discussing this critical incident.

My name was mentioned as one possible member of the computer science programme board. But since I have much to do, and a full calendar, they did not ask me out of kindness and consideration. Note: I do have lots of things to do, and I would probably have said no if I was asked about this job. And saying no would have taken some energy from me, as I try to be helpful (which is perhaps only fulfilling the norm). However, one should note that I have not been asked to be a part of many committees, or groups, but that could be because of many reasons.

This also is a part of a larger discussion when women are not asked out of consideration of their work situation in male dominated organisations. There is a risk, some maintain, that competent women will be drowned in unpaid work in different groups and committees, and that this will stop them in their career.

So what would be the right thing to do here? To ask women even though they have much to do (out of consideration)? That is to ask, and let them say no? Saying no on the other hand is not that easy, and it is really difficult and energy consuming to say no. Or is it better not to ask them about these kinds of positions when you know that they have many other things on the agenda?

What do you think would be a good strategy regarding this?

I would suggest that making the process a bit more transparent would help some, and to have some criteria of what kind of background you want a member of the programme board or committee to have. And perhaps asking is better than not asking, even though that would mean that one would say no to offers.

However, gender equality work is tricky and it is not always obvious what would be the right thing to do.