New advisory board challenges Health on gender equality

The Committee for Gender Equality at Health has set up an advisory board to validate and challenge the committee's work in drawing up the general strategic direction and implementing specific initiatives in the area of gender equality. The advisory board members visited the faculty for the first time in April.

The members of the advisory panel (from top left): Henriette Laursen, Hatice Tankisi, Christiane Vejlø, Louise Mennen, Camilla Sommer Thomsen, Salah Elias and Jens Hjort.

Meet the advisory board to the Gender Equality Committee

The Committee for Gender Equality at Health consists of seven people with different expertise within gender equality, diversity and inclusion. The members have previously worked with the three topics in the university world, the private sector and in NGOs, where they have worked with management, recruitment and research, and contributed to the public debate on gender equality. They have all agreed to share their insights and experience with the members of the Committee for Gender Equality at Health for the next three years.

The atmosphere was excited and expectations were high as the Committee for Gender Equality at Health welcomed the new advisory board last month at a meeting in the Victor Albeck building. The agenda included an introduction to the initiatives already launched by the four working groups under the committee.

The four working groups have each launched two to three activities under their respective topics: recruitment, career development, inclusive management and workplace culture. Much of the meeting with the new advisory board was therefore set aside for each of the four working groups to be paired with selected members of the advisory board to receive feedback on one of their activities.

Department head: "We’ve still got a lot to learn as leaders"

In the inclusive working group for inclusive leadership, department head at the Department of Dentistry and Oral Health Siri Beier Jensen had the opportunity to spar with the British advisory board member, Associate Professor Salah Elias from the University of Southampton, who has led his university's work on the Athena Swan gender equality charter. Siri Beier Jensen is impressed with how far ahead the University of Southampton is in the field of gender equality, diversity, and inclusion.

"It was an inspiring discussion, and it quickly became clear that we have a lot to learn as leaders. The University of Southampton has worked systematically on gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in the Athena Swan programme for more than a decade, and they have implemented some really exciting initiatives in inclusive leadership, among other things," explains the department head.

Among these initiatives are, for example, the so-called "no agenda meetings", which are weekly meetings where all newly hired scientific employees at the department gather with the department head for an informal chat about how they are settling into the new workplace. This includes, for example, knowledge sharing and interpretation of the information flow, which can be particularly challenging to navigate as a new employee, and transparency about onboarding and resources for each new employee. The idea is to provide a space for asking questions and getting to know each other better right from the beginning.

"Our British colleagues, have also prioritized letting all employees, regardless of position type, undergo a gender equality, diversity, and inclusion course to increase awareness of where the pitfalls are in terms of discrimination and how each individual has a responsibility to contribute to an inclusive work culture. And if you want to have responsibility in a recruitment committee at the University of Southampton, it requires that you have undergone an extended version of the course," says Siri Beier Jensen.

UCPH professor: "We can't be experts at everything"

The question of gender equality in recruitment processes was also the subject of lively discussion in the working group on recruitment. Assistant Professor Kristine Raaby Gammelgaard and her colleagues joined Professor Jens Hjort, who has worked with gender equality at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen. The working group had asked for input on their work to professionalise Health's search committees, and according to Kristine Raaby Gammelgaard, the professor had some very clear opinions.

"One of Jens Hjort's main points was that we can't be experts at everything. That’s obvious, but we must remember that we’re researchers first and recruitment officers second. Of course we’ll never be able to achieve the same broad range of applicants in a search committee as a professional recruitment specialist. If we really want a broad and diverse field of applicants for certain positions, we should consider joining forces with specialists in this particular type of recruitment," she explains.

Jens Hjort's recommendation is far from the solution to all the challenges with search committees, emphasizes Kristine Raaby Gammelgaard. She believes that one should be careful not to apply the same approach to all positions and instead become better at utilizing search committees where they have the greatest potential.

"We should always strive for diversity in the applicant pool, but we must also accept that some positions may be so narrow and highly specialized that a search committee does not make much sense. Instead, we should invest resources in more professional search committees where we can actually make a difference," says Kristine Raaby Gammelgaard, who will keep the KU professor's advice in mind as the working group continues to draft Health's future use of search committees.

"A sky-high level of expertise"

As the chair of the Committee for Gender Equality at Health, Dean Anne-Mette Hvas sat at the head of the table during the visit from the advisory board. She was both pleased and impressed with the panel's commitment and input.

It was incredibly exciting to have the group gathered for the first time, and they really challenged us right from the beginning. I'm proud that we've managed to put together an advisory board with such a sky-high level of expertise," says Anne-Mette Hvas and continues:

"This bodes very well for future collaboration. I am pleased that they choose to challenge us, and given their commitment and investment at this first visit, things can only become more interesting when they have been able to monitor our faculty for a longer period of time."  

In the future, the advisory board will meet once a year and will also be available to spar with members of the equality committee between meetings. Each member of the advisory board is appointed for a three-year period with the possibility of reappointment.

Read more and follow the work on the Committee for Gender Equality website.

Read also the article: "Meet Health's Gender Equality Committee". 


Adviser Hanne Johansen
Aarhus University, Health - The Dean’s Office
Mobile: (+45) 6126 9808