Letter from the Dean

Last changed: 10 May 2021
Marina Queiroz, photo.

Inclusive working environments

At the seminar Gender Identity and Gender Expression in the Swedish workplace – What university staff and students need to know [1] with Warren Kunce on 27 January, the importance of an inclusive culture was highlighted. SLU wants to create equal and inclusive work and study environments for everyone, regardless of whether you identify yourself as a woman, man or non-binary [2], regardless of sexuality, religion, skin color or background, functionality or age.

What are inclusive working environments and how do we create them?

The study and work environment consists of the people who are part of it, and since it is about people, we must high light norms. We are socialized into the norms and values we carry. Norms are unspoken rules and the preconceived notions we have about others, they are part of being human. Norms are not a bad thing in themselves, it is when they become an obstacle, limiting or purely discriminatory for an individual or a group that they become a problem.

The one that meets the norm, i.e. fits into the norm, has rarely had to think about these things. The person does not deviate from the norm and has rarely felt that they do not fit in or have been restricted in any way, at least not because of gender identity or sexuality, skin color, body size or functional ability or religion or other belief. For those who follow the norm, the norm often becomes invisible, with the result that one is often unaware of the significance of norms and the obstacles people who break the norm may experience.

The opposite is also true; whoever breaks a norm is (often painfully) aware of it.

Most at SLU are relatively norm compliant; many are secularized, white [3], multigenerational Swedes, heterosexual cis men and cis women [4] with few visible functional variations. If this applies to most employees and students at SLU, it means that the majority is relatively norm compliant, and it is this majority that sets the tone for the culture and the social environment. This majority has the power and responsibility to create an inclusive working environment at SLU.

In the NJ faculty's new strategy, the goal is to conduct “active and systematic work environment work with gender equality and equal opportunities, where proactivity and internal learning are guiding stars” (2.3 A SLU Sub-component a page 9). A central part of proactive internal learning is the awareness of norms and how they affect us differently, what it means to follow the norm, the consequences and privileges it entails, and how we can act to create more inclusive working environments.

Educate yourself

The systematic gender equality and equal opportunities work that SLU conducts affects us all, because we are all part of each other's work and study environment. For those of you who want to learn more about the complex and multifaceted JLV issues (Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities – “jämställdhet och lika villkor” in Swedish), there are, for example, courses at the Educational Development Unit which this spring, among other things, offer the course Anti-racist pedagogy in higher education (https://internt.slu.se/en/support-services/education/educational-and-digital-support/courses--seminars/antiracist-pedagogy-in-higher-education/ ). Maybe your department or unit wants a workshop on master suppression techniques, bias and / or norm creativity? Or a session on inclusive communication, so that everyone has a chance to update their vocabulary and understand and use new concepts? Or do a workshop on conduct, micro-aggressions, group processes and conflict resolution. Depending on the input or theme, you can, for example, turn to the faculty's equal opportunities officer (Swedish: JLV-handläggare), Division of Human Resources or the EPU (linked to education and teaching). You can also participate in the seminars arranged by the faculty's JLV committee or by other parts of the JLV organization (keep an eye on the calendar). I look forward to meet you then, for talks and mutual development!

JLV issues and sustainable development

The SLU’s and NJ faculty's strategy also describes SLU’s next step for sustainable development. SLU wants to be “an internationally leading university with a key role in the transition to a sustainable society in a changing world” [5]. Transition and change are important and courageous words to write into a strategy, and it sets demands on us as an organization, as a workplace and as an education provider.

In order to be a university with a key role in this transition to a sustainable society in a changing world, we must also dare to touch upon difficult and emotionally charged topics, and a good start is raising awareness about norms, inclusive communication and how we treat each other. Such an approach provides better conditions for handling the complex transitional work that SLU wants to be a part of, and for which we have an obligation to equip our students. The world needs critical thinkers and good communicators who can work across disciplinary boundaries and think and create new; it is our students from SLU, who are going out into society and contribute to this development. We must develop and educate our organization and our employees in JLV issues, not only because it says so in the strategy, but primarily as an obligation to our students.

I look forward to continuing to develop SLU into a leading university with a key role in the transition to a sustainable society in this changing world, together with you. A good idea is to let this journey begins in a discussion where we highlight and discuss norms; what they mean, how we can talk and act to create an inclusive study and work environment, the meaning of different words and concepts, and listen if anyone shares personal experiences.

All the best
Marina

Notes

[1] Gender identity and gender expression in the Swedish workplace – what university employees and students need to know, seminar arranged by the VH faculty's JLV committee, and Warren Kunce www.genderdiversity.se.

[2] Non-binary gender identity. The binary way of looking at gender states that there are only two sexes, male and female. A non-binary person's self-identified gender moves beyond or between the binary gender divisions.

[3] Being "white" or "black" are social constructions. The term racialized describes social constructions around skin color, and multiple processes and courses of events. You are not racialized, you become racialized. We all become racialized, i.e. divided into different groups depending on our skin color. The white norm means that people with "white" skin color become the invisible norm, invisibly racialized, while people with other skin color are visibly racialized. Source: https://vardagsrasismen.com/2014/04/15/rasifierad-vad-betyder-det/

[4] Cis (Latin "on the same side") is about gender identity and means that the person identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. For example. I, Marina, am a cis woman. My biological sex is female (chromosomes, hormones). My legal gender (that which was assigned at birth) is woman. Self-identified gender (I see myself as a woman). Others read me as a woman. When all that "stands on the same side" I am cis. Cis says nothing about the person's sexual orientation, i.e. I can be a cis woman and lesbian.

[5] NJ faculty's strategy 2.1 SLU's next step for sustainable development, page 3.

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