Why did you take part in the initiative Sexism in Danish Higher Education and Research in October 2020?
Because it resonated deeply with a question that had been coming into ever more disturbing focus for me during my ten years as an equality, diversity and inclusion practitioner in Academia: how to really get anywhere ensuring academia as a creative and inclusive work place where it is possible to flourish no matter who you are and where it is possible to draw on the perspectives and ideas of the widest range of differences and diversity, when the ubiquitous problem of sexism keeps being rendered invisible, silenced, turned into a personal problem if not outright shamed out of receiving due attention.
I have had numerous experiences of bringing sexism up as something to take seriously, with ample documentation and demonstration of the consequences both for individuals, the work place and for society as a whole. Just as often I and we have been met with reactions of defense, fatigue and resignation, coming away with no real and lasting changes.
This initiative seemed to be a way to draw real attention to a real and overlooked problem: with this much exposure there is still hope that it can no longer be wished away or silenced into the ground.
What has been important to you before and after the publication of the signatures and the submission of the testimonies?
Reading the many troubling testimonies and sensing the undercurrent of deep personal distress – even with my professional awareness that sexism thrives, it has been a wake-up call to be faced with the stark reality that this goes on, still, now, here, in a society and a sector that have so much to offer, so many assets, so many possibilities for engendering the values and ideals of dignity and respect in the work place, of creating interactions and work spaces characterized by collaboration rather than power demonstrations and exclusionary practices. How is it possible, that collectively we think nothing of leaving so many victims of sexism floundering by the wayside in the pursuit of… – what, exactly, that merits this kind of cost?? How come this has not been solved, definitively, a long long time ago?
Any other important reflections or aspects of the initiative and sexism in Academia, that you would like to dwell on or bring to light?
I think the three values this initiative rests on are hugely important: That it insists on the structural and collective aspects – and does not fall into the trap of individualizing and contextualizing or shaming / blaming / short-lived sensationalizing. That it focuses on solutions and collaboration and does so on the basis of knowledge, practice and research. To my mind these are crucial, also in the work ahead.
Any surprises or developments that you have been particularly struck by?
I am deeply touched by the dedication, energy, care, generosity and willingness to act that have made this initiative possible.