In the sake of avoiding stereotypes in language, the committee for Gender Equality at Aarhus University is discussing about implementing a digital tool.
As recruitment is one out of three focus areas in the Action Plan for Gender Equality 2020-2022, an artificial intelligent tool aims to support women to apply for higher academic positions. Special consultant at the rector office at Aarhus University (AU) Inge Liengaard is hopeful, that “such a tool can help to qualify the way we write”. At the same time, she’s aware that it can’t ensure more women (or men) to apply. In one to two years the committee plans to evaluate the effects and experience in the HR departments. Concerning that a digital tool is as well based on its’ human programmer, Liengaard is aware of the possibility of accidently reproducing bias. Another problem is to point out – provided one can see effects – if the difference is based on the tool or other triggers.
The AU’s Action Plan for Gender Equality was newly concepted in 2019 after the director of Aarhus University established a central committee on Gender Equality to care about this topic. However, it is not the first Action plan at AU and Inge Liengaard stresses it has been on the agenda for a long time. But: “The topic is complex and it takes a long time to change the big picture. That’s why the impact is small when you look at the figures.”
Indeed, there haven’t been great changes in forms of numbers in the recent years. In some departments one could even see opposite change in the favour for men. “It really needs patience to see change in that aspect”, the special consultant points out. One of the reasons is that university’s staff stays in their position for longer and it takes several decades for more women to enter. As well roots are reaching deeper as already in primary school pupils are making preconceptions that are unlikely to change during their educational career. Even though, Liengaard is sure that the public in general gets more aware of Gender Equality as an important topic and is changing attitudes towards it.
Right now, the focus of the Action Plan lies on researchers, but it is likely to expand on students and administrative staff in the next edition. Jeppe Karl Jensen, philosophy student at Aarhus university, sums it up like this: “Gender equality and diversity in general as a thing to aspire for on every plan of education – but not forced!” His fellow student Karoline Fomsgaard disagrees: “I think the way to do it, is to force it at first before it comes naturally. A lot of efforts take so long because it is the culture. If we had a 50/50 division it is easier as a woman to be hired in jobs in higher positions.”
In European comparison Denmark is one of the leading countries when it comes to gender equality but still: Liengaard is sure that it is still a long way to go and that there are countries like England that are ahead of addressing equality issues – also because their population is more diverse in general.Gender Equality von Jule Ahles