There is no other university in Sweden with a basic gender equality education specially designed for students in technical programmes.
– After a workshop with our education leaders, I came to the conclusion that it was better to do a joint course instead of creating individual courses for all of the university's 42 technical education programmes, says Phillip Tretten, associate professor and head of education at Luleå University of Technology.
He contacted Maria Udén, professor of gender and technology and Birgit Stöckel, educational designer. Together, they designed a digital education in gender equality for all engineering students, in both Swedish and English.
– I think it was a very good collaboration. Birgit was very helpful in packaging my research knowledge so that it works pedagogically in the digital format, says Maria Udén.
The course of 0,5 credits goes through Swedish legislation in the field of gender equality and how the technical development has benefited from active gender equality work in a historical perspective. The course consists of filmed lectures, data from Statistics Sweden, Sweden's national gender equality goals reforms and legilslative changes. Examination takes place digitally in the form of a package of multiple-choice questions.
– We want to help students understand why it is important for a civil engineer to think about gender equality. We hope that they will be more inclined to think about diversity both in education and in future working life, says Phillip Tretten.
Gender equality is not only important from a justice perspective according to Phillip Tretten; it also increases productivity in the workplace. There are studies that show that equal workplaces are more creative and profitable. Other studies show that more women in male-dominated workplaces lead to fewer workplace accidents because women are generally less prone to risk than men.
It happens that the gender perspective is criticized and ridiculed in the general debate. Some question gender research as such, while others question its relevance to certain topics. Gender research should be subjected to critical scrutiny as well as all other research perspectives, but Maria Udén believes that criticism is often based on conscious or unconscious misunderstanding. She concretizes with an example:
Gender perspective on bridge brackets is not about analyzing cement mixtures and rebar based on gender, but about having a gender-conscious user perspective. In an aid project, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency would restore a demolished bridge. By applying a gender-conscious user perspective, the authority came to the conclusion that the women in the region rarely drive a car, so the bridge was supplemented with a protected lane.
– We are all daily dependent on different technical solutions. As an engineer, you must be able to listen to the needs of all people before you design your design, says Maria Udén.
According to the principal's decision, gender equality education must be included in all programmes by the autumn of 2021. However, it was decided at the technical programmes to complete the course already in the autumn of 2020. When it is now given for the second year, the course will have improved. All educational films will be subtitled in accordance with the provisions on accessibility. The English film versions will be extended and the demands on students will be higher.
– The support and interest in the course has been great from the teachers in most programmes and many have offered their help. It shows that teachers take the issue of gender equality seriously and that they see a need for a course like this. The response from the students has also been positive. Several older students have asked if they can study the course even though they have already studied for several years in their programme, says Phillip Tretten.
All civil engineering programmes at Luleå University of Technology, with the exception of a few individual programmes that have chosen to create their own versions of the gender equality course, participate in the joint investment in a gender equality education for civil engineers