The University of Southern Denmark (SDU) is a government-funded, independent institution within the public administration under the Minister for Higher Education and Science. SDU was established in 1966. It has five campuses and is the first Danish university with decentralised campus structure. The university encompasses five faculties with more than 27,700 students, including Science, Health Sciences, Engineering, Humanities, and Business and Social Sciences.
Denmark has a liberal approach to gender equality. Public organizations – including universities– are obliged by law to “work for gender equality” and incorporate a gender equality perspective in all aspects of planning and administration (i.e. mainstream) in accordance with EU legislation. There are, however, no requirements in terms of what “gender mainstreaming” means, and no sanctions if change doesn’t take place.
FESTA was the first systematic initiative at SDU to address gender at a structural level. FESTA has served as a catalyst at the Faculty of Science and SDU in general for actions, resulting in several initiatives, policies and actions implemented in parallel with FESTA. At the Faculty of Science, a number of policies have been implemented. Within two years of full implementation, the Faculty of Science has experienced a marked increase in the ratio of women being hired for academic positions. Based on these experiences and as a direct consequence of the pioneering work done through FESTA, various initiatives are implemented at SDU. At both university and national level, FESTA actions and outcomes have been highlighted as recommendations for good practice and included in the recommendations from the Task Force for more women in research in 2015, established by the Minister for Research and Education.
Gender Equality Team (GET) was established as part of SDU’s wider strategic GE focus in August 2017 as a direct result of FESTA and is the first of its magnitude and priority in Denmark. Its main tasks include establishing a Gender Data Warehouse and eventually the implementation of Gender Equality Plans at SDU and revision of academic recruitment processes to mitigate unconscious bias. It also includes training gatekeepers (leaders, senior faculty, advisors and PhD-supervisors etc.) and revising infrastructure to mitigate unconscious bias in decision making and structural / systemic practices of for instance promotion, delegation of tasks and distribution of resources. The Dean of Health Sciences is responsible for GET and represents SDU’s strategic GE-initiative in SDU’s Executive Board.
GET is now coordinator of the EU-project SPEAR (Supporting and Implementing Plans for gender Equality in Academia and Research). SPEAR is a Coordination and Support Action project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Science with and for Society (SwafS) programme. SPEAR aims to foster sustainability in GE-practices in academia through a range of measures and outcomes, including ties to other EU-based GE projects, network and community building within and beyond SPEAR, and formulation of practicable policy recommendations. SPEAR is directly linked to the Vice-Chancellor and the Executive Board and will feed into and complement other strategic initiatives for GET.