Study on gender-based vulnerability and sexual harassment in academia

Jönköping University (JU) has participated in a study on gender-based vulnerability and sexual harassment in academia. The study was conducted at universities in Sweden in the spring of 2021 and is the first of its kind in Sweden. Approximately 39,000 employees, students, and doctoral students at 38 higher education institutions responded to the study. The result for JU, as well as for the sector, show shortcomings in the study and work environment, which is why JU now intensify its efforts to improve behaviors and norms.

Parts of JU’s results

The study consists of 45 questions related to bullying, victimisation, and harassment. The results show, among other things, that:

  • 13% of employees and 7% of students report being bullied in the last 12 months.
  • 31% of employees and 24% of students report that they have found themselves in a situation where one of the chefs, colleagues/teachers or fellow students has addressed them in an unprofessional manner, in front of others or in private in the last 12 month.
  • 20% of employees and 12% of students report that they have been in a situation where one of the managers/colleagues/teachers or fellow students made offensive or disrespectful comments about them.
  • 20% of employees and 23% of students report that they have been in a situation where one of the managers or colleagues/teachers, or fellow students has joked at their expense.
  • In the last 12 months, 27% of employees and 17% of students have known that someone has been subjected to bullying at their workplace or study place.
  • 8% of employees and 10% of students have stated that someone, during their work/studies, has sexually touched them, for example, by grabbing, holding, kissing, hugging, or caressing uncomfortably or unpleasantly.

The study was conducted by Karolinska Institutet, Malmö University, the Royal Institute of Technology, and the National Secretariat for Gender Research at the University of Gothenburg. The issues include bullying, victimisation and harassment. The results testify that students and employees experience inadequacies in the study and work environment at JU (see fact box for results).

“We take the results very seriously. The study addresses serious problems and highlights behaviors that give rise to discussions and reflections on how we treat each other as fellow human beings. We need to get to the bottom of the cause of our shortcomings regarding our study and work environment. We have zero tolerance for all forms of abusive treatment, and we need to bring about a change among students and employees. We have to improve the conditions for drawing attention to, reporting and stopping harassment, bullying and violations,” says President Agneta Marell.

“Our students and employees are JU:s most valuable assets. The study and work environment are crucial for everyone to thrive. We work systematically with these issues today, but we need to do even more to make everyone feel safe and be able to carry out their work and studies,” says HR Director Ingrid Estrada-Magnusson.

"This is heavy information to read. The results show that JU, and also the student union, still have work to do in this area. Being a student occupies a large part of life for many and includes many aspects. At the Student Union, we now see that, in addition to continuing cooperation with JU regarding the study environment itself, we must also review the study social environment and how we can improve our own activities to address the problems," says Sophia Fröberg Liljenberg, President Jönköping Student Union.

Action work

JU continuously works with cultural and value-based issues but intensifies the work to change behaviors and norms. This work is done in cooperation with Jönköping Student Union, trade union representatives and safety representatives at JU.

JU will, among other things, review procedures for reporting victimisation, bullying and harassment. JU will also intensify the work of further training managers in paying attention to misconduct signals, providing them with tools to act and involve occupational care and student health in a more direct way. The Student Union will also review the routine of kick-in of new students and emphasize the message of zero tolerance.

“This is a solid audit of the entire university and higher education sector and gives rise to important discussions and reflections on how we treat each other as fellow human beings. We will now do everything we can to improve the conditions regarding our work and study environment,” says President Agneta Marell.

Do you have questions?

HR Director Ingrid Estrada-Magnusson. External link, opens in new window.

President Jönköping Student Union, Sophia Fröberg Liljenberg, 0707-66 62 41.

Read more about the study here.