"Academia should not look like this” – Panel discussion on equal opportunities

18 May 2021

Bullying, harassment and discrimination.
These are some themes that will be addressed in a panel discussion on 27 May at Umeå University on equal opportunities and gender equality in academia.

There are many testimonials about how female researchers have been negatively discriminated against because of their gender, something that the documentary "Picture a Scientist" highlights.


"You can sit and be upset about things in your office but it will not change the world. The purpose of this first event is to realise that you have allies," says Carolina Hawranek, doctoral student at the Department of Radiation Sciences, and the initiator of the event.

In December 2020, Professor Lars Nyberg invited employees at Umeå University to a seminar with the former Umeå professor Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede. She now works at Chalmers University of Technology, where she also leads Genie - Gender Initiative for Excellence, which is a foundation with the overall goal of improving gender equality among teachers and researchers at Chalmers.
Umeå doctoral student Carolina Hawranek attended the seminar, which she describes as an eye opener full of data on distortions in higher education.

"Pernilla showed graph after graph that totally revealed unnecessary discrimination," says Carolina Hawranek. Afterwards she thought "We have all these numbers, but what do we do about them?" She did not receive an answer to that question and later on as a doctoral student she did not feel in a position to pursue the issue further. Not then. But that is exactly what would happen later.

Carolina Hawranek started following the Genie network, which led to her to watch the American documentary "Picture a scientist" (2020). In the film, viewers get to follow several prominent female researchers who highlight obstacles they have encountered in their profession - discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and other irregularities based on their gender.

Became inspired

"When I had seen the film, I felt that this is not what academia should look like - and we are many who want to work towards a change," says Carolina Hawranek.

Carolina Hawranek has become an equal opporunities representative at her department in coordinance with her work in arranging this event.


The film also focuses on researchers creating a network and producing data to show the inequality that exists within academia, a network that contributes to real change.

Carolina Hawranek was inspired and wanted everyone at Umeå University to have the opportunity to see the film. Consequently, she contacted colleagues at the University Library who quickly made the film available to staff and students.

Watch the film with your UmU-login credentials

Informed her colleagues

With limited access to the film, Carolina Hawranek began telling colleagues and acquaintances - someone she had taken a course with, another whose name she had seen at a digital event - about the possibility of seeing the film.

But what she really did was to get the snowball rolling, because some casual colleagues wanted to do more and the planning began. Shortly afterwards, the local Umeå newspaper Västerbottens-Kuriren's review of sexual harassment at Umeå University was published and showed that the issue is extremely important here as well - the snowball grew bigger and bigger.

Event during the end of May

On Thursday 27 May, a panel discussion on equal opportunities and gender equality in academia will be arranged at Umeå University with the acclaimed documentary "Picture a scientist" as a starting point. The panel of five is represented by all faculties as well as several levels, from doctoral students to the university management. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Heidi Hansson, with special responsibility for equal opportunities, will start the discussion and there will be time later on for questions from participants.

"We see it as a bottom-up activity that is about making more people realize that they are not alone in their departments and units. This is an issue that affects many people, but there is lacking an open forum today," says Carolina Hawranek.


Introduction by Heidi Hansson, Professor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for education at the undergraduate and advanced level, internationalization and outreach and responsible for equal rights and opportunities

  • Katrine Riklund, Professor, senior consultant physician and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for internationalization, research and postgraduate education in medicine, natural and technical sciences.
  • Lars Nordlander, Human Resources Manager at Umeå University.
  • Britt-Inger Keisu, Associate Professor in Sociology and Director of Umeå Center for Gender Studies.
  • Hannah Devinney, PhD-student researching gender bias in AI at the Department of Computing Science and Umeå Centre for Gender Studies.
  • Katarina Hamberg, Professor Emerita at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine and awarded the Medical Faculty prize for Equal opportunity initiatives in 2019.
  • Moderated by Carolina Hawranek, PhD student at the Department of Radiation Sciences former science journalist.

The organizers of the event hope that the film will help shed light on outdated structures that predominately discriminate against women in academia, and that the panel discussion can then contribute to constructive conversations about how to break them.

"There are a considerable number of us who live in some kind of bubble where we believe that everything around us is managed in an orderly, fair and correct way, until we encounter the opposite. Only those who are treated badly get that naive reality destroyed," says Carolina Hawranek and continues:
"The film provides an insight that can hopefully create humility and openness to think newly about our work environment."

Important for the research environment

Nevertheless, the benefit is not only a better working environment for everyone, but also for research in general in the long run. Moving away from uniformity and instead striving for diversity and multiple perspectives is in the very nature of research and should be desirable for all researchers.

"If you are a dedicated researcher with a sharp mind who cares about new thinking and scientific evidence, you want to work with other sharp minds, regardless of which body they are in, says Carolina Hawranek.

Read more about the event and how to register

Event Initiators

Five colleagues from different faculties at Umeå University have collaborated in arranging the event. They are:

  • Carolina Hawranek: Doctoral student at the Department of Radiation Sciences
  • Malin Linder Nording: Associate Professor at the Deparment of Chemistry
  • Elin Wallsten: Doctoral student at the Department of Radiation Sciences
  • Sara Wilson: Associate Professsor at the Department of Integrative Medical Biology (IMB)
  • Therese Nilsson: Librarian at the Umeå University Library vid Umeå universitetsbibliotek (UB)

Picture a Scientist - trailer

A film by Sharon Shattuck & Ian Cheney

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