”We have to talk about sexism on campus”

"We have to talk about sexism on campus," says student union president Carl Toller and Chalmers' President Stefan Bengtsson.

​Credit: Johan Bodell

"We have to talk about sexism on campus"

​Sexism is a problem at Chalmers too and it has often been silenced. Help us put an end to the silence and create a transparent and open Chalmers where everyone is welcome – but not everything! say Chalmers’ President Stefan Bengtsson and student union president Carl Toller.
​We have woken up with a jolt. From if not sleep, at least a common view that sexual harassments and violations hasn’t been an extensive problem at Chalmers.
The statistics have looked promising.  Proud students and satisfied employees, both men and women. Violations have gradually diminished over the years. Four percent of our employees stated during 2017 that they have experienced some form of discrimination. That is below the national average of Swedish universities. Our student barometer indicated similar low levels among students. This would prove not to cover the entire truth.

Our awakening began early fall when brave female students broke the silence and told us their stories about sexism at one of our educational programs. We began to search and meet students, listen and started digging deeper into the survey comments. A radically different picture emerged.

We saw chauvinism and misogyny, covering a spectrum from insults to harassments and abuse, both night and day. We wrote about it on our intranet. More women stepped forward. And then #metoo. Waves of stories from all industries grew by the day. At the end of October we asked our own students and employees to tell us directly, and share their experiences with us anonymously, via a web form.

Stories of discriminatory behaviour have come in on a daily basis in recent weeks, mostly from students. Some about molesting, and even pure abuse from other students. Others about teachers using the power to diminish female students. Some witness about inapt nudity among students. Employees have testified about ruling men.

A selection of stories are gathered here


Behind each story we have one of our students, a friend, who have been the victim of sexist behavior from men here at Chalmers. Almost always a woman, who have been forced to defend herself, physically or verbally. This is absolutely unacceptable. 

We realize that the culture of silence has been part of the game at Chalmers when it comes to sexism on campus. That some men choose to act sexist – and have been allowed to do so by other men and women – without real consequences. That they have been given clearance, and their behavior silenced. Here as well as in the society in general.

We have had it with the silence culture. Let us talk openly about sexism and listen to each other. This is an absolute necessity if we want to move forward towards equality.

Chalmers’ management has great responsibility to act. The university and the student union have started a joint work towards these goals:

  • All students and employees must know what discrimination is. What counts is the victim’s experience.
  • All students and employees shall know where to turn to report incidents, and what happens after reporting them.

We are making it easier to tell, we are reviewing the support to those concerned and whether we can use our disciplinary statute and labour law more effectively when something happens.

By various educational efforts and organized dialogues we have started to ramp up the work – against sexism, for equality. Between students, but also in the student to teacher relationship. This is where your stories matter the most – continue to share!

The proportion of men increases for each step of the academic ladder. We have among the lowest amount of female professors in Sweden. Why is Chalmers not as attractive a workplace for women as for men?  Why do we seem to give women poorer career conditions? In our recruitment processes we are already actively working with these issues and homework is given if suggested nominees are of same gender.

We actively work against suppression techniques. From the university’s point of view we will be specifically observant if sexism can be an explanation in these situations. From the university side, we will be particularly aware of whether sexism can be an explanation in different situations.

We are approximately two thirds of men here at Chalmers, among student and employees. Men have a great influence over the current attitude and behavior. This we understand. But we feel, and are convinced, that the absolute majority of men at Chalmers welcome the #metoo movement and want their campus free from sexism.

That is why we are starting Chalmers against sexism. It adds on to and ramps up our ongoing work with equality integration, targeted specifically at sexism. We invite all who want to join, whether it is with competence, ideas or feedback. 

Together, students and employees, we want to talk about and understand what can be perceived as discriminatory in our setting. We want everyone to be brave and speak up of someone is treating others badly so that we together can stop this demeanor. We want the silence to end, here and now.

All students and employees should feel completely safe on our campuses and be themselves to the fullest. Every day, every night.

We will not rest until we are there.

Stefan Bengtsson, president and CEO of Chalmers

Carl Toller, president of Chalmers student union

Published: Tue 05 Dec 2017.