“One case is one too many”
At KTH we have zero tolerance of all forms of harassment and infringement, says Annica Fröberg, Director of Personnel. “One case is one too many. I hope that MeToo will help encourage more people to react and take a stand.”
As an employer and education coordinator, KTH has a statutory obligation to investigate and address any cases of discrimination, harassment and discriminatory treatment that are uncovered, points out Annica Fröberg.
“And we do. We always take action when we find out about such cases. But not all cases lead to a report.”
Over the past two years, some ten cases of sexual harassment or infringement have come up at one of KTH’s departments. It can relate to anything from insults and emails with sexual references, to indecent exposure and direct physical assault.
“I can count the number of physical assault cases on one hand since I joined as Director of Personnel ten years ago, and those people are no longer at KTH,” says Annica Fröberg.
Most cases are investigated and addressed at the department in question, whether it relates to a member of staff who has been subjected to harassment or accused of harassing others. Only the most serious cases end up on Annica Fröberg’s desk; cases that may be taken up by the Personnel Board.
Over the past ten years, the Personnel Board has only had to deal with one case relating to sexual harassment. But at least three cases have nevertheless led to the person in question having to leave KTH. When faced with the risk of being dismissed, one person chose to hand in their resignation.
One case was also reported to police.
Annica Fröberg notes that the perpetrator is not always a colleague or student at KTH.
“We have many employees who do a lot of travelling as part of their work and they can be targeted by people who don’t work at KTH. But it’s still our working environment.”
Sexual harassment involving staff may also be carried out by visitors to KTH. And considering that almost 18,000 people work or study at KTH, ten cases in two years is perhaps not so many, notes Annica Fröberg.
“But one case is one too many.”
The number of reports has seen a slight increase over the past few years. But Annica Fröberg thinks the main reason is that procedures for handling cases have improved, which has encouraged more people to come forward.
“I think it’s easier to get help and support now. We’ve worked a great deal on improving these procedures.”
For example, KTH’s intranet features special pages with information about where employees and students who have been subjected to discrimination, harassment or discriminatory treatment should go for support. All departments have contacts responsible for receiving reports and offering help and support.
“But we can only address the cases we get to hear about. So it’s brilliant that MeToo is highlighting the issue. Perhaps it will encourage more people to react and take a stand.”
Text: Ursula Stigzelius