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“Equality and diversity does not always have to be all embracing, there are little things we can do in our daily lives,” says Marianne Ekman Rising. (Photo: Marc Femenia)

Professor wins award for gender perspective work

Published Dec 05, 2018

This year’s recipient of the KTH Equality and Diversity Prize goes to Professor Marianne Ekman Rising. She would herself like to praise colleagues who work on everyday issues.

For Marianne Ekman Rising , Professor in Industrial Work Science at KTH, organisational development and equality go hand in hand.

“If you add a gender perspective, you also see other patterns in an organisation.”

For example, is there a structure that is characterised by exclusion and powerful networks of male colleagues? This boosts the willingness of some people to contribute to the enterprise, but not others.

Being awarded the President's Equality and Diversity Prize for Employees in 2018, means a great deal, she says.

“I felt delightfully surprised and hugely honoured. Someone who drives issues related to equality and diversity in an organisation is not always met be appreciation.”

She feels a sense of humbleness in being honoured, when many of her colleagues are engaged in equality work on a daily basis without garnering praise.

“I have had a high-profile position and the benefit of working with knowledgeable and driven colleagues that have equal opportunities as their research field. That is not something everyone can enjoy. So, I would like to share the prize with all of these people who are doing a fantastic job, sometimes with not enough support.”

Brain and Heart

Ekman Rising has been awarded the Equality and Diversity Prize in part on account of her work as head of the KTH career support programme, where she has integrated equality into every activity. She has structured the Partners in Learning (PIL) Programme in association with the Tenure Track career system.

“Tenure Track is good from an equality perspective, as it makes what it takes to build a good career transparent. The aim of the PIL programme was to create a more equal mentor system. As a senior figure, I have so much to learn from young people. We need a joint investigation where we are partners in learning.”

She has been chair of the Network for Female Professors and Docents for several years and on behalf of the network has investigated what makes it difficult to learn about and understand equality.

 “We at KTH are doers, we want to do things quickly, start a course or organise activities. Which is all well and good. However, we also need to incorporate a personal plan and understand things with both our brain and heart. We must all of us self reflect. What do things look like in my position, why is equality important?”

Resistance to change

She is also on the project management team for the Gender and Change Management Programme (GOFL) aimed at women in senior positions in faculties and administration. GOFL also provides training in working with equality and is part of equality integration activities.

Ekman Rising feels there is now greater awareness of equality at KTH.

“KTH is actively working with equality integration under the direction of the Vice President for Gender equality and values, and we now have our first female president. Having said that, there are voices that argue that “that gender thing” has taken over. But there has always been resistance to change.

“Working with equality and diversity does not always have to involve big things,” she says.

“There are little things you can do on a daily basis. You can stand up for your values in small matters and say, “this is not OK” or “I support you”. You can see that people with different backgrounds get involved in the conversation.”

She urges cooperation with other people who want to pursue equality and diversity issues and to say yes to central assignments.

“This provides opportunities to see how other colleagues work. You get new ideas and contexts that can feel encouraging. It is very rewarding to take responsibility for the big picture and have your perspective broadened.”

Text: Ann Patmalnieks

In the words of the prize jury:

  • “In her role as head of career support at KTH for many years, Professor Marianne Ekman Rising has campaigned to integrate equality into all activities, both in terms of how processes are structured and what they contain. In particular, the PIL Programme for Tenure Track and the Programme for researchers at KTH can be cited as good examples of integration from an equality perspective. She has also been chair of the Support Group where the various elements of career support have been coordinated and where equality is ever present on the agenda.”
  • “Marianne Ekman Rising has also pursued equality issues at KTH in an active and goal-oriented way through her role as chair of the Network for Female Professors and Docents. Over the past year, she has been a member of the project management team for the Gender and Change Management Programme (GOFL) at KTH. Her knowledge of change management in terms of both content and process and how this can play a key role in equality work, has made a key contribution to GOFL.”