Diversity

“Diversity is good for UZH”

The University of Zurich is committed to promoting diversity and preventing discrimination through active and systematic measures. UZH’s Diversity Policy entered into force one year ago. Christiane Löwe and Jennifer J* Moos from the Office for Gender Equality and Diversity explain the ideas underlying the policy and how it is being implemented.

Interview: Marita Fuchs, David Werner

Academic learning is as rich and diverse as the people involved.

 

Christiane Löwe, how diverse is UZH?

Christiane Löwe: UZH is exceptionally diverse. No other university in Switzerland offers such a wide range of degree programs or brings together as many research areas. This means our subject matter focus is extremely diverse, as are the specialist backgrounds of the people studying and working at UZH. But they also differ in many other respects – such as age, career phase, skills, languages, gender identity, sexual orientation, or social and geographical background. More than half of professors and about one sixth of students at UZH, for example, are from abroad.

What’s the value of this diversity?

Christiane Löwe: The task of a university is to generate and share research findings. Whatever the object you’re studying, your picture of it becomes more precise and complex if you look at it from different angles. I am convinced that a wealth of perspectives makes us and our work together at UZH more creative and imaginative. Diversity is good for UZH.

Jennifer J* Moos: Diversity is a reality – in society as well as at UZH. By raising awareness among its members for current issues regarding diversity and inclusiveness, UZH is living up to its responsibility toward society, promoting diverse and inclusive cooperation, and preventing discrimination. At the same time we’re fostering attractive conditions for studying, working and researching. Living a culture of diversity is also an important part of staying competitive and effective on the international stage.

The word Diversity was added to the name of the Office for Gender Equality this year. Why?

Christiane Löwe: This name change sends a signal that we’ve recognized diversity as a forward-looking extension of our previous work in gender equality. We’re still committed to establishing equality between genders. This idea is enshrined in law and remains as important as ever. We’re still striving for more women to become professors and for them – just like their male counterparts – to have a fair chance at landing good jobs and leading roles.

But we’re now also asking ourselves new questions: Which career opportunities do women with or without children have? Or women with a non-academic family background? In which areas might men be disadvantaged? What are the obstacles for fathers who want to reduce their workload? These questions weren’t as present in gender equality work 10 years ago.

How have the tasks of your office changed through the inclusion of the diversity aspect?

Jennifer J* Moos: Our work has become more complex and varied. In addition to questions of gender equality, we’re now also a contact point for all UZH members regarding matters of gender identity and sexual orientation. Cooperation and team work, good communication and networks are extremely important when it comes to diversity processes. This is why we’ve been working together with the Diversity Policy steering group since early 2017, which brings together representatives from Human Resources, International Relations, Safety, Security and Environment, and the Disability Office. And the group will now also feature members from the Communications Office, Professorships Department and Information Technology. 

The Diversity Policy’s subheading reads “Promoting, Practicing, and Benefiting from Diversity”. How does UZH intend to promote its diversity?

Christiane Löwe: There are laws to prevent discrimination on grounds of gender or disability, or to protect people against sexual harassment. There are also relatively clear guidelines for buildings. But it gets more complicated when the subject turns to unconscious or implicit bias. Our office is currently involved in two projects that deal with unconscious bias in professorial appointment procedures and in the awarding of third-party funds.  

Jennifer J* Moos: We’re trying to kick off processes to increase people’s awareness for this topic as well as the willingness to challenge their own established routines. This also applies to our own work in the Office for Gender Equality and Diversity. Practicing and promoting diversity through our actions ultimately also means that we have to embark on a continuous process of learning.

Which approach does the recently enacted implementation plan for the Diversity Policy follow?

Christiane Löwe: There are already many efforts at UZH to promote diversity, for example at the department or faculty level. The new implementation plan for the Diversity Policy features key measures to coordinate all of these efforts. Having the university-wide topic of diversity within the immediate remit of Deputy President Gabriele Siegert is very helpful when it comes to this coordination.

Jennifer J* Moos: It’s important to show what is already being done at UZH in the area of diversity, so that the various offices, departments and teams can learn from each other and work together. We also want to invite people to participate. The workshops to develop the implementation plan, where various UZH units were involved, have already brought about some initial small measures.

Which measures specifically?

Christiane Löwe: As part of our centralized coordinative measures, we want to intensify our dialogue with the faculties and committees. We also intend to establish a diversity network at UZH next year and step up our information and advisory services.

Jennifer J* Moos: The implementation plan also includes decentralized measures, that is measures that aren’t overseen or implemented by our office or the Diversity Policy steering group, but by the relevant UZH units. For example, when a department or institute reviews whether their website is barrier-free and uses gender-neutral language. Our office is also holding a workshop on inclusive language this semester. Other concerns include the availability of UZH’s website in both English and German as well as the promotion of intercultural skills. The new UZH job portal and the health portal “health@uzh – fit for all...” are further examples here. 

You’ve also published a video on diversity in time for the new semester. What’s the idea behind this?

Christiane Löwe: With the video we want to open up a different approach to the Diversity Policy. Some people prefer a visual medium, while others prefer texts. The video is another way of showing that diversity concerns all of us.

Jennifer J* Moos: In a way, we also want to give something back to the UZH community – staff and students – with this video and say thank you for their previous efforts, useful feedback and successful work together.
 

Christiane Löwe is Head of the Office for Gender Equality and Diversity, Jennifer J* Moos is Project Manager Diversity Policy.

 

Now available

The LERU position paper „Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Universities: The Power of a Systemic Approach“ is now available.

This position paper examines the issue of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at universities. It is firstly a manifesto which makes the case for why universities should and how they can engage with EDI. It also analyses the opportunities and benefits for universities to engage with EDI and it contains several research-based contributions on specific EDI challenges. Finally, the paper has a section with many examples of what LERU universities are actually doing to build equal, diverse and inclusive organisations.

 

Marita Fuchs, David Werner, UZH News