“We influence tomorrow’s leaders that are going to change tomorrow’s society”, said Anna Oldestam, the project manager of Equality Week (https://equalityweek.se/) at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH; Kungliga Tekniska högskolan), a university in Stockholm, Sweden, specializing in Engineering and Technology. Being a student at KTH myself, Equality Week has been a part of my student experience that I value a lot and consider to be a unique innovative way of KTH- students’ social sustainability work. I believe that social sustainability is an important aspect of sustainability that is often forgotten within the engineering and science field, so I wanted to interview Ms Oldestam to shed the light on SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).
What is Equality Week?
Equality Week started in 2012 by a group of KTH-students and is today a part of the student union at KTH (THS; Tekniska Högskolans Studentkår) and is organized annually. We are an innovative organization that creates a platform for companies that work with equality to talk to KTH- students and by that we encourage students to be more aware of how to choose their future employers. It is a week where companies and NGOs get to come to KTH and talk to students about their work with equality, this includes how they work with equality, how they recruit and work with their employees to support inclusion and equality. More than 1000 students participate during this week.
Why is Equality Week important?
We still have many problems concerning equality in our society, that is something that is often forgotten especially because the Swedish society is one of the most equal societies in the world, but we still have a lot to do and a long way to go. It is challenging to make people realize that the equality issue is still important and that we still have a lot to do especially in the engineering fields, where, for example, only one third of KTH- students are women, and the number of women working in engineering and technology is even smaller. Students must actively work in order to change the situation.
It is important for students to get informed about what companies are doing but it is also important to give students the chance to influence their future employers. A company that Equality Week has influenced and inspired is Fortum Sweden, one of the major energy companies in Sweden, who has started its own equality week for its employees. They are also organizing a global equality day that will take place in November this year. This is a big step for equality in the energy sector.
How does Equality Week work with the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030?
Equality Week is working mainly with SDG 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality) and 10 (Reduced Inequalities). Education is an important part of the organization, it provides information for both students, the university and companies. Despite the fact that Equality Week’s work is focused on the SDGs 4, 5 and 10 and social sustainability, they are also working with environmental sustainability with focus on SDG 12. For instance, they are focusing on marketing through social media in order to decrease the number of posters being printed and they have decreased the number of balloons used in their events.
How does Equality Week influence KTH as a university, the educational system and society at large?
KTH has an equality office that is constantly working on these topics and trying to create a more equal environment for the students here. Today, KTH provides education about equality in many of the introductory courses that all engineering students have to take. KTH has to provide society with competent engineers and one important competence that is needed is awareness of equality and inclusion. Many KTH-graduates become leaders in their fields. By influencing these future leaders and educating them to believe and understand the importance of inclusion and diversity, we influence society.