Our last Physics Colloquium for this spring will take place on Friday, May 20th. We will have a presentation on how to improve workplace culture to be given by Hanna Vehkamäki, the new Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Science in charge of equality.
Hanna is Professor in Computational Aerosol Physics here at the University of Helsinki, and she is well known in the University to be an excellent and engaging speaker, as well as being an accomplished physicist. In her work, she focuses on computational and theoretical methods to understand cluster and particle formation for atmospherically relevant molecules. She has won several awards including the Finnish Aerosol Research Foundation Distinguished Researcher Award, The NOSA (Nordic Society for Aerosol Research) Aerosologist Award as well as the University of Helsinki Maikki Friberg Award for Promoting Equality. Since the beginning of this year, she is the new Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Science in charge of sustainability, international affairs, wellbeing, equality, and the principles for facility use.
In her colloquium, titled Everyday tips for making the workplace culture welcoming for diverse staff, Hanna will present and discuss ideas on how to improve our workplace culture, based on the work of the well-being group of INAR.
The event will be held on Friday 20.05.22 at 14:15 in hybrid format: in Physicum E204 and on Zoom (Meeting ID: 617 0905 2108 – Passcode: 741449 )
Here is her abstract:
The equality and work well-being group at the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR) has comprised a list of everyday behavior patterns that we should pay attention to when striving to make the workplace culture welcoming to people with diverse backgrounds. The examples in the list are broadly categorized as 1) Accept and be interested in people as multidimensional beings, restricting manifestation of fear of differences 2) Be aware of the space and time different people are taking in workplace meetings and social situations 3) Support a balance between work and private life and recovery from work equally for different genders as well as for people with different ages and family situations 4) Be aware that discussions focusing in competition, status, hierarchies, and comparing the achievements of people (those present or not present) make many people uncomfortable 5) Be aware that discussing people in terms of being ‘smart’, ‘intelligent’, ‘brilliant’, ‘genius’ is not gender and culture neutral 6) Avoid boss-centric atmosphere where the role of the boss is to decide alone and be revered by the rest 5) Avoid discussing the physical appearance or capabilities of other people even if they are not present 6) In both work related discussions and when telling jokes, stories and anecdotes in social situations, keep in mind you position with respect to people present when choosing the content or style 7) Don’t use gender specific words etc as a compliment: ‘real man’, ‘has got balls’, ‘strong for a woman’ 8) Remember to consider the language barrier(s) when a multinational set of people is present
We recommend that the list is discussed, for example, in a departmental seminar: our approach was to have three members of the equality and work well being group perform some of the examples in the list as a dialogue, after which the audience discussed whether they have encountered something similar and how that has affected them. Afterwards, the complete list was distributed to the staff on the unit. We received encouraging feedback on the session with requests to organize similar events in the meetings of the individual INAR research groups. We want to remind that no-one is perfect, and our vision is not to construct strict foolproof rules to avoid all situations leading to feelings of discomfort.
However, a little change goes a long way in making the working environment better for everyone. Opening the eyes to how other people might experience common encounters can be aided by using an externally constructed list of examples as a starting point.