Gender also affects harassment experiences
In addition to minority group status, gender also has a significant effect on experiences of harassment and mistreatment. While 5 percent of men belonging to the majority had experienced harassment or mistreatment during their studies, one in five (19%) majority women reported these experiences. When transitioning from study to work, 4 percent of men reported harassment or mistreatment, whereas the corresponding figure for women was 18 percent. Women therefore reported mistreatment or harassment while pursuing studies in technology more often than, for example, students identifying as members of a language or racialized minority.
It is important to acknowledge that although student life is considered to be widely equal, this phase has its own problems, and the issues do not suddenly start after students transition to work. Promoting non-discrimination not only requires taking minorities into account, but also improving gender equality.
- As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I can say that harassment is very common. Sexual harassment often happens at parties (e.g. asking people to undress during a fun checkpoint tour), being excluded from “all-male clubs”, asking people on a date in a professional context etc. In addition, I have to listen to people say things like men would never hire a woman my age, because I’ll soon be pregnant anyway. (woman, not part of a minority)
- Examples of harassment include pawing and unwanted touches (of the breasts and bottom) by fellow students and really inappropriate suggestions from older men who are at a student event as alumni or in a professional role. (woman, not part of a minority)
The respondents who listed their gender as ‘other’ or did not want to state their gender reported even more harassment and mistreatment than women. Of them, 26 percent reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment during their studies and 20 percent at work.
What changes when racialized minorities transition from study to work?
What is striking in the results is the high frequency of workplace harassment and mistreatment experienced by students belonging to a racialized minority. Students from a racialized minority reported harassment and mistreatment in their studies as well, but the percentage of those who reported such treatment while working in their own field was almost twice the percentage with similar experiences during their studies (25% while working in their field, 14% during studies).
The data collected in the Student Survey does not provide a direct answer as to why mistreatment is so common in working life. It is worth asking if there are protective factors in the academic community, such as the more positive attitudes of younger students towards people from different backgrounds. On the other hand, the anti-discrimination efforts of universities may also contribute to a better situation while studying. There may also be fewer situations in the school environment where prejudices against students from racialized minorities are revealed.
It is worth noting that the question about harassment at work was answered only by those who had managed to find a job in their own field while studying. Experiences of mistreatment related to discrimination in recruitment remain at least partly hidden. These include cases where a survey respondent has not managed to get a job in their field because of their foreign name. Name discrimination in recruitment has been studied in Finland by Akhlaq Ahmad, among others.
Experiences of gender and sexual minorities raise concerns
The harassment and mistreatment experienced by gender and sexual minorities is alarmingly common both during studies and while working in one’s field. Based on the written comments, sexual undertones and sexism are rampant in student culture and particularly the “teekkari” culture of tech students. Such a culture that reinforces hegemonic masculinity has been identified as a factor that inhibits inclusion in several studies concerning discrimination in the field of technology. (Cf. e.g. Wynn & Correl or Faulkner)
One possible explanation for the frequency of harassment experiences during studies is that students belonging to sexual or gender minorities do not openly express their identity in their workplaces as often. An extensive report conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) reveals that many Finnish LGBTIQ+ people are at most only partially open about their identity.