Photo from PhD Bazaar 2023. Photo credit: Hanne Kokkegård, DTU Compute

Diversity: DTU Compute increases the focus on women and foreign researchers

Wednesday 08 Nov 23


Jan Madsen
Head of department, Professor
DTU Compute
+45 45 25 37 51


Sabrina Spangsdorf
PhD Coordinator
DTU Compute
+45 20 92 11 73


Kim Knudsen
DTU Compute
+45 45 25 30 26

The background

The effort with Living Labs is a follow-up to an anthropological study conducted by IS IT A BIRD, which has investigated barriers and potentials for attracting and retaining female STEM talent in academia. Get the report here

Together with 11 other university environments within STEM, DTU Compute and DTU Bioengineering receive support from the VILLUM FONDEN, the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the strategic innovation agency IS IT A BIRD to establish Living Labs for a targeted effort to strengthen diversity.

Among those who complete a master's degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), there is a noticeable disparity in the number of women compared to men who choose to pursue careers in academia. This "leaky pipeline" of female talent represents an untapped potential, critical for Denmark's ambition to secure a position as one of the world's leading nations in STEM disciplines in the future.

Consequently, VILLUM FONDEN, Novo Nordisk Foundation, and IS IT A BIRD have invited university environments to develop concrete strategies for supporting diversity within their specific research settings. This effort has led to the establishment of a series of collaborations known as 'Living Labs', encompassing a total of 13 research environments across the country, one of them at DTU Compute where, in addition to concentrating on women, the work also includes the foreign PhD students and employed researchers. Another one is at DTU Bioengineering

The goal of 'Living Labs' is to investigate various strategies for providing Danish STEM environments with well-defined ideas and recommendations to enhance diversity and inclusion. The ideas might include initiatives aimed at reshaping maternity and family support systems, emphasizing the recruitment and retention of female staff, or addressing broader cultural shifts within research settings.

The expectations are high at the Villum Foundation and the Novo Nordisk Foundation:

"The number and diversity of the applications that IS IT A BIRD has received shows that the need for change is widely recognized in the university environment, and this bodes well for the development work that the project's Living Labs will embark on."

It is the research environments themselves that will be developing the initiatives and driving the change processes. At the same time, the team from IS IT A BIRD will follow the Living Labs closely by monitoring and evaluating the initiatives to document what it takes to create lasting positive change within diversity in STEM research.

Compute's target groups resemble each other

"The goal is that the knowledge we acquire through the project must be used to initiate concrete measures to increase the proportion of female researchers."
Jan Madsen, Head of Department

DTU Compute has around 50 percent of employees from all over the world, and at the department, you can see that there can be a lot of overlap between being a woman and a researcher and coming from a country other than Denmark concerning 'fitting in' with the stereotype by a researcher, explains Head of Department Jan Madsen:

"The goal is that the knowledge we acquire through the project must be used to initiate concrete measures to increase the proportion of female researchers. We also hope to be able to use the collected knowledge to learn more about how we can create a different story about being a researcher in the STEM subjects; a story that can be used in, among other things, recruitment, onboarding, and other relevant places.”

The project idea was developed by DTU Compute's special diversity group, which is part of the department's environmental work. The diversity group focuses on making the workplace even more inclusive through advising the department management, holding seminars, and developing projects.

13 Living Labs

The 13 research environment participating as living labs are:

  • DTU Compute - Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science
  • DTU Bioengineering, DTU
  • The Department of Computer Science, Aalborg University
  • Globe Institute (the intersection of geobiology, planetary sciences, biology, geology, archaeology and microbiology), University of Copenhagen
  • Department of Green Technology, University of Southern Denmark
  • Faculty of Natural Sciences, Aarhus University
  • Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University
  • CAPeX, Pioneer Center for Accelerating P2X Materials Discovery, DTU and Aalborg University
  • Department of Agroecology & Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Aarhus University
  • The Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen
  • Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Copenhagen
  • Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen
  • Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen

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