SLU Alumni is the link between SLU and former university students. The aim of the alumni operations is, among other things, to strengthen SLU’s contact with the outside world. SLU Alumni are responsible for the Alumnus of the Year award. A jury with SLU representatives appoint a winner from the nominees.
Elin Olofsson – this year’s SLU Alumnus of the Year for her appeal against sexism and sexual harassment within forestry
Elin Olofsson created the hashtag #slutavverkat on Instagram – the forestry industry’s appeal against sexism and sexual harassment related to the global #MeToo movement. Olofsson will receive this year’s Alumnus of the Year award because she has contributed to increased work with gender equality within the forest sector and SLU.
Olofsson has a Degree of Master of Science in Forestry from SLU. After she graduated in 2010, she has had various roles at SCA Skog in Umeå, all connected to timber purchase and market.
At the end of 2017, she, together with others working in forestry, initiated the hashtag #slutavverkat, which now includes over 120 stories about sexual harassment, master suppression techniques and discrimination. These stories come from people working within forestry, but also from SLU students and employees. The appeal also supported an open letter to SLU and the forest sector, written by Elin and several other SLU students, which demanded action.
“Without Elin Olofsson’s efforts, the discussion on equal opportunities and gender equality would not be as active within the university as it is today,” says Peter Högberg, Vice-Chancellor of SLU. “It requires a lot of courage to challenge the old traditions that still characterise the forest sector – from company boardrooms and contractors to teachers and fellow students.”
After the appeal was made, the Faculty of Forest Sciences at SLU, among others, initiated the exhibition Jämställd Återväxt (gender-equal regrowth) to create a forum for discussion and action.
“This is a recognition of everyone who created #slutavverkat. I hope that the award emphasises that it shouldn’t feel forbidden to stand up for gender equality within forestry, an industry that needs tolerance. No substantial, important, crucial thoughts have ever come from intolerance,” says Elin Olofsson.
In the short term, #slutavverkat has contributed to a government assignment to increase gender equality work within forestry and a strengthened opinion for everyone who fights for gender-equal workplaces. A network for women working within the forest sector has also been created.
“I know many management groups and organisations work with various forms of gender equality connected to management platforms and management training. In the long-term, I hope discussions on gender equality and forestry will continue to evolve. A few years ago, I said that before I retire, the forest sector will be gender-equal. Hopefully, the development during these past few years will make it happen faster than that,” says Olofsson.
What has your education and time at SLU meant to you?
“Having been able to reflect these past years, I have come to the conclusion that I studied for five years in order to understand and develop forest sciences. The secret is that we are doing it with the purpose to decipher forests for people who think about anything but the forest every day. For me, SLU has provided the power and knowledge to create a better world by using forestry, regardless whether it concerns the people working within it or the forests themselves,” concludes Olofsson.
Elin Olofsson will receive her award and give a lecture on Thesis Day, 29 May 2019.