Foto Joachim Rode

‘We achieve more through diversity’

Thursday 02 Jan 20


Christine Ipsen
Associate Professor
DTU Management
+45 45 25 60 14


Christine Ipsen, 48 years old, lives in Gentofte, is married to Jens Chr. Ipsen and has two children.

2014 -: Group manager for ‘Implementation and Performance Management’, DTU management
2012- 2015: Head of PhD School, DTU Management
2012 -: Associate professor at DTU Management
2007 – 2011: Assistant professor, DTU Management
2006 – 2007: Supervisor at the Danish Working Environment Authority
2002 – 2006: PhD student, DTU management
2001: Master of Science in Engineering (MSc Eng) from DTU management

Co-founder of the ‘Think Tank Sustainable Working Life’, Vice President of the Scandinavian Academy of Industrial Engineering & Management. Author of the book ’Forebyg stress i en fælles proces’ (Preventing stress in a common process).

Associate Professor Christine Ipsen is committed to making DTU an even better place to work by highlighting how we can exploit diversity.

When DTU opened its doors to 336 young women in connection with Girls’ Day in Science in October, Associate Professor Christine Ipsen from DTU Management participated in a panel debate on women in the Natural Sciences (STEM). Here she had the opportunity to share the enthusiasm she feels working at DTU. At the same time she was able to explain the work of a female engineer and associate professor. She feels there are still too many young people who find it difficult to imagine being a woman and an engineer:

“I was a little frustrated by the picture that some of the young women have of the typical engineer, namely a geeky, IT-obsessed, pizza-eating young man who sits in the basement drinking Coca Cola. This is a cliché. I would like to play my part by showing them that there is also room for women who want to research into all manner of things—e.g. microphones and sound, wind turbines, and sewage treatment plants. There’s a lot of variation.”

Christine Ipsen’s remit is knowledge work and the prevention of work-related stress. Here, among other things, she focuses on how to lead processes to reach company goals without overburdening employees.

She also heads up a research group in management of implementation processes, she is responsible for the course TEMO—Technology, Management Organization & Business Models— and she is co-founder of the ‘Think Tank Sustainable Working Life’, which wants to move the stress debate in a research-based direction. For the last three years, she has been a member of the ‘Committee for Inclusion and Diversity’ where she has provided input on how to create the best workplace by mixing gender, age, and nationality.

Tremendous drive

Her many work assignments require considerable drive, which Christine Ipsen believes is a consequence of her family upbringing where everyone was highly committed. Even as a teenager, she took active part in association work and had many ideas about how to do things differently, faster, and better. Her first encounter with leadership responsibilities came in her mid-20s when, among other things, she became a board member. She is currently committed to making DTU an even better place to work.

"If we are to create the best team to solve challenges with climate, digitization, and sustainability, it is important to have the right people. We must make sure that we don’t overlook the best candidates because we have hidden prejudices or bias about who is best at what tasks. "
Christine Ipsen

One way of doing this is by being a role model for her female colleagues, so that they can see that it is possible to be both a woman and a manager.

“I try to respect our everyday differences and needs. I hope that my colleagues notice—e.g. that I avoid scheduling meetings after 4.00 p.m. so there is time to pick up the children. But there is also a freedom in DTU’s self-management where each person has to find their own work-life balance.”

“At the same time, it is very important to me that we also think about how to contribute to the community—both in education and in research. We achieve more when we stand together.”

Remembering her own study time at DTU which took her in an environmental direction, she met only a few female lecturers. One such person was Professor Helle Rootzén from DTU Compute, who at the time taught statistics. She made a big impression on Christine Ipsen because she was highly competent and inspiring and showed great enthusiasm for her profession.

However, when Christine Ipsen was hired at DTU as assistant professor, finding female managers in whom to mirror herself posed something of a challenge. So she chose to get sparring both from a male and a female mentor. Here, among other things, she discussed how to balance work and family life and how to develop as a associate professor and fulfil the role of manager.

Creating the best team

When Christine Ipsen participates in events such as Girls’ Day in Science—or the discussion turns to topics such as diversity, inclusiveness, and equality—she is amazed that the conversation often focuses on gender. She believes it is just as important to pay attention to prejudices surrounding age, sexuality, and nationality.

That said, she acknowledges the importance of gender balance in relation to staffing, as some in the research world may find it difficult understanding that a person can both be a woman and forge a university career. In administrative departments where there is often a majority of women, the challenge may be the opposite—here it may be difficult to imagine a male secretary.

The unequal gender balance has also been discussed in DTU’s ‘Committee for Inclusion and Diversity’, which among other things has looked at how to secure a better balance among men and women in scientific staff positions at DTU. In 2018, there were two men for each female PhD student—and nine male professors for every female professor.

“If we are to create the best team to solve challenges with climate, digitization, and sustainability, it is important to have the right people. We must make sure that we don’t overlook the best candidates because we have hidden prejudices or bias about who is best at what tasks,” says Christine Ipsen.

Women are deselected

She points to the fact that studies—particularly in the natural sciences—show that there is a greater risk of not landing the job simply because you are a woman:

“In a study from Yale University in the United States, researchers sent identical applications from the fictional students ‘John’ and ‘Jennifer’ to a number of professors. ‘John’ was judged by them all as the best qualified. You can choose to complain—that’s what I call the victim role. But conversely you can say that it’s a pity they all choose John if John and Jennifer are equally qualified. I’m not campaigning for a fifty-fifty distribution of men and women across the board. But we miss out on some possibilities if Jennifer is deselected solely on the grounds of being a woman.”

But how do we rid ourselves of our unconscious bias? According to Christine Ipsen, the first step is becoming aware of your bias. In practice, for example, there is no need to know gender, age, or nationality when hiring a new employee or judging a task. On the TEMO course, she has therefore decided to remove the students’ names on the assignments, so assessors and lecturers only see the study numbers. In this way, she tries to prevent a possible bias in the grading.

“For me, the goal is to ensure that those who want to become engineers have the opportunity to do so. It’s unfortunate if you have all the competences and dreams of solving problems using technology and simply opt out of DTU because you have formed the wrong picture of what it means to be an engineer. These are the hurdles we must challenge together so that we continue to have more engineering students of both sexes.”