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Northern Police Research Webinar - Understanding and Intervening against Sexual Harassment at Work (UISH)

Date of event: January 19, 2024


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Event Briefing

Understanding and Intervening against Sexual Harassment at Work (UISH)

The first in the Northern Research Police Webinar Series of Spring 2024.

Brita Bjørkelo, The Norwegian Police University College

Tale Røijen Størdal Politihøgskolen

Finnborg Salome Steinþórsdóttir Postdoc, University of Iceland

Gyða Margrét Pétursdóttir Professor, Háskóli Íslands

Laufey Axelsdóttir – Postdoc, University of Iceland

Silje Lundgren, Linköping University

Malin Wieslander, Linköping University



UISH applies the police as a setting to investigate how sexual harassment (SH) is understood and intervened against. SH is an intersectional phenomenon, which indicates that different forms of social inequality, oppression and discrimination interact (Hoffart, 2021; Vivar & Lutz, 2011) and potentially hinder the development of a safe, inclusive and sustainable Nordic working life for police employees and others. Sustainability in this regard means to improve the inclusion of necessary competence and human resources for a longer period of time for the best of employers, employees and society (St.meld 4:2018-2019).

UISH expands previous research by enabling ways and methods to better understand and intervene against SH by investigating the perspectives of (1) bystanders (2) harassed/exposed and (3) harassers.

The ‘bystander perspective’ (1) is built on the fact that most cases of SH (e.g., slurs, humour, and verbal comments) occur in a work group, and that the actions of observers of SH may affect SH situations positively and negatively. Standing up or not for a colleague exposed to SH is further influenced by organizational conditions for reporting misbehaviour in general, as in cases of whistleblowing (see e.g., Bjørkelo, 2013; Lee et al., 2004; Park & Blenkinsopp, 2009).

The ‘harassed and exposed perspective’ (2) is based on already existing studies from the Nordic police which have documented intersectional differences (e.g., gender) in perceived and actual acts of SH within the police work organisations (Steinþórsdóttir and Pétursdóttir, 2018; Bye & Bjørkelo, 2019). Gendered and intersectional manifestations of SH and bullying reveal the importance of seeing it as a component in a culture (exclusion and inclusion) to preserving the masculine hierarchy within the police. In UISH the objective is to develop “in-group forum” initiative to prevent and intervene against SH within the police, as well map practices of receptivity and resistance to SH initiatives.

The ‘perpetrator perspective’ (3) includes those who harass and expose others to harassment, and the human and structural factors that enable harassment and place different employees at different levels of risk based on for instance age, gender, race, sexual orientation, and position within the police. This has been identified as crucial for successful preventive work against SH (Bondestam & Lundquist 2020; Simonsson, 2021). Designing research with a so-called ‘perpetrator perspective’ is methodologically challenging, since those who harass often do not consider their own acts as harassment (Jewkes, 2021, p. 4). In UISH, this includes examining consequences of resistance strategies within the police organisation and how these potentially feed into the sustainability of unwelcome and unwanted practices, such as SH, at work.

The presentation will present UISH as well as the involved work packages.

Event Programme

11:00 -
- Understanding and Intervening against Sexual Harassment at Work (UISH)

Event Speaker & Guests

Professor Brita Bjørkelo Speaker

Brita Bjørkelo, clinical psychologist, PhD, is professor in police science (Norwegian Police University College) and in organizational psychology (Oslo New University College). She is involved in and leads research projects on sustainable workplaces as well as knowledge production, sexual harassment, whistleblowing, work environment and leadership. Bjørkelo is Editorial board member, and previous Editor-in-Chief of the Nordic Journal of Studies in Policing

Tale Roijen Størdal Speaker

Tale Roijen Størdal has a master's degree in work- and organizational psychology from NTNU in Trondheim. In her doctoral project Understanding and Intervening against Sexual Harassment at work (UISH), she is researching how to implement an intervention against sexual harassment in the police, and the effects of this intervention. In the project, she uses qualitative and quantitative research methods to investigate attitudes and behavior related to sexual harassment from a bystander perspective. Previously, she has worked as a research assistant at the Department of Psychology at NTNU in Trondheim, in a research project on sexual abuse against children on the internet (SOBI).

Dr Finnborg Salome Steinþórsdóttir Speaker

Finnborg Salome Steinþórsdóttir is an adjunct lecturer and a postdoctoral researcher in Gender Studies at the University of Iceland. Her research focus is on gendered power relations in organisations, organisational cultures, gender-based violence and strategies to progress equality, including gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming. She serves as a gender expert on the Icelandic National Commissioner of the Police External Professional Council on discrimination, gender and sexual harassment, gender violence and bullying and the University of Iceland’s Professional Council on responding to gender-related and sexual harassment and other sexual violence.

Professor Gyða Margrét Pétursdóttir Speaker


Gyða Margrét Pétursdóttir, Professor in Gender Studies, Faculty of Political Science, University of Iceland. Her fields of expertise include gender relations, work cultures, equality within organizations, work life balance, masculinities, femininities, and gender-based violence. She has published in various international peer-reviewed journals.

Dr Laufey Axelsdóttir Speaker

Laufey Axelsdóttir, PhD, is a post-doctoral researcher and a sessional teacher in Gender Studies at the University of Iceland. Her main research focus is on labour market issues, such as gender quotas, recruitment policies, gender-balanced family responsibility, gender relations in organisations, and history and background of the textile sector in Iceland.

Associate Professor Silje Lundgren Speaker

Silje Lundgren is an Associate Professor of Gender Studies at Tema Genus, Linköping University. Lundgren is currently involved in three parallel research projects on sexual harassment in the Swedish police force, and one research project about the implementation of policies against sexual corruption in the education sector in Tanzania. Lundgren has a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Uppsala University from 2011.

Plenary Speaker

Malin Wieslander is an Associate Professor at the Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University. Her research interests include police culture and diversity work within the police and police education. Wieslander’s latest research concerns occupational humour, collegial relations, and organisational silence within the Swedish police. Wieslander is currently involved in three research projects on sexual harassment within the Swedish Police.

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