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Gender perspective on green jobs in the Nordic region in new publication

Girl with windtoy. Photo: Johnér

Several of NIKK’s previous reports are relevant again in a new publication that provides a gender perspective on green jobs and social sustainability. Issues related to gendered educational choices, gender-segregated labor markets, norms about skills and the distribution of care work are discussed in relation to a green transition.

During the years 2020-2022, NIKK has produced reports on topics such as the labor market and gendered study choices as well as sustainable development. NIKK has now gathered parts of the results from the reports in a publication that highlights how issues of gendered educational choices and gender-segregated labor market, norms on skills and distribution of care work are related to the transition to green jobs. Among other things, it shows how relevant issues can be drawn from several different areas of society, and that a gender perspective is required for the green transition to be sustainable.  

“Climate policies tend to create more jobs in the field of technology, while at the same time increasing the workload of households. If you want to make job investments for the climate and at the same time break the gender-segregated labor market, you need to challenge the norms and values that affect the development of society”, says Jimmy Sand, analyst at the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research. 

The publication highlights and discusses the challenges of the green transition based on five thematic approaches: Talent management and education systems, interventions to break down gender segregation, gender labelling of technology and of sustainability, academic norms and workplace culture and social sustainability, welfare systems and the significance of place. The results are also summarized in twenty key messages. 


Nordic co-operation opens new perspectives on sexual harassment 

More knowledge is needed on how to handle and prevent sexual harassment. As a contribution to knowledge building, NIKK and the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research at the University of Gothenburg have co-produced a Nordic anthology published in April. In the book, academics and literary authors open up for new understandings of sexual harassment, violence and justice. 

“Sexual harassment is a major problem for society in the Nordic countries and more research is needed on prevention and on understandings of sexual violence and harassment. This book shows that the Nordic region is complex and that the idea of some countries have made so much progress, or are even finished with the work for gender equality, can stand in the way of actual change”, says Maja Lundqvist, analyst at the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research at the University of Gothenburg. 

Together with Kajsa Widegren, PhD in gender studies, and Angelica Simonsson, PhD in education, analysts at the Secretariat for Gender Research, she is co-editor of the upcoming anthology Re-imagining Sexual Harassment – Perspectives from the Nordic Region. The book will be published on 18 April by Policy Press, an imprint of Bristol University Press. Researchers and writers from across the Nordic region have contributed with different perspectives, including workplace violence, sexual harassment in academia, and the challenges and opportunities of the legal system. Academic text is alternated with more fictional contributions. 

“We primarily invited researchers active in the Nordic region, who we felt could give new perspectives and theoretical approaches. But it was also important for us to have contributions from people outside academia, in order to nuance the picture of knowledge about vulnerability. There are experiences and embodied knowledge of vulnerability and resistance that non-academic writing can access in a better way”, says Maja Lundqvist.  

While working on this anthology, we also deepened ideas and perspectives that have emerged in the organization after working with sexual harassment since Metoo.

Fredrik Bondestam

The book has been produced in co-operation between NIKK and the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research.

“We see a need for a boost in knowledge about sexual harassment in the Nordic labour market. While working on this anthology, we also deepened ideas and perspectives that have emerged in the organization after working with sexual harassment since Metoo”, says Fredrik Bondestam, PhD in education and director of the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research. 

The Metoo movement in the fall of 2017 sparked much debate and created a demand for more knowledge on sexual harassment. In response, NIKK has in recent years produced and compiled several Nordic knowledge and policy reviews on sexual harassment, and also administered a Nordic research initiative on sexual harassment in the labor market. The Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research has produced research reviews, participated in expert groups and collaborated in research projects on gender-based violence and sexual harassment in Sweden, in the Nordic countries and internationally. This long-term work has highlighted the extent and complexity of the problem.  

“The knowledge gaps we have identified have raised both curiosity and frustration, in relation to research, knowledge and policy development and how sexual harassment should be managed and prevented. We hope that this book can be important in the conversation about sexual harassment. It adds nuance and broadens the understanding of what sexual harassment and violence are and its consequences for people living in the Nordic region”, says Maja Lundqvist.   

Cover of the anthology Re-imagining Sexual Harassment

Webinar on combating gender segregation in education and labour markets

On 13 September the webinar Combating gender segregation in education and labour markets takes place. The webinar is arranged by NIVA in collaboration with NIKK.

Both the labour markets and the education systems in the Nordic countries are highly gender-segregated. This gender segregation has consequences for study and working conditions, pay, and the distribution of power and resources. The gender segregation is particularly apparent in vocational education and training (VET), which is the focus of the report Vocational education and training in the Nordic countries – Knowledge and interventions to combat gender segregation, produced by NIKK.

Angelica Simonsson, PhD in Education and author of the report, presents the findings of the report and gives suggestions on how to combat gender segregation in VET and associated sectors of the labour market. You will also have the chance to ask questions at the webinar. NIKK organises the webinar in collaboration with NIVA , the Nordic Institute for Advanced Training in Occupational Health. The webinar is free of charge and open for everyone.

Date and time: September 13, 10.00-11.00 (CET).
Language: The webinar will be held in English.

Register here

New report provides gender perspective on sustainability in the future world of work

Foto: Johnér

The labour markets in the Nordic countries are changing rapidly. New demands are coming out of the green transition and digital development. What needs to be done to enable sustainable development based on human rights and gender equality? NIKK’s new publication on the future world of work in the Nordic countries highlights some of the opportunities and challenges for a sustainable world of work from a gender perspective.

Labour markets and the world of work are facing a variety of challenges, including challenges emanating from technological change, demographic shifts, and regional differences. This is happening at the same time as views on knowledge, learning and education, and the logics of governance are changing or have changed. NIKK’s new publication Towards a sustainable future world of work in the Nordic countries – The gender perspective on the opportunities and challenges describes these changes and focuses on three of the challenges:  

  • Lifelong learning: being schooled in readiness to change  
  • The significance of place: teleworking and work on site  
  • Forms of employment and working conditions: the gig economy and entrepreneurship as examples. 

By identifying the challenges from a gender perspective, it becomes possible to problematize assumptions about technology-driven social development that have a bearing on the world of work and the supply of skills. They are also positioned in relation to policy goals for sustainable economic, social and environmental development.   

“Gender analyses indicate that prevailing norms and social structures assign women and men different roles, opportunities and responsibilities – and that these norms and social structures are limiting our opportunities to transition to a sustainable society,” says Fredrik Bondestam, Director of the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research where NIKK is located. 

The publication takes up examples where the different aspects of sustainability are somewhat at odds with each other. Economic interests and thus economic sustainability are often given priority over social and environmental sustainability. The examples also show how such unequal priorities reproduce inequalities based on gender, class, age and ethnicity. Intersectional analyses of how different systems of power interact are important to understanding gender and sustainability. 

“There are many opportunities to make the world of work in the future more sustainable, but for this to happen, power relationships must be taken into account. Because they do not automatically change as a result of technological or economic changes. They just find new, different, or additional expressions than previously,” says Fredrik Bondestam. 

Focus on changes in the workplace and education  

Why is the rise in teleworking increasing inequalities? Could it possibly get rural areas in the Nordic region to flourish? Who are the people working in the growing gig economy, where gigs are allocated via digital platforms, and what are the conditions like in this economy? What roles do sex and gender play in education when the role of education is strongly tied to the labour market’s need for employable labour? The three challenges highlighted in this publication in various ways show how the workplace, and education and training systems related to the workplace, have changed in a variety of different ways. These changes are due to technological development, deregulation and different governance logics. 

“New ways of organising work and the demand for a more flexible workforce also challenge previous norms that work is attached to a fixed place and is something where there is a clear employer responsibility. The examples in the publication illustrate how this can manifest itself. Highlighting these changes from a gender perspective is absolutely key to achieving sustainable development,” says Fredrik Bondestam.  

For each of the three challenges, the publication presents a number of central messages as takeaways for future discussions on possible ways forward. These discussions are essential for achieving the 2030 Agenda goals, and for creating a sustainable world of work where nobody is left behind.   

As a Nordic Council of Ministers cooperation body, NIKK – Nordic Information on Gender – contributes to realising the Council’s Vision 2030. NIKK’s areas of activity all deal with one or other of the major challenges of our time, and are based on the global sustainable development goals. By highlighting the gender perspective on pressing issues, NIKK strives to make a contribution to sustainable solutions for social development in the Nordic countries. 

Gender segregation in VET focus of new report

Both the labour markets and the education systems in the Nordic countries are highly gender-segregated.  This is particularly apparent in vocational education and training (VET). Today, NIKK is launching a new report describing the state of knowledge and the education systems across the Nordic countries, and providing examples of existing interventions to break patterns of gender segregation in VET in these countries.

Women and men are found in different courses and study programmes and sectors of the labour market, and also end up in different positions in the hierarchies of both the education systems and working life. This gender segregation has consequences for study and working conditions, pay, and the distribution of power and resources. VET programmes involve many practices where sex and gender have significance, and where gender segregation is particularly apparent. 

Tasked by the Nordic Council of Ministers, NIKK has produced the report “Vocational education and training in the Nordic countries – Knowledge and interventions to combat gender segregation”. The report describes the current state of knowledge and the education systems in the Nordic countries. It also provides examples of existing interventions aiming to break patterns of gender segregation in VET programmes in the Nordic countries. The final part of the report analyses each of its parts and presents recommendations and overall reflections on what needs to be taken into account in future work for change.  

Few interventions focus on gender coding 

In the Nordic countries, interventions to reduce gender imbalances in working life and education are largely implemented as part of overall policy strategies. Some interventions target specific sectors. The report shows that many of these interventions to counter gender segregation aim to encourage the under-represented sex to choose differently. However, few of them focus on the gender coding that exists and is reproduced in VET programmes and in the workplaces associated with them.  

“Gender coding is closely tied to how work is valued. Traditions, tasks and cultures in these occupations and in VET are associated with masculinity or femininity. This does not automatically change when the proportion of women or men in a particular sector changes,” says Angelica Simonsson, PhD in education and senior analyst at the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research, who wrote the report.  

Many similarities and differences in the Nordic countries’ education systems  

The education systems in the Nordic countries have many fundamental similarities, but also many differences, especially when it comes to the way in which VET programmes are organised. All these education systems have in common that they have always had the fundamental idea that social disparities can be addressed through education. Common to all the Nordic countries is that they have a universal education system where all pupils attend compulsory school together. When pupils are roughly 15-16 years old, they transition to upper secondary school. There, they can choose between a stream that leads to university studies or a VET stream, or a combination of both. One of the major differences between the countries is how strong the divide is between these two streams, and being able to study for entry to university studies for those who choose a VET programme.  

“This is linked in part to the countries’ different ways of dealing with the issue of social inclusion and equity,” continues Angelica Simonsson.  

One of the most striking similarities in VET in the Nordic countries is the numbers of boys and girls studying in different VET areas. The report presents statistics which show great similarities in the areas where boys dominate and where girls dominate, and that boys generally exhibit a greater dominance. At the same time, the subject areas involve different things in the different countries and are therefore not entirely comparable. Overall however, it can be said that there is an almost total dominance of boys in the energy, industry, building and construction sectors. Girls instead dominate in the area of health and social care. In sectors such as service and administration, there is a greater gender balance. 

A more comprehensive focus on norms is needed  

There are several explanatory models for why gender segregation in VET occurs. What is clear is that sex, gender, VET and work are interlinked. The explanations form a complex fabric in which the individual level and societal level interact; in which policy, governance and labour market forces interact; and in which the individual’s choices are constrained and curtailed both directly and indirectly. A focus on individuals alone within the under-represented group in a particular sector appears to be a poor solution to the problem. 

“Instead, a more comprehensive and distributed focus on norms and attitudes is needed, targeting actors and practices at a number of levels in the labour market and in these countries’ education systems,” says Angelica Simonsson.  

An accessible version of the publication(in English) can be found here.

New report gives gender perspectives on the high-tech labour market of the future

How will gender equality and sustainability be achieved in the high-tech labour market of the future? A new report examines how the Nordic countries are working to break down gender segregation in natural scientific and technical fields (STEM). The report shows that many initiatives are based on the assumption that the solution is to ‘fix women’. This renders gender inequality and structural barriers invisible. 

On assignment from the Nordic Council of Ministers, NIKK has produced the report Genusperspektiv på framtidens högteknologiska arbetsliv – En nordisk forskningsöversikt om utbildningsval inom STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) [Gender perspective on the high-tech labour market of the future – A Nordic research overview on education choices within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)]”. The report provides an overall picture of what the research says, and make an inventory and analysis of initiatives in the STEM sector in the Nordic countries. An international outlook gives examples of how countries outside the Nordic countries are handling skewed recruitment to the STEM area.

“The picture is clear. Globally as well as in the Nordic countries, these initiatives generally aim in various ways to change girls and women rather than challenge gendered privilege, organisations or the gender norms surrounding science, technology, engineering, mathematics and other science subjects. This renders the structural barriers that exist invisible,” says Ulrika Jansson, who wrote the report together with Jimmy Sand.

Furthermore, in these initiatives, there is an assumption that women need to be inspired and supported through role models and mentoring.

“Most likely some of these initiatives do help girls and women to fit into courses and study programmes and professions dominated by men and a masculine subject area and occupational culture. But they are unlikely to challenge either established privilege or norms, nor to lead to radical change in mainstream activities and the organisation of work,” says Ulrika Jansson.

The need for a broader approach

The report shows that a much broader approach is needed. Looking at the situation from an organisation theory gender perspective, clear patterns emerge. Explanatory models for gendered study choices, gender-segregated labour markets and gender imbalance in the STEM area show very clearly that notions, assumptions and norms about gender, women and men, femininity and masculinity, set the framework and stipulate the terms for people’s scope for action. Heterosexuality is the norm and ethnicity or functional diversity is in principle not visible at all.

“Connections between men, masculinity and technical knowledge are created in everyday practices and are neither natural nor universal. These connections are made in a variety of ways, by different actors and in different contexts,” says Jimmy Sand.

In addition, there are norms in the education system, with gendered ideals of science, knowledge and science subjects that create limits for inclusive and sustainable education and a sustainable working life.

“All in all, these norms set the terms for both men’s and women’s study and career choices and in the labour market, at both the individual and structural levels. Terms where the outcome does not benefit women, but does benefit men,” says Jimmy Sand. For a sustainable and gender-equal working life in the future, it is important to ask other questions about skills and occupations as well, the report shows. How will the Nordic countries’ skills supply be guaranteed and what might this look like in order to increase gender equality? What types of skills do the Nordic countries need, apart from more engineers?

The research overview that is the central part of this report is based on a systematic review of 199 articles published in scholarly journals published during the period 2000–2019. Read the full report here.

Genusperspektiv på framtidens högteknologiska arbetsliv – en nordisk forskningsöversikt om utbildningsval inom STEM

NIKK and NIVA arrange webinar on sexual harassment in the health care sector

Photo: Luke Jones

Health care workers are crucial to the functioning of society. They work on the front line and meet a large number of people every day – colleagues, patients and their relatives. Research shows that sexual harassment is a big problem in the workplace. That includes health care. On March 2 these issues are highlighted in our webinar ‘Sexually harassed in health care – doubly vulnerable in a hard-hit sector’.

Many health care workers report that they have been subjected to sexual harassment at work. The ongoing pandemic has also starkly highlighted shortcomings in the health care sector’s working conditions, which is already a vulnerable sector. The Nordic countries have similarities and differences in how this sector is organised as well as in the format and design of measures and initiatives undertaken. Nordic Information on Gender, NIKK, and the Nordic Institute for Advanced Training in Occupational Health, NIVA, invite you to the webinar Sexually harassed in health care – doubly vulnerable in a hard-hit sector on these highly topical issues.

Learn about the experience of the Icelandic health care sector, the Norwegian Nurses Federation and the newly appointed Swedish Equality Ombudsman, in conversation on the problem as well as important measures and solutions to it. Results from the new report Sexually harassed at work – An overview of the research in the Nordic countries will be presented and discussed from the different perspectives of the panel participants.

View invitation

What do we know about sexual harassment? Overview presents knowledge

It is three years since Metoo started and rapidly spread around the world. We highlight this day by publishing “Sexually harassed at work –
A brief overview of the research in the Nordic countries.” The brief publication presents the current knowledge about sexual harassment in the workplace in the Nordic countries, while also making apparent key knowledge gaps where more research is needed.

The Metoo Day, 15th of October, is a way to check on how the power in the revolution metoo came to be is being held on to today. In the Nordic countries the Metoo movement is a pressing issue. One example is the many calls for action against sexism in several sectors in Denmark during this fall.

The publication briefly presents the current knowledge about sexual harassment in the workplace in the Nordic countries, while also making apparent key knowledge gaps where more research is needed. What do we know today? How do different sectors differ from each other? The publication is a great way to get an overview of the Nordic research on this burning issue.

Gender equality efforts crucial for the future of rural areas

The Faroe Islands. Photo: Dani L.

Gender is an important parameter for understanding both demographic and economic development in relatively isolated areas. How is gender equality and equal participation in paid work and care for the family negotiated in communities characterised by geographic isolation? The new report “Equality in Isolated Labour Markets” investigates these issues in places in Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Men and women in the Nordic countries occupy different positions in the labour market and in social structures. This new report focuses on people living and working in geographically isolated areas of the Nordic region. How do they make a living and maintain ties to locality? And how do questions of gender equality impact on work and family life decisions? The places in focus are Narsaq in Greenland, Suðuroy in the Faroe Islands and Læsø in Denmark. While different in several important respects, these places face a common challenge in maintaining demographic sustainability. They are all characterised by declining population figures, and especially young women tend to leave.

The research project is partly funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

The butterfly effect: minor changes leading to amplified developments

The report also has a subsection specifically focusing on youth and their views, as future decisions about where to live and work for this group is highly influential on long-term demographic sustainability. What is the basis for future work life and family life in these places? Helene Pristed Nielsen, associate professor at Aalborg University, has led the study.

A main finding is that especially young women perceive local gender roles as more constrained or pre-defined than both the young men and the older generations – with the possible exception of the older Greenlandic women, who frequently concurred that local gender roles were too traditional. Almost universally, the young women saw very few career possibilities for themselves in their local communities”, she says.

Some of the report’s other main findings are that seasonal variation in workloads is most pronounced on Læsø (which also has the most developed tourism sector), family ties are important for settlement patterns especially in Suðuroy, whereas respondents in all three locations express a strong sense of belonging in place. Respondents in Narsaq are rather suspicious of externally driven development projects, but frequently highly supportive of local initiatives, the latter also characterising attitudes encountered on Læsø. Mobility is for obvious reasons most difficult in the Greenlandic context, but nevertheless, mobility is highly significant for both work lives and family life practices in all three locations.

The report points to six lessons learned from its analyses, which may have implication both at policy level but also locally for residents in debating how best to ensure viable demographic and economic future development in their locality. One of them is “the butterfly effect”.

“In small places, change can happen relatively quickly, and even minor changes have a tendency to develop amplified effects. For example, if you close a local workplace with only two or three jobs, this may mean that two or three local families will have to move away to ensure jobs for both parents. This may bring the number of children in the local school to a critical low. Furthermore, local sports clubs and associations are typically dependent on volunteers, and if people move away, it is difficult to recruit new volunteers. People tend to have many roles in small communities and can be difficult to replace”, says Helene Pristed Nielsen.

Read the report “Equality in Isolated Labour Markets – Equal opportunities for men and women in geographically isolated labour markets in Læsø (DK), Suðuroy (FO), and Narsaq (GL)”.

Six lessons derived from “Equality in Isolated Labour Markets”

  1. Interactions of gender and place: small places may fruitfully consider how gender and place interact locally, potentially limiting (perceived) options in the labour market
  2. Community networks: ensuring open and multiple local networks are paramount in supporting settlement/population retention
  3. Supporting entrepreneurial spirit: entrepreneurship benefits from overt support
  4. Prioritising ’the good life’: perceptions about ‘the good life’ often take presidency over perceived career possibilities when choosing where to settle
  5. Mobility strategies: mobility is part and parcel of place, especially small places
  6. Butterfly effects: because small places are small, even minor changes have a tendency to develop amplified effects

New call for proposals to combat gender segregation in the Nordic labour market

This year, the Nordic Council of Ministers will be issuing a call for proposals from actors in the Nordic countries co-operating in projects aimed at combating gender segregation in the labour market. A total of DKK 4 million in funding will be distributed for up to four years to Nordic co-operation projects working for lasting change in this area.

In mid-August 2020, the Nordic Council of Ministers will open for applications containing proposals aimed at combating gender segregation in the labour market. Through this call, the Nordic Council of Ministers hopes to contribute to a more sustainable working life that makes the best use of the potential of all people.

Mogens Jensen, Denmark’s Minister for Equal Opportunities and Nordic Cooperation, points out that this issue is of great importance to all the Nordic countries.

“The Nordic countries have come a long way in terms of gender equality, and participation in the labour market is high among both women and men. But on the other hand, the labour market remains quite extensively gender-segregated, which has consequences for everyone, regardless of gender, in a variety of areas ranging from personal economy and power and influence to health and quality of life. That is why grants from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund are going to be distributed to projects aiming to tackle this problem.”

This initiative is particularly urgent in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as its consequences are impacted by the gender segregation in the labour market. Many hard-hit industries, such as health care, education, and transport, are very gender-segregated. This means that women and men are being impacted unequally by loss of income and changes in demand for labour and in working conditions.

Priority issue in Nordic co-operation

Combating gender segregation in the labour market is a strategic area of action in the Nordic Co-operation Programme on Gender Equality 2019–2022.  This area encompasses a number of important aspects of gender equality including choice of education, working conditions, and freedom from sexual harassment. The programme is a unique opportunity to confront these challenges through Nordic co-operation and work for gender equality and a sustainable working life for everyone.

“It’s a unique initiative, and an area in which Nordic co-operation is highly relevant since the labour markets in the Nordic countries are structured in similar ways in many respects. We know that there is a great deal of expertise and willingness to drive development forward out there. And we hope that this will be reflected in the applications received,” says Mogens Jensen.

Susanna Young Håkansson

Updated 20 October 2020