Why are WE not more attractive for women? : different perspectives on a collaboration process to increase gender awareness

Sammanfattning: Access to human resources is a crucial factor in most cases of business and regional development. Due to demographical changes, urbanization and new values among the next generation, the competition to find the right workforce is likely to increase. Reports have stressed that the difficulties for companies to find the right labor can become a hindrance to sustainable business and regional development. Considering the low proportion of women in the field of engineering, only 20 percent, one must ask; Why are WE (Works in Engineering) not more attractive for women? The purpose of this thesis is to describe the collaboration between an expanding enterprise in a semirural area and a gender research project, from three different perspectives in order to find some answers for the overarching question. In the first paper, the purpose is to describe and analyze the creation of a process model for gender awareness within an enterprise. The second paper will, with the same empirical data, focus on the interdependence between enterprise and region. Finally, the last paper, written for a conference in India, addressing readers unfamiliar with the gender equality issue in the Swedish context, describes how a male facilitator combines disclosing personal life experiences with other methods, as a strategy to inspire men to consider a gender perspective, to use gender glasses. Gender equality has been a topic on the political agenda in Sweden for a long time. Although much progress has been made, many obstructive structures remain. Sweden is one of the European countries that have the highest participation rate for women in the labor force. However, the labor market is highly gender-segregated, both horizontally, which refers to the concentration of women and men in different types of jobs, and vertically, the concentration of women and men in different jobtasks and positions. Due to this background, the innovation system, Triple Steelix, was granted funding by VINNOVA for the project “Gender Perspective for Attractive Work”, in the fall of 2008. The purpose of the research project was to develop methods and knowledge that would contribute to increased gender awareness in order for employers to become more attractive to current and potential staff. The framework for the collaboration is action research in combination with feminist theory, the concept of “doing gender”, theories of masculinity, and attractive work theories. Different approaches and methods, such as analogies, anecdotes, and pictures, have been used during workshops with the organization, in order to nourish the joint learning process.Findings are that in an industrial environment with an “engineering discourse”,driven by a technical-economic rationality that prioritizes market demands, gender issues are not often seen as a parameter for sustainable business or regional development. Nevertheless, the project demonstrates that with an interactive approach and an open dialogue that considers the company's needs, arguments, and intervention for more gender-equal workplaces do not necessarily meet resistance. In this case, the concept of employer brand was the admission ticket for the collaboration. The combination of different participatory methods that were adapted to the context made it possible to counter resistance from individuals and to discuss gender from different perspectives and ways of reasoning. Another conclusion is that when launching long-term transformational processes in an organization, gender should not remain a “non-issue”. When gender issues are integrated, it will contribute to examining the organization from a new perspective regarding issues such as power, symbols, and relations. In the described collaboration, gender perspective was integrated and the enterprise became more aware of gender issues as an important component of strengthening the employer brand. The principle of the described process model can probably be used in similar cases if adapted to a local context.

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