Why Swedish workplaces aren’t as equal as it’s portrayed

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By Louise Sköld Boström

Gender equality and Sweden go hand in hand, right? Well, Sweden’s good reputation regarding gender equality and it is one of the most accepting societies, might not be as truthful as one might think. Research shows that female entrepreneurs, tend to have poorer occupational health compared to their male counterparts and also points out that, women who work in stores have on average, less influence and more monotonous tasks than their male colleagues. These are only some of the research results presented in the four research projects that have been awarded grants from the Swedish Work Environment Authority, in order to stimulate gender research that is relevant to the supervisory activities. The research projects that were made, shed light on work environment and work environment-related ill health from a gender perspective within, among other things, entrepreneurship, retail, and labor work. This research also touched upon how the view of gender equality, affects the work environment in politically controlled organizations. One of many things this research has made obvious is the correlation between gender equality and work environments.
According to Boel Callermo, head of the legal department at the Swedish Work Environment Authority, it is important to examine where gender equality in the workplace actually stands in terms of tasks and health in order to understand where gender equality comes from. Only then, can something be done about the gender inequality issue? Increased gender equality can mean better health for employees, but also a better starting point for the company where they are employed.

The four research projects are presented together in the report “Report 2019: 7 Work environment and ill health in a gender perspective. Commissioned research with relevance to the supervisory activities.” The research projects span across different disciplines and problematic areas with an emphasis on work environment and work environment-related ill health from a gender perspective. Here are some of the results from the research report:
- Sick leave is higher among small entrepreneurs (with fewer than 49 employees). There are also differences between entrepreneurial women and men when it comes to how work interferes with their private lives.
- The study in retail responds to the “what”, by documenting how the working conditions and health of women and men, and to the “why”, by looking at the gender order and to what extent it can explain a possible lack of gender equality.
- Female and male store employees were shown to have different tasks; the women were predominantly at the checkout and the men in the shops’ dairy department. Overall, women reported heavier physical and mental strain than men. Career paths were clearer for the “male” tasks than for the “female” ones.
- The view on gender equality and work environments are connected. Gender power schemes and governance systems affect politicians’ and civil servants’ attention focus when it comes to issues regarding the work environment. This, in return, affects how they assess and work with issues regarding the work environment in the municipality.

Although Sweden has come a long way regarding gender equality and being in favor of a positive change, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

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