The equality work that needs to be done

There is gender inequality in today’s work life, and we must do something about it. Responsibility for this lies, not least, with those who work with HR issues within an organisation or company, emphasizes Helene Ahl in her chapter in the new anthology about human resources, Human Resource Management: A Nordic Perspective.

The chapter addresses gender inequalities in today’s work life, why they are a problem, why we need to do something about them and how we can proceed.

The work of gender equality requires knowledge and tools

Although work on gender equality in Sweden has been successful thus far, there is much left to do, not least in working life. For example, women are still underrepresented at management levels.

Research shows that lack of equality has negative consequences both for individuals and for organisations. Work on issues of gender equality is thus not just important, but imperative. Swedish law puts particular responsibility for this work on the employer, and therefore also on managers and HR specialists.

However, in her chapter, Ahl states that there are few areas within an HR specialist’s work that are so filled with opposing views and interests as the area of gender equality. Therefore, to carry out active gender equality work, HR specialists need to acquire both knowledge and tools.

A natural point of departure in gender equality work is the Swedish discrimination act—and according to Ahl, the tools it presents are excellent but insufficient. To ensure that an organisation’s gender equality work is not just on paper, those who are responsible for gender equality in the organisation must gain knowledge about gender and sex and reflect on this knowledge. Only then can they, with the help of different educational tools, include managers and co-workers in the work.

Three quick questions for Helene Ahl, author of the chapter “The Equality Work that Needs to Be Done.”

Why is it important to research gender equality work in organisations?

– Gender equality is a matter both of justice and of making use of every person’s contributions to the organisation. Despite these givens, which most people agree on, it seems extremely difficult to achieve equality in working life. Research is needed to find out why progress is so slow and to understand what can be done to improve the situation.

How have you come to be so interested in this area of research?

– I have worked in several organisations where I encountered obvious inequalities between men and women, and I understood that one must change both routines and attitudes to create a work environment that is positive for all, regardless of gender.

What is the most important takeaway from your chapter that HR staff can use in their jobs?

– People can be for gender equality but still have completely different views of how to achieve it and why. I explain the most common arguments in the gender equality debate and how they relate to one another. This knowledge is important for HR personnel to be familiar with, both for themselves and so that they can successfully promote gender equality in the workplace.

Content updated 2018-12-18