Gender and Organisations

In recent years research on gender and organisations has been a buoyant field, in very close interaction with debates on social theory and feminist theory. This GEXcel research field builds on this rapidly expanding and multidisciplinary body of gender, diversity and organisation research, aiming to contribute to understandings of gender in society, working life and other key social arenas. It explores the gendering of organisational contexts, interactions, policies, change and interventions at micro, meso and macro levels in national, transnational and global settings.  Research on gender and organisations and international and national co-operation around the research field has long roots in all three GEXcel partner universities, as have their international and national co-operations around the research theme. Research activities include both more theoretically-oriented basic research as well as more applied action-oriented approaches on a wide variety of topics.

Research applying a critical gender lens on organisations can produce valuable knowledge on how gender dynamics and gender relations shape societies as a whole, nationally and transnationally; key social arenas such as working life, media or academia; individual workplaces and organisations, as well as the conditions, careers and subjectivities of organizational members.  Research topics focus on gendering of organisational structures,  cultures and policies; power relations and processes, such as homosociality, heterosociality, constructions of norm and exception, norm breakers and norm-breaking actions;  gatekeeping in organisations;  leadership and management, leaders and managers;  dynamics of gender discrimination; social innovations; organizational change and inertia; conditions and impact of and resistance against gender equality promotion nationally and in individual organisations; sexualities and violations in organisations; ICTs and transnatio­­nail­­sations. 

Research contexts span widely, including private sector, steel and engineering, technology, government, academia and science, production, finance, sales companies, the public sector, care activities, religious organisations, municipalities, and fire and rescue services.  Research on gender and organisations can illuminate practices which maintain or challenge gender orders in organisations. With knowledge of these organisational conditions, there is the potential to transform gender relations. Research on gender and organisations can enrich the practical changes that equality and diversity interventions and promotion aim at, on the one hand, and produce critical insights on the agendas, impacts and limitations of gender equality and diversity policies and practices, on the other hand.

This field includes research strands on: gender and organisational power; changing architecture of gender equality. It also includes several ongoing research projects, of which some are funded by MSB (the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency. It builds on the previous GEXcel themes on gender paradoxes in changing academic and scientific organisations.

  • This field covers the following established research strand:

    Gender, risk and safety

    Strand chair: Ulf Mellström

    Risk and safety is a very broad area of research that cuts across technical, medical, social science and humanities disciplines. Risk and Safety can accommodate everything from everyday accidents to global crises. This research theme considers new gender perspectives concerning risk and safety.

    Research at in this strand addresses risk and safety issues as being conditioned by social, cultural and political milieus. What is envisioned to be a risk and what creates security is changing and context-bound. Current research in the gives focus to organizations and their adaptability to technical security bound features (Weick & Sutcliffe 2007). Gender perspectives are generally underdeveloped in this field and yet the relationship between gender and risk and security is evident. Men and women are subjected to various forms of risk and the gender orders are visible in the accident statistics. Men, for example, are over-represented in traffic accidents, workplace accidents and drowning accidents. Research highlights that one of the reasons why men take more risks than women is that men's perception of risk is lower than that of women. On this basis subjecting risk and safety to a critical gender analysis will increase knowledge and critical perspectives in the field.

    For example, to drive fast or perform dangerous tasks allow for different ways of taking up space and making gender visible (Mellström 1999, Ericson 2004, 2011, Balkmar and Joelsson 2010, Balkmar 2012, Joelsson 2013). Statistics acquired from risk related occurrences raise feminist questions about how the division between the public and private spheres is recreated. For feminism central dichotomies such as culture / nature, private / public and rationality / irrationality are significant to understanding risk and security (Jakobsen 1999). Men are exposed to violence in the public sphere while women are victims of domestic violence. Gender segregation is also reflected in the institutions responsible for preparedness and risk management and safety issues. The actors who calculate and make decisions about creating safety in public venues are technology-oriented and male-dominated, such as engineering occupations (Mellström 1995, 1999). The same applies to the actors who have a reactive function, such as police, ambulance and rescue services (Ericson 2004, 2011). Those actors who handle the consequences of accidents, however, are care-oriented and dominated by women, such as the health care and psychiatry (Lindgren, 1999). Gender is thus important for the institutionalization of social risk and security management. In this regard, feminist studies help to explain the gender order processes that condition these organizations.