Traditions from the past

In industries with traditional male dominance, greater measures are often required to achieve equality. This is explained by Eva Mark, who works with organisational and individual development in working life.

Creating equality at workplaces where there is an imbalance between the sexes is rarely easy. If one sex has a large majority, if insulting jargon becomes the norm, if work environment management is weak and there is a history of male or female dominance, equality is even more difficult to achieve says Eva Mark, doctor of theoretical philosophy, who spoke at the SAN conference.

“I see women breaking into more and more sectors, but in professions with strong traditions from the past the process is often much slower. There is seldom any development by itself; people need to push and work actively to achieve a change,” she said.

Subtle sexual harassment
“Discrimination and harassment often become the norm in sectors with a background of dominance by one gender,” says Eva Mark. “You have a way of talking with each other that has become accepted in the workplace, but for an outsider it would be both inappropriate and beyond the limit.” This type of banter is sometimes described as ”rough but friendly” by those involved. It may sometimes involve more subtle sexual discrimination, such as condescending compliments where people focus on someone’s appearance instead of what is being said.

“Through a process of internal socialisation, an unhealthy organisational culture may be preserved. Evidence of this is usually when people claim they have no problems – that always makes me suspicious. Another sign of this type of workplace is when people describe themselves as “a little special” ”, says Eva Mark.

When it comes to leadership, she says, there is no general distinction between men’s and women’s behaviour. She points out that there are managers from both sexes who are empathetic and good listeners, or are assertive. On the other hand, you can see a clear difference in how people perceive you based on your gender.

“While a man who is straight and clear is seen as decisive, a woman who acts in the same way is often challenged and you hear comments like “He can’t have an easy life at home”. In a similar way, men who break norms and are sympathetic are sometimes treated as a bit suspect, or seen as unmanly and weak,” says Eva Mark.

Linda Sundgren, text and photo

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