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New report gives gender perspectives on the high-tech labour market of the future

How will gender equality and sustainability be achieved in the high-tech labour market of the future? A new report examines how the Nordic countries are working to break down gender segregation in natural scientific and technical fields (STEM). The report shows that many initiatives are based on the assumption that the solution is to ‘fix women’. This renders gender inequality and structural barriers invisible. 


On assignment from the Nordic Council of Ministers, NIKK has produced the report Genusperspektiv på framtidens högteknologiska arbetsliv – En nordisk forskningsöversikt om utbildningsval inom STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) [Gender perspective on the high-tech labour market of the future – A Nordic research overview on education choices within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)]”. The report provides an overall picture of what the research says, and make an inventory and analysis of initiatives in the STEM sector in the Nordic countries. An international outlook gives examples of how countries outside the Nordic countries are handling skewed recruitment to the STEM area.

“The picture is clear. Globally as well as in the Nordic countries, these initiatives generally aim in various ways to change girls and women rather than challenge gendered privilege, organisations or the gender norms surrounding science, technology, engineering, mathematics and other science subjects. This renders the structural barriers that exist invisible,” says Ulrika Jansson, who wrote the report together with Jimmy Sand.

Furthermore, in these initiatives, there is an assumption that women need to be inspired and supported through role models and mentoring.

“Most likely some of these initiatives do help girls and women to fit into courses and study programmes and professions dominated by men and a masculine subject area and occupational culture. But they are unlikely to challenge either established privilege or norms, nor to lead to radical change in mainstream activities and the organisation of work,” says Ulrika Jansson.

The need for a broader approach

The report shows that a much broader approach is needed. Looking at the situation from an organisation theory gender perspective, clear patterns emerge. Explanatory models for gendered study choices, gender-segregated labour markets and gender imbalance in the STEM area show very clearly that notions, assumptions and norms about gender, women and men, femininity and masculinity, set the framework and stipulate the terms for people’s scope for action. Heterosexuality is the norm and ethnicity or functional diversity is in principle not visible at all.

“Connections between men, masculinity and technical knowledge are created in everyday practices and are neither natural nor universal. These connections are made in a variety of ways, by different actors and in different contexts,” says Jimmy Sand.

In addition, there are norms in the education system, with gendered ideals of science, knowledge and science subjects that create limits for inclusive and sustainable education and a sustainable working life.

“All in all, these norms set the terms for both men’s and women’s study and career choices and in the labour market, at both the individual and structural levels. Terms where the outcome does not benefit women, but does benefit men,” says Jimmy Sand. For a sustainable and gender-equal working life in the future, it is important to ask other questions about skills and occupations as well, the report shows. How will the Nordic countries’ skills supply be guaranteed and what might this look like in order to increase gender equality? What types of skills do the Nordic countries need, apart from more engineers?

The research overview that is the central part of this report is based on a systematic review of 199 articles published in scholarly journals published during the period 2000–2019. Read the full report here.

Genusperspektiv på framtidens högteknologiska arbetsliv – en nordisk forskningsöversikt om utbildningsval inom STEM

NIKK and NIVA arrange webinar on sexual harassment in the health care sector

Photo: Luke Jones

Health care workers are crucial to the functioning of society. They work on the front line and meet a large number of people every day – colleagues, patients and their relatives. Research shows that sexual harassment is a big problem in the workplace. That includes health care. On March 2 these issues are highlighted in our webinar ‘Sexually harassed in health care – doubly vulnerable in a hard-hit sector’.


Many health care workers report that they have been subjected to sexual harassment at work. The ongoing pandemic has also starkly highlighted shortcomings in the health care sector’s working conditions, which is already a vulnerable sector. The Nordic countries have similarities and differences in how this sector is organised as well as in the format and design of measures and initiatives undertaken. Nordic Information on Gender, NIKK, and the Nordic Institute for Advanced Training in Occupational Health, NIVA, invite you to the webinar Sexually harassed in health care – doubly vulnerable in a hard-hit sector on these highly topical issues.

Learn about the experience of the Icelandic health care sector, the Norwegian Nurses Federation and the newly appointed Swedish Equality Ombudsman, in conversation on the problem as well as important measures and solutions to it. Results from the new report Sexually harassed at work – An overview of the research in the Nordic countries will be presented and discussed from the different perspectives of the panel participants.

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What do we know about sexual harassment? Overview presents knowledge

It is three years since Metoo started and rapidly spread around the world. We highlight this day by publishing “Sexually harassed at work –
A brief overview of the research in the Nordic countries.” The brief publication presents the current knowledge about sexual harassment in the workplace in the Nordic countries, while also making apparent key knowledge gaps where more research is needed.


The Metoo Day, 15th of October, is a way to check on how the power in the revolution metoo came to be is being held on to today. In the Nordic countries the Metoo movement is a pressing issue. One example is the many calls for action against sexism in several sectors in Denmark during this fall.

The publication briefly presents the current knowledge about sexual harassment in the workplace in the Nordic countries, while also making apparent key knowledge gaps where more research is needed. What do we know today? How do different sectors differ from each other? The publication is a great way to get an overview of the Nordic research on this burning issue.

Gender equality efforts crucial for the future of rural areas

The Faroe Islands. Photo: Dani L.

Gender is an important parameter for understanding both demographic and economic development in relatively isolated areas. How is gender equality and equal participation in paid work and care for the family negotiated in communities characterised by geographic isolation? The new report “Equality in Isolated Labour Markets” investigates these issues in places in Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.


Men and women in the Nordic countries occupy different positions in the labour market and in social structures. This new report focuses on people living and working in geographically isolated areas of the Nordic region. How do they make a living and maintain ties to locality? And how do questions of gender equality impact on work and family life decisions? The places in focus are Narsaq in Greenland, Suðuroy in the Faroe Islands and Læsø in Denmark. While different in several important respects, these places face a common challenge in maintaining demographic sustainability. They are all characterised by declining population figures, and especially young women tend to leave.

The research project is partly funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

The butterfly effect: minor changes leading to amplified developments

The report also has a subsection specifically focusing on youth and their views, as future decisions about where to live and work for this group is highly influential on long-term demographic sustainability. What is the basis for future work life and family life in these places? Helene Pristed Nielsen, associate professor at Aalborg University, has led the study.

A main finding is that especially young women perceive local gender roles as more constrained or pre-defined than both the young men and the older generations – with the possible exception of the older Greenlandic women, who frequently concurred that local gender roles were too traditional. Almost universally, the young women saw very few career possibilities for themselves in their local communities”, she says.

Some of the report’s other main findings are that seasonal variation in workloads is most pronounced on Læsø (which also has the most developed tourism sector), family ties are important for settlement patterns especially in Suðuroy, whereas respondents in all three locations express a strong sense of belonging in place. Respondents in Narsaq are rather suspicious of externally driven development projects, but frequently highly supportive of local initiatives, the latter also characterising attitudes encountered on Læsø. Mobility is for obvious reasons most difficult in the Greenlandic context, but nevertheless, mobility is highly significant for both work lives and family life practices in all three locations.

The report points to six lessons learned from its analyses, which may have implication both at policy level but also locally for residents in debating how best to ensure viable demographic and economic future development in their locality. One of them is “the butterfly effect”.

“In small places, change can happen relatively quickly, and even minor changes have a tendency to develop amplified effects. For example, if you close a local workplace with only two or three jobs, this may mean that two or three local families will have to move away to ensure jobs for both parents. This may bring the number of children in the local school to a critical low. Furthermore, local sports clubs and associations are typically dependent on volunteers, and if people move away, it is difficult to recruit new volunteers. People tend to have many roles in small communities and can be difficult to replace”, says Helene Pristed Nielsen.

Read the report “Equality in Isolated Labour Markets – Equal opportunities for men and women in geographically isolated labour markets in Læsø (DK), Suðuroy (FO), and Narsaq (GL)”.


Six lessons derived from “Equality in Isolated Labour Markets”

  1. Interactions of gender and place: small places may fruitfully consider how gender and place interact locally, potentially limiting (perceived) options in the labour market
  2. Community networks: ensuring open and multiple local networks are paramount in supporting settlement/population retention
  3. Supporting entrepreneurial spirit: entrepreneurship benefits from overt support
  4. Prioritising ’the good life’: perceptions about ‘the good life’ often take presidency over perceived career possibilities when choosing where to settle
  5. Mobility strategies: mobility is part and parcel of place, especially small places
  6. Butterfly effects: because small places are small, even minor changes have a tendency to develop amplified effects

New call for proposals to combat gender segregation in the Nordic labour market

This year, the Nordic Council of Ministers will be issuing a call for proposals from actors in the Nordic countries co-operating in projects aimed at combating gender segregation in the labour market. A total of DKK 4 million in funding will be distributed for up to four years to Nordic co-operation projects working for lasting change in this area.


In mid-August 2020, the Nordic Council of Ministers will open for applications containing proposals aimed at combating gender segregation in the labour market. Through this call, the Nordic Council of Ministers hopes to contribute to a more sustainable working life that makes the best use of the potential of all people.

Mogens Jensen, Denmark’s Minister for Equal Opportunities and Nordic Cooperation, points out that this issue is of great importance to all the Nordic countries.

“The Nordic countries have come a long way in terms of gender equality, and participation in the labour market is high among both women and men. But on the other hand, the labour market remains quite extensively gender-segregated, which has consequences for everyone, regardless of gender, in a variety of areas ranging from personal economy and power and influence to health and quality of life. That is why grants from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund are going to be distributed to projects aiming to tackle this problem.”

This initiative is particularly urgent in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as its consequences are impacted by the gender segregation in the labour market. Many hard-hit industries, such as health care, education, and transport, are very gender-segregated. This means that women and men are being impacted unequally by loss of income and changes in demand for labour and in working conditions.

Priority issue in Nordic co-operation

Combating gender segregation in the labour market is a strategic area of action in the Nordic Co-operation Programme on Gender Equality 2019–2022.  This area encompasses a number of important aspects of gender equality including choice of education, working conditions, and freedom from sexual harassment. The programme is a unique opportunity to confront these challenges through Nordic co-operation and work for gender equality and a sustainable working life for everyone.

“It’s a unique initiative, and an area in which Nordic co-operation is highly relevant since the labour markets in the Nordic countries are structured in similar ways in many respects. We know that there is a great deal of expertise and willingness to drive development forward out there. And we hope that this will be reflected in the applications received,” says Mogens Jensen.

Susanna Young Håkansson

New assignments for NIKK on sexual harassment, working life in the future and LGBTI issues in the Nordic region


NIKK has been assigned three new projects, all beginning in 2019. These assignments focus on mapping research and knowledge about sexual harassment in working life, sustainability and gender equality in the high-tech working life of the future, and mapping and analysing the LGBTI field in the Nordic region. The projects will contribute towards increased knowledge and quality within Nordic gender equality work in each individual area.

Sustainability and gender equality in the high-tech working life of the future

The future labour market will be digitalised, robotised and automated, resulting in certain jobs disappearing and a growing demand for employment in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector. In view of the fact that the labour market is divided up by gender and that the proportion of women within this sector is low, this may have long-term implications in terms of gender equality in the Nordic labour market. The Nordic Council of Ministers’ working life, gender equality, education and research sectors and the Nordic cooperation programme Generation 2030 have therefore tasked NIKK with producing a knowledge base. This will involve investigating how the Nordic nations are working to achieve a better gender balance in education and professions as demanded within the natural sciences and technology, and how this is expected to contribute towards sustainability and gender equality in future labour markets.

The assignment will result in:

  • A Nordic overview of existing research in connection with gender-related study choices within the STEM sector
  • An inventorying of concrete initiatives within the Nordic region to reduce the gender imbalance within STEM
  • An analysis of inventoried initiatives
  • An outlook of how a selection of other countries outside the Nordic region promote a gender balance within STEM

Project period: June 2019 to December 2020
Project budget: DKK 800,000


Mapping and analysis of the LGBTI field in the Nordic region

New formal Nordic cooperation on equal treatment and rights for LGBTI individuals began in 2020. In order to ensure that this cooperation is reliable, effective and lasting, NIKK has been tasked by the Nordic Council of Ministers with mapping and analysing the LGBTI field.

The assignment will result in:

  • Mapping that highlights national conditions regarding legislation and administrative structure within the LGBTI field, the themes and initiative areas in focus at national level, and inspiration models for Nordic cooperation.
  • A consultation process in which organisations within civil society, agencies and other players working for the equal rights of LGBTI individuals in the Nordic region will be given the opportunity to contribute towards identifying the themes and initiative areas that should be prioritised by Nordic cooperation within the LGBTI field.
  • Analysis and recommendations based on this mapping and consultation. These recommendations should be aimed at the Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality, and should indicate the themes and initiative areas, initiatives and partners for the LGBTI field.

The Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality shall discuss the recommendations and then adopt the strategic initiative areas that bring the greatest possible Nordic benefit within the LGBTI field. The overall objective, initiative areas and subsidiary goals shall subsequently be compiled in a supplement to the Nordic Co-operation Programme on Gender Equality 2019-2022.

Project period: September 2019 to May 2020
Project budget: DKK 500,000


Nordic knowledge boost on sexual harassment: a pilot study

Through its gender equality cooperation, the Nordic Council of Ministers has initiated a research-based pilot study to highlight gaps in knowledge on sexual harassment in working life, and to draw up proposals on the action to be taken. NIKK has been tasked with carrying out the pilot study, to be completed in March 2020. The Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality have also decided to fund a Nordic research initiative which, based on the proposals from the pilot study, will contribute towards increasing knowledge of sexual harassment in working life and will form the basis for future initiatives to combat sexual harassment. There is an obvious need within the Nordic region for greater knowledge about gender-based vulnerability in working life and sustainable ways to tackle the problem. Investigations and mappings have previously been initiated in the individual countries, but there is no joint Nordic overview.

The assignment will result in:

  • Research-based mapping of recently completed and ongoing research projects, mappings and other relevant studies within the Nordic region related to gender-based vulnerability in the labour market.
  • A summary of the comparative Nordic need for knowledge that has emerged within the framework of Nordic cooperation work on #MeToo issues.
  • A presentation of how a three-year research programme should be structured. Thematic content, funding, advertising formats and follow-up and evaluation are included in the assignment.

Project period: September 2019 to March 2020
Project budget: DKK 500,000

Updated 15 November 2019