Gender equality research

Gender equality research is a branch of gender research that focuses on gender equality issues. It is not a separate research area and can concern a wide range of research questions such as studies of gender equality politics, practical gender equality work and gender equality policies.

Gender equality research is conducted in a wide range of academic disciplines and interdisciplinary environments. A common denominator can be that the research problematises various aspects of gender equality. It may for example concern different interpretations and applications of gender equality as a concept or research on the organisation and implementation of gender equality policy, on how gender is ‘made’ in different context and what it implies in relation to different aspects such as power, health, education or allocation of resources in society. It can also concern research explicitly aimed to remedy problems that can be attributed to gender stereotypes or gender discrimination.

Two main tracks can be discerned in gender equality research. One is concerned with the explicit assessment and exploration of the different areas and levels of gender equality policy. The other has a focus on specific issues of relevance to whether or not we have a gender-equal society, such as distribution of unpaid work, salary differences and parental insurance.

Research on gender equality issues emerged in Sweden in the 1960s and 1970s. Politicians with an interest in the field started to ask for research on the conditions faced by women and men in society that they could use in their work with gender equality policy. There was also a growing need among the researchers themselves to explore the field.

A general paradigm shift occurred in Swedish research in the 1990s. Instead of focusing on the subordination of women in society, researchers began to critically assess also the actual gender equality policy.

In Swedish, the field is sometimes called critical research on gender equality. This implies the presence of a power analysis, a questioning of how the gender equality is ‘made’. Critical research on gender equality is about not taking gender equality for granted but instead stressing that it is something that has to be made continuously in policy making, media and society at large.

Gender research is sometimes incorrectly viewed as being more political than other types of research, and gender equality policy and research have often been mixed up. Yet at the same time, there is a close link to policy making, since one purpose of gender research is to inform gender equality policy in the same way as for example environmental research is intended to support environmental policy. Sometimes there may be an explicit desire to conduct policy-relevant or applied research. Other times it is carried out as basic research aimed to yield more generic knowledge.

Author Swedish secretariat for gender research. Published 31st of March 2016
Source This text has been reviewed by researchers Anne-Charlott Callerstig, Örebro University, and Malin Rönnblom, Umeå University.
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