Gender Equality Research

Gender equality research is a branch of gender research that deals with gender equality issues. It is not a clearly defined research domain but concerns particular issues targeted via gender equality policy and policy making per se.

Gender equality research is conducted within a large number of academic disciplines and interdisciplinary environments. One common denominator is that it problematises various aspects of gender equality. For example, the research may concern various interpretations and applications of gender equality as a concept or the organisation and implementation of gender equality policy, or how gender is ‘made’ in various contexts and what does it imply in relation to power, health, education and allocation of resources in society. The research may also be explicitly aimed to remedy problems rooted in gender stereotypes, misogyny or gender discrimination.

Gender equality research can be divided into two broad categories. One focuses on the various areas and levels of gender equality policy. The other concerns issues that affect society and can be said to be gender equal, such as the distribution of unpaid work, income differences and parental insurance.

In Sweden, the research on gender equality issues emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, when politicians interested in gender equality began asking for research on women and men that could be used in their political pursuits. The researchers themselves had also developed a demand for increased work in the area.

A key aspect of critical gender equality research is to avoid taking gender equality for granted and instead emphasise that gender equality is continuously made in politics, media and society in general.

In the 1990s, a general paradigm shift could be observed in Swedish research. A poststructuralist perspective was popularised, not least in the field referred to as women’s research or gender research. In contrast to a more positivistic view focused on exploring the subordination of women and how it could be changed, some researchers began to also critically assess the actual gender equality policy.

The field is sometimes referred to, in Swedish, as critical gender equality research. This implies the presence of a power analysis, or a questioning of how gender equality is made. A key aspect of critical gender equality research is to avoid taking gender equality for granted and instead emphasise that gender equality is continuously made in politics, media and society in general.

Gender research is sometimes mistakenly considered more politically oriented than other research, and gender equality policy and research have often been mixed up. But gender research is not a service institution serving the national government’s development of gender equality policy. For example, a certain university’s gender equality policy is not the same as whether or not the university has a centre for gender studies. Nevertheless, there is always a direct door from gender research to politics. Afterall, gender research should be able to inform gender equality policy in the same way as; for example, environmental research informs a country’s environmental policy. Sometimes there may be a willingness to conduct policy-relevant or applied research. Other times the research is carried out as basic research with an aim to generate more generic knowledge.

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