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Avoiding Men as the Norm

The analysis undertaken in the study, Men and Male as the Norm? – A Gender Perspective on Innovation Policies in Denmark, Finland and Sweden of around 50 innovation policy texts and 18 homepages of governmental innovation agencies in Denmark, Sweden and Finland can be shown to conclude that: gender equality is not mainstreamed in innovation policies. For example there are few occasions where gender-related issues are discussed or a gender perspective is defined. There is a lack of knowledge on the gendering of society and the role gender plays in issues related to the knowledge economy, while gender-divided statistics are seldom used.

Denmark can be concluded as being marked by a gender-blind quest for an innovative society. Very few of the investigated agencies even mention the word 'gender' or the phrase 'gender equality' and none can be said to mainstream gender. A number of interesting reports do however exist, for example, on how to bring more women into science, since too few researchers are women. These reports could have been used in the discussion on Danish innovation policy, but were not. These few reports on gender issues hence form a kind of parallel to mainstream innovation policy.

The Finnish case reveals a focus on the scarcity of women researchers in Finland, while internationally the country is seen as an innovative wonder. Women are also often represented as lacking in what it takes to be an asset in building innovation e.g. having the right technological and scientific knowledge. The main organizations supporting research, technology and innovation – The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation and Technology (Tekes) and the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) – do not discuss gender-related issues in their policies.

Sweden differs in comparison to Denmark and Finland in that the The Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (Vinnova) promotes a gender perspective. Vinnova has analysed its own use – or rather non-use – of the gender equality directive from the Government. The starting point here is that only 20 percent of applicants for R&D-funding from Vinnova are women. This is explained by the representation of the successful applicant as a technically well-educated, middle-aged, Swedish man, with great networks in relation to the calls for tender and by the fact that the texts 'speak' to men rather than women, through the bureaucratic, complex, information-dense, abstract and un-popular writing style. Vinnova also promotes a gender perspective in the VINNVÄXT pro-gramme. Besides, there is currently a research programme focusing on gender perspectives on innovation systems, and also a research programme focusing on the health care and care sectors of the economy where many women work.

Various analyses of innovation policies indicate that men and 'male' are created as the norm in these policies. This implies that, even though a seemingly gender-neutral discussion on 'everyone' and all of society takes place, men, male-dominated and 'masculine' sectors of the economy are focused on in the policies. Top-quality male researchers, sometimes in accordance with a male-centred engineer-ideal, and as 'bread-winning' men, are seen as the best assets upon which to build innovative societies. Besides, knowledge on technology and science, both connoted as masculine, male-dominated sectors of the economy, and large companies are promoted as the primary sources of competitiveness and innovation.

Women's knowledge, entrepreneurship and women-dominated and/or 'female' sectors of the economy are hence not seen as important or innovative. Instead women are represented as lacking, for example the 'right' (technical) knowledge, education and/or an 'entrepreneurial spirit'.

Innovations are increasingly seen as one of the main ways to enhance economic growth thereby creating prosperous nations and regions. Innovation policies aim at supporting different processes of creating innovations through various measures. Enhancing and supporting innovation is one of the key approaches within regional and economic developmental policies in the Nordic countries.

The question one could ask is therefore whether the goals of innovation, economic development and gender equality are compatible? Is it possible to mainstream gender in innovation policies?

The answer to this is simply yes, but also that it probably requires a transformed perspective on economic development and innovation. A transformed perspective on innovation policy through gender mainstreaming means building on everybody – both men and women – as assets on which to build development. To by-pass a large part of the population – women – is unfair and does not seem feasible or economical, when aiming at the development of the whole society.

This includes: seeing and taking account of many people, not only male workers, pupils, researchers or entrepreneurs; many different kinds of knowledge, not only technical and scientific knowledge from universities; many different kinds of sectors of the economy and economic activities, not only technical businesses or large companies and many different kinds of innovations, not only technical goods, but also services originating from a longstanding, well-developed public sector.

A link to the report:

Gender equality

implies that all persons' — men's and women's — knowledge, experiences and contributions to society are taken into consideration and have a bearing on the development of society. In a quantitative perspective gender equality implies a 40-60 per cent share of the respective gender.

Gender mainstreaming

means inte-grating a gender equality perspective into, for example, a policy or the work of an organisation. Within the EU, gender mainstreaming has been on the agenda since 1996 and the Member States are obliged to adopt this approach. The latest EU definition of gender mainstreaming can be summarised as: Incorporating equal opportunities for women and men into all community policies and activities. Another useful definition of gender mainstreaming is provided by Rees (2005, p. 560): "the promotion of gender equality through its systematic integration into all systems and structures, into all policies, processes and procedures, into the organisation and its culture, into ways of seeing and doing".

Danish Debate

The Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation recently opened its new web based debate forum with a focus on women and innovation. Among the questions discussed are, why are there still relatively few women working on innovation in Danish firms? How can women be attracted to the high-tech sectors? Why are changes so slow – what can the management of firms do? The initiative is based on an action plan presented by the Danish Council for Technology and Research in February of this year, entitled "Innovation Denmark – 2007-2012", with the purpose of strengthening Danish innovation.

A new report from The Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation – Innovation og mangfoldighed – ny viden og erfaringer med medarbejderdreven innovation – reveals that increasing diversity pays off. Firms with a more diverse composition of the work-force nearly double innovation. The report uses a 'diversity-index' which builds on statistics from 1700 Danish firms with more than twenty employees and is representative for Danish industry. Diversity regarding gender, ethnicity and education is said to lead to a marked increase in the ability to innovate.


Katarina Pettersson

Senior Research Fellow