What is the ‘problem’ of gender inequality represented to be in the Swedish forest sector?

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Gender equality in natural resource management is a matter of sustainability and democracy for Sweden's government, however the country's forest remains a highly gender-segregated sector. We examine how gender inequality is problematized within Swedish forest and rural policy documents using the What's the problem represented to be? (WPR) approach. We build on previous efforts to investigate gender inequality in the forest sector by expanding the critical analysis to rural development policy. We conduct interviews with forest experts, owners, and practitioners to shed light on where there are gaps within the policy representations and uncover alternative policy options that are presented. Our findings corroborate that gender inequality is represented to be a technical problem, with policy measures aiming to increase the number of women within a forest sector that continues to maintain rigid conceptions about forestry production values. While there are claims of success in the increase of women within the sector in aggregate, there is little change in the numbers of women in decision-making positions. Forest policy relies upon women to bring growth and sustainability to the forest industry, while rural policy expects women to halt rural population decline. Our findings suggest that merely trying to fit more women into a mold that has been shaped for and by inflexible forestry and masculine values is an impediment not only to gender equality but also to the inclusion of other social groups and ideas in the changing rural landscapes of Sweden.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Pages (from-to)46-55
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank our informants for their time and insights, as well as the wider international SEQUAL project (Social-ecological relations and gender equality: Dynamics and processes for transformational change across scales) members. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers who provided valuable comments on this article. This research is funded by the Swedish Research Council (project number 2018-00988 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Critical policy analysis, Forest policy, Gender inequality, Rural development, Sweden
  • Environmental planning