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Gender Equality as Institutional Work: The Case of the Church of Sweden

Journal article
Authors Alexander Styhre
Published in Gender Work and Organization
Volume 21
Issue 2
Pages 105-120
ISSN 0968-6673
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Business Administration, Management & Organisation
Centre for Business in Society
Pages 105-120
Language en
Keywords institutional work, institutional theory, female ministers, Church of Sweden, faith-based organizations, LOOSELY-COUPLED SYSTEMS, WOMEN, ORGANIZATIONS, RATIONALITY, LEADERSHIP, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, INEQUALITY, ENGINEERS, EXCLUSION
Subject categories Business Administration, Gender Studies, Work Sciences


Institutional theory predicts that organizations respond to external changes in their environment to be able to safeguard their long-term viability. One of the most significant institutional changes in the last century has been the entry of women into both labour markets and professions; however, an extensive literature reports that gender inequality and various forms of sexism still structure and influence the everyday work of organizations. Drawing on the recent literature on institutional work, the article reports on a study of how the Church of Sweden has managed to relatively successfully institutionalize female ministers as legitimate and widely respected members of the professional category of ministers ordained by the Church. Female ministers believe they are, by and large, respected in the Church, but suggest that gender remains an issue as women are at times expected to embody certain interests and have to answer some questions that their male colleagues may have been spared. The findings describe institutional work as an ongoing process with no fixed end-point, stressing agency as the distributed and collective capacity to question established beliefs and norms.

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