Skip to content
Photo: Yours
Ylva Fältholm, Professor of Work Science View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Gender perspective on innovation and organizational development

Published: 5 October 2016

As Dean and vice Dean, Ylva Fältholm pointed out the nine strong research and innovation areas that Luleå University of Technology has appointed as important for future research.

The purpose of the nine-strong research and innovation areas is to be able to communicate the research done at the university in a more efficient and better way. In the preparatory work to identify the research and innovation areas, the Deans held meetings with subject representatives and other scientific leaders.

“I’ve worked in these areas from a university-wide perspective, where no area would obviously belong to the Faculty of Engineering or the Faculty of Philosophy. The goal has been for the areas to span the entire activities of the university, take for example the area, Mines of the Future, that affects everything from mining technology to the transformation of society and political economy.”

Effective innovation and organization was not an obvious strong research and innovation area at the beginning of the work of developing these fields.

“It’s not because it’s a private research topic in itself or that it’s outside the technology faculty of engineering, but because both innovation and organization actually fit in with all the other areas. It’s a natural mindset in principle, in any type of research that is conducted at the university. At the same time, there was the risk that it would ‘disappear’ if it was not made into a topic.”

Ylva’s work as Dean has meant that she has only been able to conduct research on a limited basis during that time. However, since January 1, 2016, she once again is conducting research full time.

“I conduct research on organizational development and improvement of the work place from an organizational perspective. For example, I have researched how management concepts developed within the industrial sectors have been implemented in the public sector. I also have a gender perspective on change processes and organizational development.”

In recent years Ylva has also conducted research in innovation systems.

“I’m studying innovation from a gender perspective, primarily mine innovation systems. The university is, in the long run, a part of some of these innovation systems, and I have done research on working conditions, gender and equality, and how men and women have the chance to participate in these innovation processes. How important are networks and contacts and who can benefit from it?”

Another one of Ylva’s research projects deals with how women are portrayed in the global mining industry.

“We have studied texts, via various search engines, on how women are described. Through the search engine WebCorp live, we can write keywords such as ‘women in mining’. The results are gathered from corporate websites and we can see how companies describe their gender equality work or how women are portrayed in these texts. For example, we have seen that women and innovation are described as ‘if women come into our organizations we get better innovations and a better sustainable business’. There is a view on women as contributing something special because they are different. Men are very seldom described that way. It’s the same with the concept of diversity, ‘if we increase diversity it will be better’, but no research basis is presented, but rather ideological reasons that makes you think it will get better with more women and greater diversity in the business. At the same time women are described as a problem because of the notion that ‘women do not want to work in the mining industry because there is a macho culture here’. It’s more about preconceptions than it being a problem.”

To confirm the image of the mine’s innovation system, Ylva and her colleagues have also interviewed men and women who work in research and development both in academia and in the mining business.

“In Sweden, the view involves creating attractive workplaces and organizations for both women and men. Simply put, a workplace for everyone. At the same time the words used to describe the workplace are different,” concludes Ylva Fältholm.


Ylva Fältholm

Ylva Fältholm, Professor

Organisation: Human Work Sciences, Humans and Technology, Department of Social Sciences, Technology and Arts