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Digital equality tools require multi-competence

Published: 25 January 2022

It has become increasingly common with various forms of digital tools in gender equality work in companies and other organisations. Malin Lindberg, professor of gender and technology, has analysed two processes in which academia, in collaboration with companies and other actors in society, have developed new digital gender equality tools.

Knowledge and method support is often used in the implementation of gender equality initiatives. Traditionally, this has involved oral support in the form of lectures as well as advice from researchers, consultants and other experts. Written support in the form of, for example, non-fiction, manuals and checklists ar also common. This form of support has been analogous, ie the lectures have been given by people on site and the literature has been distributed in printed form.

In recent times, it has become increasingly common for aids to be developed, disseminated and used with digital technology. A form of digitisation is when analogue material is transferred to digital form without the changing the formate in any other respect, for example e-books and digitised lectures. Another form of digitalisation is when you use the possibilites of digital technology to interact and to combine different media, such as text, image, film and sound. It is the latter type of digitisation that Malin Lindberg has looked at, which she calls digital tools.

Little research in the field

So far, there is not so much research in the field because the trend is relatively new. In my project, I have looked at two development processes of digital tools, one here at Luleå University of Technology where I myself participated as a researcher and one at Karlstad University where I was involved in the evaluation of the process, says Malin Lindberg

The tool that was developed at Luleå University of Technology is called Richer business. The tool contains scenarios which describe fictitious examples of unequal situations in a company or other businesses. Each scenario contains an introductory description, discussion tasks and tips on practical methods and in-depth reading.

The development of the iGen tool at Karlstad University is still ongoing. The idea is that it will function as a platform for gathering of knowledge, methods and examples within gender equality organisational development as well as various exercises in planning and implementing gender equality initiatives.

In both cases, the development process has taken place through a collaboration between the academy, small and medium-sized companies and other societal actors. Malin Lindberg believes that since these companies, in comparison with larger companies, rarely have sufficient resources to employ staff or buy in consultants with specialist expertise in the field of gender equality, they have a special need for digital solutions.

Important with easy-to-use tools

The packaging of the digital tools will be important for small and medium-sized companies. The tools should preferably be free and so easy to use that staff can use them without first getting an introduction from a specialist.

She emphasizes that the development of digital gender equality tools requires different kinds of skills. The companies contribute with their experiences and the academy ensures that the process is knowledge-based. In addition, other types of competence are also needed, such as designers who ensure that the tool is designed in an easily accessible way and pedagogical writers who ensure that the content is comprehensible.

The trend with more and more digital gender equality tools in working life has many advantages, but they have their limitations according to Malin Lindberg.

A combination of analog and digital inputs is required. Purely digital efforts usually have a short life span. More advanced tools usually require an analog introduction and continuous support.

The study is based on a previous research report in which Malin Lindberg studied 27 different examples of digital tools for gender equality and inclusion that have been developed in Sweden. The report provides an overview of the tools' formats, functions, users and developers.