Making equality work : Ambiguities, conflicts and change agents in the implementation of equality policies in public sector organisations

Abstract: The overall aim of this study is to contribute to knowledge about the implementation of equality policies in public sector organisations. This is achieved through the development of a theoretical framework of feminist implementation studies. It involves the study of influential factors that impact upon the implementation process, with the aim of contributing to an understanding of the outcome of implementation processes within the equality policy field. The methodology used is based on qualitative case study research combined with a meta-analysis that allows for comparisons across cases. Four initiatives in the implementation of gender mainstreaming strategy were studied in different contexts, namely, two local municipalities and one government agency in Sweden. The main questions asked are: How was gender mainstreaming implemented? What were the main factors influencing the implementation process and why? What was the impact of change actors working to implement gender mainstreaming? The case studies were conducted using an interactive research approach where the different dilemmas encountered by the gender mainstreaming practitioners are used as a starting point for developing a joint learning process. The thesis comprises an introduction and five published papers. The main findings of the study include how the implementation process developed over time and the impact of the micropractices of the “gender mainstreamers” involved. The study provides insights into the factors influencing the implementation process, and how these factors change over time. Different types and levels of conflict, together and interlinked with different ambiguities, affect the practical work where dilemmas inherent in the concepts of “gender”, “equality” and “change” become central. Overall, the study shows how the specific preconditions for implementation of gender mainstreaming make the local arenas of implementation crucial for understanding the outcomes.