Introductory Keynote: Gender perspectives on path dependency

Mr Rasmus Ole Rasmussen, Senior Research Fellow, Nordregio

The ongoing changes in the north are producing very different gendered responses clearly reflected in differences in relation to the question of adjustment to work and work-related realities. While the perception of customary male activities being related to renewable and non-renewable resource exploitation seems to be sticky in order to protect their own status, females seem to be much more open to change. And the relatively high number of women employed in the service sector has often been considered being a kind of escape valve away from traditional activities in which the male activities have become increasingly mechanized and masculine, and traditional female activities have disappeared.

This situation is clearly reflected in the push-pull effects with women on one hand being pushed away from rural communities due to lack of adequate opportunities in relation to jobs. But at the same time also the active out-migration of women from rural communities as a deliberate action in pursuing new opportunities which are not available in the rural community.

Regarding the question of work and work-related activities, men have not found it easy to move on from what once were considered key activities but now constitute only a minor percentage of the available jobs. Contrary to this, females are socialized into collective activities, tending to become more attentive to others’ needs and consequently much more open to change. As a result they become less limited by specific job characteristics.

To use an analogy, males seem to be socialized into path dependency and have difficulty accepting other paths and changes, while females tend to be socialized into situations in which adjustment and change are required, leaving them prepared to move between job categories and job options. Consequently they become much more mobile, both socially and geographically.

Males, on the contrary, are luring themselves into a kind of catch-22. They are socialized into maintaining traditional work activities that no longer enable them to ensure the proper investments needed in order to modernize and expand their activities. And without a wife with a second income, the investments are absent. At the same time they lack the education that might provide them with alternatives. So they are stuck, without options for mobility, both geographically and socially.

Keynote is introductory part of science session 5.15 Gender Equality and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.