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Ignoring, minding or closing the gender pay gap?: Gender and salary negotiations in the Swedish governmental sector
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8426-2275
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The gender distribution among the employees of the governmental sector in Sweden is even, but salaries are not. The gender pay gap is 5.6% after standard weighting. This makes the state government salaries the least gender equal within the public sector of Sweden. This paper addresses the issue on a grass-root level by examining how HR administrators and union representatives, who take part in salary negotiations, discuss gender equal pay.


Statistics on pay in the governmental sector is generated by the BESTA-system, which is a national occupational category system with the intention to provide information and produce statistics on different occupations and salaries in Swedish governmental agencies. The intention of the system is to produce and deliver reliable statistics on an aggregated level, enabling national wage comparisons and providing guidance in setting local wages at the agency level. The system was also originally marketed as a tool for promoting gender equal salaries for work of equal value, by the enabling the salary comparisons between women and men that all Swedish employers are obliged to make every three years


We have shown that the system as such invites to classifying men’s and women’s jobs differently (Salminen-Karlsson, 2015) and that the conditions where the classifications are made do not encourage reflection (Fogelberg Eriksson, 2015), which means that gender stereotypes are likely to have an influence on the classification. In this paper we go one step further and discuss how these classifications subsequently are used in salary negotiations.


In the Swedish governmental sector, classification of jobs and salary mappings are normally done by HR administrators. Salary negotiations generally happen between managers, HR administrators and union representatives, and the role of HR is to see to the general salary policy of the agency, including gender equal salaries. In this paper we discuss how the people doing the salary mappings and bringing in the gender pay gap in salary negotiations refer to the possibilities that the system gives to them to discover gaps and use these discoveries as argumentation in salary negotiations. The study is based on interviews with HR administrators and union representatives.


The analytical entries of ‘ceremonial’ and ‘remedial’ work (Gherardi, 1994, 2001, 2004) are adapted to the material and used to discuss how the interviewees on the one hand relate to the salary mappings and how they on the other hand refer to the still existing gendered differences in pay. In our interpretation, HR administrators and union representatives do ceremonial work in finding and documenting existing gender differences in the salary mappings and remedial work when they accept the persistence of those differences and motivate it. To be able to analyse the strategy where the gender pay gap is made visible and criticised we also bring in Wahl (1992, 2003), and her concepts “positive strategy”, corresponding to our interpretation of remedial work, and “contextual strategy” where the gender pay gap is made visible and criticised.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
gender pay gap, governmental employers
National Category
Gender Studies
Research subject
Business Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-303785OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-303785DiVA: diva2:974008
Gender, Work and Organization 2016 Keele University, UK, June 29th – July 1st
Jämställdhet på BESTA sätt
Available from: 2016-09-23 Created: 2016-09-23 Last updated: 2016-09-23

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Salminen-Karlsson, Minna
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