Researchers: foreign-born women in Sweden must be taken seriously
It is important that staff working at Swedish public authorities take foreign-born women seriously and focus on what they can do instead of what they can’t do, to help them enter working life and society. This is demonstrated by new research conducted by MDU, which also mentions good communication, collaboration and willingness to listen as important aspects for successful inclusion and integration.
The "Opportunities and challenges for the inclusion of foreign-born women on the labour market and in society" report is a result of the collaboration project with KLARA, consisting of researchers from MDU and Södertörn University and the RAR Sörmland Coordination association. The project hopes to increase foreign-born women's integration into the labour market and the rest of society, and the recently published report focuses on several factors regarding how public authority staff should act in their activities and contact with these women.
Renounce a problem-based perspective
“Despite the fact that foreign-born women are a heterogeneous group, several external factors can negatively affect their integration and inclusion in the labour market," says Mehrdad Darvishpour, Associate Professor in Social Work at MDU. Mehrdad conducted the research study together with Niclas Månsson, Professor of General Education at Södertörn University.
He mentions prejudice, discrimination and exclusion, as well as situations where people from majority groups and men are prioritised. In addition, circumstances such as patriarchal structures within the family, language deficiencies and a low level of education can affect integration in a negative way.
"The situation of foreign-born women must be placed in the right context. By considering the women's variable conditions, such as age, ethnicity, marital status and work experience, we can increase our understanding of them, their situation and requirements.”
According to Mehrdad, this implies that public authorities should refrain from taking a problem-based perspective on foreign-born women's abilities as there is a risk that they will be undervalued and that they won’t be taken seriously.
“It's important to focus on what they are capable of instead of starting from what they can't do. Otherwise, there is a risk that the personal treatment and approach of the public authorities will demotivate these women. There is a huge need to be perceptive and make a transition from one-sided to mutual communication.”
When meeting foreign-born women, it’s important to discover and mobilise the women's own resources and abilities, according to Mehrdad.
“Starting from the women's different prerequisites, giving them a good reception and providing continuity and clarity is also important. On the other
hand, negative treatment, prejudice and discrimination from the majority environment or staff can lead to fear and social distancing.”
Good collaboration facilitates inclusion
A well-developed and functioning collaboration between parties is also really important to make these women feel included,” says Mehrdad.
“What is crucial for their inclusion is to collaborate with them instead of collaborating for them.
He points out that successful inclusion in society is based on a combination of improvements in the individual's conditions and society's structures and reception. The following is needed to accomplish this:
- specialised knowledge of how a foreign-born woman's voice can be taken seriously
- increased resources to respond to the difficulties that arise in the meeting with the target group
- well-developed collaboration and long-term efforts