Most people agree that equality is an important value, at least in the abstract.

In practice it has been incredibly difficult to achieve. Even though there are many policies to combat overt discrimination, inequalities persist in every society. Women still earn less than men overall, boys tend to do worse in school than girls, and unemployment tends to be higher for ethnic minorities, regardless of whom the majority is.

‘Normativity’ is the study of these inequalities – looking at how our values and best intentions are translated into the real world. It’s looking at what is ‘normal’ from a perspective that is critical of these norms. This profile area studies these norms, the ethical issues surrounding them, and the laws and policies that perpetuate or try to change them.

Eva Wittbom, researcher and lecturer at the Stockholm Business School, brings a unique perspective to these issues. Her professional career started in finance and management control. With her dissertation, she leveraged her experience in management to address an issue that had troubled her – the gender inequality that pervaded working life.

In the relationship between Sweden’s central government and the large public agencies, she pinpointed a moment of disconnect. The ideals of equality voiced by the central government were getting scrambled when put into practice at the agency level.



“My research has shown that [the transfer from policy to practice] is problematic with gender equality since it’s supported so much by counting the numbers of women and men. However, the real issue has to do with power relations, so the mere counting of bodies doesn’t lead to more knowledge….”

The effect of this inequality is neglected knowledge – human potential that is currently lost.

“The problem is not that our resources are too scarce, but that we have an overabundance of resources that we (as a society) are just wasting.”

The research group that Dr Wittbom leads, The Academy for Performance Management in Central Government, as well as a number of other research groups at Stockholm University, not only analyse the inequalities but also provide concrete suggestions on how to eliminate them.

The outreach that she is doing with the public sector is having an impact, with positive reactions and outcomes within the agencies and invitations to collaborate with more in the future.