Prefab company in Sweden is trying for gender parity in its new factory

forklift driver
© Lindbäcks Group AB, Sweden

In Canada, when Justin Trudeau was selecting his cabinet, he insisted on gender balance. When asked why, he answered “because it’s 2015.”

But perhaps building a cabinet is easier than building a house. When previously covering the work of Lindbäcks,, a 90 year old construction company in Sweden building a state of the art prefab factory, I concluded with the note “And, by the way, fifty percent of their new hires for this factory are women.”

This is turning into an interesting story on its own, because so far, they have been having trouble doing it. The company already has lots of women, including the lead engineer and women in key roles in finance, but it has a small population base to work from, with only 20,000 people in the town of Piteå. The local press calls this a failure:

News articlearticle about factory/Screen capture

For almost a year ago boasted Lindbäcks construction of the new husfabriken would have as many women as men on the staff. CEO Stefan Lindbäck thought that such a solution would be perfectly possible. "We are actively working with it," he said to the PT then. Now everything indicates that the company fails gender balance. More than 100 people have been recruited to the factory, only 24 percent of them are women. Gender equality seems difficult to achieve, but otherwise the building as planned.

I would have called that a huge success; in North America, women are only about 9 percent of trades. In the Guardian, one article claims that 99 percent of the workers are men.

Part of the problem is sexism; research shows that more than half of female construction workers said they were treated worse than men because of their gender.

It is also tough work on construction sites. But prefabs are built in the controlled environment of the factory and there are cranes to move everything around; There is not much benefit to being a big strong guy. It’s another great thing about prefab.

This isn’t just happening in Sweden; according to the MIT Technology review, The Latest Driverless Car Startup Aims to Make Women Half Its Workforce.

[CEO Padmasree] Warrior is looking to be one of those disrupting the establishment. She’s hired 270 people to staff NextEV’s U.S. operations, about one-third of her eventual goal. Early hires include people with expertise in data, user experiences, audio, video, vehicle engineering, and electrical engineering, she says. She aims to have 50 percent of the company female in time, though at the moment they are 26 percent.

Nobody is calling her a failure.

Tags: Sweden

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