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Professor Helen Peterson

Professor Helen Peterson is a Professor of Sociology at Karlstad University (from August 2019), a Senior lecturer in Work Science at University of Gothenburg (since 2014) and an Associate Professor (Docent) of Sociology at Uppsala University (since 2012) (Sweden). She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Uppsala University in 2005. She then worked as a junior lecturer at Örebro University and held a postdoctoral fellowship at Linköping University. Between 2013-2015 she was a visiting scholar at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy at New York University. She has also been a visiting researcher at the Center of Excellence for Gender Research at Örebro University. She has been a member of the WHEM network since 2012.

In her research she studies gender equality policy in higher education and other issues related to how the organization of work and work relations (re)produce gender segregration. She uses a critical feminist perspective targeting gender and power, combined with theoretical starting points in classic and current sociological theories. Drawing on qualitative research methods inspired by ethnographic approaches she investigates narratives, discourses, interpretative frames, norms, negotiations, positionings and practices dealing with segregation, identity, division of labour, hierarchies, roles, ideals, leadership and management, work-life balance, change, resistance, and social interaction.

She has participated in large, international EU-funded projects about gender equality in research institutions such as PROMETE and GENDERTIME and she has been the principal investigator in national projects exploring different aspects of gender in Swedish higher education. In her previous project: ‘From Rector Magnificus to Strategic Manager. Changing Management Ideals in Swedish Higher Education’ she studied the increase of women Rectors in Swedish universities. In her current project: ‘Translating Policy into Practice: Organizational and Discursive Framing of Gender Mainstreaming in Swedish higher education’ she is investigating the gender mainstreaming in Swedish universities together with Birgitta Jordansson.

She has published extensively in both Swedish and international journals in the fields of women’s studies, family studies, educational research, management, business, economics, and industrials relations.

Recent publications

Peterson, H. (2019). A Women-Only Leadership Development Program: Facilitating Access to Authority for Women in Swedish Higher Education? Social Sciences 8(4).

Peterson, H. (2018). From “Goal-Orientated, Strong and Decisive Leader” to “Collaborative and Communicative Listener”. Gendered Shifts in Vice-Chancellor Ideals, 1990-2018. Education Sciences 8(2), 90.

Peterson, H. and Dahmen, J. (2018). Monitoring Handbook. Methods and tools for monitoring developed in the GenderTime project. Gothenburg Studies in Work Science, No.1, 2018. Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg.

Peterson, H. (2017). Gender and prestige in Swedish academia: Exploring senior management in universities and university colleges Scandinavian Journal of Education Research. 61(1): 1-17.

Peterson, H. and Jordansson, B. (2017). Gender Equality as a Core Academic Value: Undoing Gender in a ‘Non-Traditional’ Swedish University. In K. White and P. O’Connor (Eds.). Gendered Success in Higher Education. Global Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke.

Peterson, H. (2016). Is Managing Academics ‘Women’s Work’? Exploring the Existence of a Glass Cliff in Higher Education Management. Educational Management Administration and Leadership 44(1): 112-127.

Peterson, H. (2015) Exit the King, Enter the Maid: Changing Discourses on Gendered Management Ideals in Swedish Higher Education. Gender in Management: An International Journal 30(5): 343-357.

Peterson, H. (2015) “Unfair to women?” Equal representation policies in Swedish academia Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal. 34(1): 55-66.


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