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GENDER

Guide to help companies attract ‘pink money’

Swedish businesses will soon receive guidance in how to become gender neutral and how to tap into the purchasing power of the LGBT community.

Guide to help companies attract 'pink money'

The Swedish Federation of Business Owners (Företagarna) estimates that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers have a collective purchasing power of nearly 100 billion kronor ($15 billion).

However, few companies focus on what the Federation describes as “pink money”.

“Companies have not realized the potential here and that means wasted business opportunities,” the Federation’s CEO, Elisabeth Thand Ringqvist, told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

The Federation is now producing a handbook with guidance for companies that want to target the LGBT community. It will be published in the autumn of 2013 and will also contain tips for how companies can create gender-neutral work places and advertisements.

Out of the 1,146 companies that participated in a recent survey conducted by the Federation, only nine said they engage in marketing targeted at LGBT individuals.

A total of 83 companies had considered producing gender-neutral ads directed at couples, for instance in Valentine’s Day campaigns or in connection with wedding and family offers.

“It could be about something as simple as asking for someone’s partner instead of their wife,” said Thand Ringqvist.

She also explained that different companies can work at different levels when it comes to gender-neutral and gay-friendly marketing.

“You can either use gender-neutral marketing or you can actively target LGBT-individuals. You can turn to gay publications, such as QX Magazine, or you can reach a wider audience by advertising in mainstream media,” said Thand Ringqvist.

The handbook will work as a practical guidance tool, posing a series of questions that companies must take a stand on in their business operations, but also at their own work places and in relation to their own work force.

Thand Ringqvist stressed in SvD that this work must happen at all levels and that companies should not just focus on strategies that can help generate “pink money”.

“If you haven’t done your homework and you’re only engaging in these questions for marketing purposes, then it can backfire,” she said.

However, the Federation had trouble finding companies that were willing to participate in the preparation of the handbook. Thand Ringqvist also admitted that it is difficult to say whether there actually is a demand or need for the handbook among Swedish businesses.

“In the inner-city of Stockholm there is already much awareness to the extent that some opinion formers sometimes ask if the LGBT question is really an issue anymore,” said Thand Ringqvist.

“I tell them that as soon as you go outside of the big city, to Jönköping or Visby for instance, then it probably is an issue.”

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RELIGION

Inside the Church of Sweden, where women outnumber men as priests

Women now outnumber men as priests in Sweden, but there's still gender inequality within the Swedish Church, those working in it admit.

Inside the Church of Sweden, where women outnumber men as priests
Visby's cathedral. File photo: Anders Wiklund/SCANPIX/TT

Her white clergy robes flowing behind her, Sandra Signarsdotter walks down the aisle of Stockholm's Gustaf Vasa church greeting parishioners, a ritual of hers and a familiar sight in Sweden.

In the Scandinavian country, often hailed as a champion of gender equality, the statistics are clear. As of July, 50.1 percent of priests are women and 49.9 percent are men. It's very likely the first Church in the world to have a majority of women priests, according to the World Council of Churches.

In the Protestant Lutheran Church of Sweden, which has 5.8 million members in a country of 10.3 million and where ministers hold the title of priest, “women are here to stay,” insists Signarsdotter, who was ordained six years ago.

Since 2014, even the head of the Church is a woman, Archbishop Antje Jackelen.

GENDER IN SWEDEN:


Archbishop Antje Jackelen. Photo: Pontus Lundahl / TT

At the Gustaf Vasa church, a smattering of worshippers wait for the service to begin.

“This Sunday, the service will be conducted by three women,” the 37-year-old priest says proudly.

Coincidentally, it was in this imposing white church in the heart of Sweden's capital that another woman, Anna Howard Shaw, an American Methodist pastor and suffragette, became the first clergywoman to preach in Sweden.

That was in 1911, at an international women's suffrage conference, and long before women could be ordained in the Church of Sweden, in 1958.

“The men didn't allow her to go up there,” explains Signarsdotter, pointing to the marble pulpit above her. “She was allowed only on the floor,” she says, standing at the altar as if to mark the spot.

This Sunday, the service will be held by Julia Svensson, a 23-year-old theology student whom Signarsdotter is mentoring — and she will give her sermon from the pulpit.
 

The feminisation of Sweden's priesthood is also seen at universities, where the 4.5-year theology studies required to become a priest are dominated by women.

Protestants generally believe that a priest is an expert, a theologist who tends to a congregation, and not a calling, in contrast to the Catholic Church which opposes women priests.

The rising number of women may be due to priests' changing roles over the years, suggests Signarsdotter.

“The priest's role today is not what it was before. There are other requirements, (such as) kindliness … (and) being able to handle many different situations.”

“Historically men have held it for themselves but now we see it happening all over the world. Things are changing and new paths are open to us as female priests and women in general.”

Outside the Gustav Vasa Kyrka in Stockholm. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT

One who has benefitted from the rising number of female priests is stylist Maria Sjodin, who designs vestments for women and whose business is booming.

In her atelier in a southern Stockholm suburb, the designer recently welcomed a regular customer, a female priest looking for a new collared top. One could say divine intervention landed Sjodin here: in 2001 her daughter
made a new friend at kindergarten, whose mother was a priest.

“She asked me to make her a priest shirt, because she didn't like the male shirt that she had to wear,” she recalled.
The piece remains one of the most popular in her collection.

'Still a way to go'

But while women priests now outnumber men, inequality remains.

Women priests earn around 2,200 kronor (213 euros, $253) less a month than their male counterparts, according to the specialised newspaper Kyrkans Tidning.

And fewer women reach top positions within the Church. Of the country's 13 dioceses, only four are headed by women.
 

“We haven't reached equality yet,” says Signarsdotter. “There's still a way to go.”

Her protege Svensson chips in: “We must be a representation of all people.”

After a moment of silence, Signarsdotter admits that sexism still stalks the cloisters of the Church in Sweden.
“One day, a colleague told me 'What a nice ass you have'. I am still seen as a body and not a professional.”

She says things will not change as long as “patriarchal structures (remain) in the walls and the structures of society, and the Church as an organisation.”

But she is not giving up hope. “When I retire I will look at Julia as an archbishop and will be like 'damn, we did good'.”                             

By Nioucha Zakavati

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