SWP Case: Social Dialogue and Gender Equality

The Challenge

The benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace are well documented. Such workplaces are associated with greater organisational performance, innovation, employee wellbeing and better recruitment and retention. Despite all these benefits, the International Labour Organization has noted that globally only 48.5% of women (compared to 75% of men) are in the labour force. Those women who are in the labour force experience a wide “range of disadvantages including discrimination at recruitment and during employment and vertical and horizontal occupational gender segregation.” Some of the major barriers to women’s full participation in the labour force include gender stereotypes, lack of access to skills development opportunities and primary responsibility for family care.


What can be done to enhance participation?
Social dialogue promotes inclusiveness, it gives all parties a voice and opportunity to problem solve on issues that impact them in the workplace. This inclusivity is essential for promoting also gender equality.

Human Resource Managers at SWP Sustianable Bussines Plattform meeting in Kenya in 2021

Strategies for advancing gender equality using
workplace cooperation

The Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) works with gender equality through:

  • Facilitating companies to create representative dialogue structures (committees that include management, workers and their representatives) at the workplace that help turn diversity and inclusion policies into practice.
  • Targeted initiatives that involve men in challenging biases, norms and stereotypes that impede gender equality
  • Sustainable Business Platforms in Africa, Asia and South America where companies are inspired on best practice

2 examples from the SWP:

Women Empowerment Programme – Colombia

3 companies operating in male dominated sectors in Colombia used their Diversity and Inclusion Committees to initiate empowerment programmes tha drive women’s personal and professional development while contributing to sustainable business. The committees identified lack of skills development and horizontal segregation as impediments to the achievement of company gender targets. The majority of women working in the companies were in administration and support roles with limited scope to move within the organisations.

Through the SWP Women Empowerment Programme (run by women from the companies) action plans have been developed with initiatives for:
Leadership development and programme management
– Challenging biases
Raising awareness on gender being an issue that affects both men and women

Impact at the Workplace

  • Women have voice and agency. Gender is mainstreamed into all company initiatives and committee members serve as reference group for corporate projects.
  • Dialogues now reflect the workplace composition including women and other marginalised groups.
  • At one company an internal review on recruitment and selection procedures was conducted to minimise bias. Amongst other measures, published vacancies were modified to include commitment to diversity and inclusion, and to promote inclusive language, for example, by removing gendered nouns.
  • Another company noted an increase in recruitment of women into the security sector as a result of the diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Male Champions for Gender Equal Workplaces – Vietnam

Vietnam has one of the highest female labour-force participation rates in the world and has a relatively high proportion of females in management positions compared to other Asian countries. However, persisting patriarchal attitudes and normative stereotypes regarding gender roles and responsibilities persist. Gender bias can confine Vietnamese women to caregiving roles, stopping them from considering different types of work and from advancing professionally. The prevalent gender norms are also a burden for men. The study, “Masculine Anxiety and Interrupting Sexism at Work”, shows that many men suffer from distress over not living up to rigid masculine standards. This form of anxiety is strongly related to male-dominated workplaces that reward stereotypically masculine behaviours such as dominance, toughness, ruthlessness and putting work first.

Against this background, a platform for male mangers from different companies has been launched in Hanoi. It creates space to reflect and talk about masculinity norms and raise awareness on the role men play in creating more gender equal and inclusive workplaces. The programme is part is of a holistic approach that includes both men and women in changing attitudes, challenging gender stereotypes and creating positive role models in the workplace.

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This executive summary presents the findings from the study “Workplace Cooperation: Finding Practical Solutions in the Colombian Context,” conducted by the Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP). The study evaluates the added value of the Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) dialogue and cooperation model within the Colombian labor market.

Throughout 2022, FIP dedicated efforts to thoroughly understand the SWP model, including its concept, foundations, implementation process, and contributions to the labor market. In 2023, FIP documented the experiences of three companies—SKF Latin Trade, Securitas, and Epiroc—that implemented the SWP model in practice. The study also included face-to-face workshops to gather feedback from various stakeholders including civil society, businesses, government, academia, and international cooperation. The findings suggest that the SWP model has the potential to strengthen labor relations, contribute to decent work, and resolve workplace conflicts in Colombia.

The case studies highlight the importance of collaboration between employers and workers to promote decent work and sustainable development in Colombia. They demonstrate that social dialogue facilitates worker participation in labor decision-making, enhances their representativeness, and promotes cooperation between employers and employees, thus improving labor relations and contributing to the well-being of both employees and companies.

The SWP model is particularly noted for improving workplace relationships and commitment to jointly finding solutions to challenges faced by workers and the company. It empowers workers, enhances leadership, and helps integrate business policies into daily practices, reducing the initial disconnect between management objectives and the day-to-day realities of workers. The study also highlights the model’s capacity to manage conflicts constructively, transforming the perception of conflict as an opportunity for improvement. Structured dialogues deepen understanding of the underlying causes of conflicts, fostering empathy and facilitating effective resolution. This promotes a culture of collaboration and a democratic approach to decision-making, building trust.

Additionally, the model is recognized for enabling workers to make decisions, identify challenges, and propose solutions that impact their well-being, and bridging gender gaps in the workplace. Its inclusive approach adapts to the unique needs and characteristics of each company, promoting a stronger and more diverse organizational culture. It also drives good work performance and productivity by involving workers in problem identification and resolution, as well as in implementing improvements and efficiently identifying ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) risks for companies.

The document identifies the SWP model’s added value in empowering direct interaction among labor stakeholders in Colombia, overcoming historical or cultural reservations, and contributing to the development of stronger labor relations and improved workplace environments in the country.

Challenges and opportunities of the model are also discussed. The study points out the importance of addressing value chain risks, particularly in a global context where corporate clients demand decent work processes and due diligence. It emphasizes the need to integrate SMEs into this process and use anchor companies as drivers of social dialogue throughout the value chain. The role of the state in social dialogue and the importance of highlighting the benefits of the model for adoption across various business sectors are discussed.

The opportunities of the model include raising awareness of human rights in the workplace in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP), to strengthen due diligence, manage risks, promote long-term sustainability, and improve organizational culture. The document also underscores the importance of involving workers in change processes, leveraging their insights for continuous improvement of processes, and fostering innovation opportunities. Lastly, it suggests replicating the model in value chains to address work environment risks and gender biases, involving suppliers and contractors, and integrating the model into corporate policies to strengthen existing programs and transform organizational culture towards resource efficiency and effective participation of employers and workers.