Purpose – The paper aims to explore the consequences of new public management (NPM) inspired reforms in general and outsourcing of traditional public sector responsibilities in Sweden to private organizations in particular. At centre stage are the roles of entrepreneurs, women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and socially constructed paradigms of gender in this process. The paper's aim is to explore, through a local-level case study, the currently ongoing process of gendering and regendering in a female-dominated sector. This is done by a qualitative real-time study of the introduction of a customer-choice system in elder care in a Swedish municipality.
Design/methodology/approach – The formal decision in Spring 2008 to introduce a “customer-choice model” into home-based elderly care in the municipality is the formal starting point of the research. The authors are given full access to all relevant information and informants including all questions and suggestions from the potential suppliers who were applying to be “authorized and certified suppliers”. Interviews are the main method but also written material like applications and newspaper articles and “letters to the editor” are studied.
Findings – The outcome of the changes are, from the decision-makers point of view, disappointing. The consequences so far of the customer-choice system, that have been examined here, can be labelled increased masculinism or even a masculinization of the elderly care sector. Whether the polarization is a presage of the process to come is too early to tell. If so, the masculinization observed in this paper extends along three dimensions: governing logic, leadership and ownership. These gender consequences are not those expected or intended by the leading local actors.
Research limitations/implications – The study is made in an ongoing process. The politicians are making changes aiming at making better working conditions for SMEs and former employees especially women. It is therefore important to follow up what is going to happen in the future. Comparisons with other municipalities and other regimes, nationally and internationally, would also be valuable.
Practical implications – In this case, the practical implications are, almost, the same as the research implications.
Originality/value – The real-time research design is used focusing on what is happening in practise at the lower organizational levels of an organizational “experiment” of this kind make this paper unusual and valuable both for researchers and practioners.
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2010. Vol. 2, no 1, 49-67 p.
Institutional Perspectives on Gender and Entrepreneurship. Guest editors: Helene Ahl and Terese Nelson.