Tackling the gender pay gap

2nd of April 2019 Article by Lotte Printz
Tackling the gender pay gap

With International Women’s Day taking place recently, Scandinavian correspondent Lotte Printz brings this, perhaps inspirational?, story from Sweden.

What happens to a female-dominated business if the wages equal men’s?” That is the question Linda Amiri and Sofia Jensfelt asked themselves when setting up 50-femme: “A different cleaning company with new strategies” as one of their catchphrases says.

Their Gothenburg-based cleaning company kickstarted less than a year ago when Linda Amiri needed cleaning help herself. This made her realise that wages for cleaning jobs in Sweden are particularly poor compared to counterpart jobs. And since then she and her business partner, Sofia Jensfelt, have aspired to clean up the whole cleaning trade in Sweden.

In 50-femme they pay their female cleaners similar wages and offer them the same conditions as (predominantly) male warehouse staff. The reason being that the workload and the educational levels in those two types of jobs are directly comparable, but male warehouse staff are paid approximately €510 (SEK 5,300 ) more a month on average than female cleaners.

Society’s pay gap

Speaking to the Swedish paper Affärsvärlden (Business World), Sofia Jensfelt explains that the structural pay gap in society is linked to gender: “It’s obvious that the more women represented in a trade, the lower the pay,” she concludes.

In Sweden, 7.7 per cent of cleaners are Swedish-born men, while it’s 79 per cent for warehouse staff. Thus the objective of setting up the company was not in fact to make it an all-female one at the beginning, but rather to even the gender pay gap by hiring older male cleaners.

But the two businesswomen didn’t find any suitable ones. Instead they changed their business model and started hiring skilled and experienced female cleaners and offered them a pension scheme, a collective agreement and monthly pay that exceeds the standard pay, which for cleaners in the public sector in Sweden is approximately €2,230, by the said difference of €510.

Swedish trade bodies are thrilled. And, apparently, so are the customers who are growing in number.
“This place has female cleaners on male wages,” it says on the labels (or certifications as they are called) 50-femme’s customers receive and can also place on their websites to strengthen
their brands.

Others who do not use 50-femme’s cleaners because they are happy with the cleaning service they already have can make sure that their cleaners are offered proper conditions by using 50-femme for invoicing.

Besides awarding the female cleaners in terms of pay and proper conditions and the customers with certifications, what the two businesswomen want from their venture is to leave a fingerprint by labelling the issue of women’s work literally being valued less than that of men. And in their endeavour, 50-femme is willing to hook up with the competition - Linda Amiri and Sofia Jensfelt are presently searching for companies with similar business models.


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