A distinctive feature of the RIS3 for Värmland is that Gender Mainstreaming within the labour market is written into the strategy; not just as an add-on to the prioritisation of smart specialisation domains, but as an integral thread throughout the whole document. The strategy claims that Värmland is the first region in Europe to have incorporated such an analysis and policy focus into their RIS3 (Region Värmland, 2015). This direction was decided upon as part of a review of the region’s planned RIS3 with the European Commission Smart Specialisation Platform based in Seville. While this focus does address a social challenge – related to a currently gender-segregated labour market – the strategy mainly emphasises the potential economic benefits for the key industries in the region that will follow from gender mainstreaming. Karlstad University was not central to the analysis and entrepreneurial discovery process for this gender mainstreaming dimension of the RIS3, but have subsequently become involved in its implementation.
A ‘gender perspective’ was built into the analysis for the RIS3. This included statistical analysis of the gender structure of the labour market and an assessment of the likely gender impacts of the decisions taken in strategy. This is a response to the fact that many of the dominant industries within Värmland (e.g. pulp and paper, steel and engineering, IT) are male-dominated. The RIS3 states that “[d]uring the work on the strategy, there has been a discussion surrounding the strengths and challenges existing in relation to gender mainstreaming in the choice of prioritised areas for the future strategy. Policy analyses and other preparatory studies have been studied by experts on gender equality. In the prioritising efforts, gender has been included as a variable to be taken into account in the development of areas of strength” (Region Värmland, 2015, p.8). The future development of the RIS3 priorities can therefore be shaped by the attraction of more women employees. A key aspect of this is the ‘transverse’ specialisation of ‘value-creating services’, which cuts across the other five priority domains. As more women work in service industries than manufacturing industries, the strategy to transform the traditional industries through a process of ‘servitisation’ could help to assist this process of gender mainstreaming.
Strengthening the relationship between Karlstad University and the region was not the primary focus of this element of the RIS3. There are, however, still some important connections here. Karlstad University has expertise in gender studies as well as regional studies, and this is being drawn on in the implementation of this part of the strategy. In addition, as the strategy recognises, women often comprise a majority of students at the level of higher education, and this particularly conflicts with the male dominated nature of the labour market within Värmland. This goal of gender mainstreaming, therefore, in the long-term could be seen to have the potential to strengthen the alignment of the University and the regional economy by ensuring that a greater proportion of graduates have skills that are of value to local companies.