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We're used to windy conditions

Although female business owners in the Gothenburg archipelago in Sweden are often extremely bound to their duties, they also enjoy a great degree of freedom and independence. The book "Vi är vana att det blaser" by ethnologist Ninni Trossholmen from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, is based on interviews with about 20 women who are or have been business owners in the island community of Öckerö.

The title of the book, literally translated 'we are used to windy conditions', relates both to the often windy weather in the archipelago and to the Swedish custom of referring to hardships as windy conditions.

Women in the archipelago, especially the wives of fishermen, have traditionally been viewed as strong and independent. When the men went to sea for long periods, the women had to take care of the children and the household alone. 'I wanted to explore how self-employed women in the archipelago manage everyday life considering the double work that running both a business and a family often results in,' says Trossholmen. 'I also asked the women why they became business owners.'

Many reasons for self-employment Accountants, shop owners, hairdressers, graphic designers and coffee shop owners are some of the professions found among the interviewed women. Some started their own business due to a lack of employment opportunities in the community; others did it out of passion. And a couple of the women were fed up with frequent re-organisations at their previous workplaces. The women told Trossholmen about the long hours they put into their businesses, about the non-existence of 40-hour workweeks and about the constant lack of time regardless of whether they work at or away from home. 'But many women at the same time enjoy the freedom of being their own boss, of being able to do whatever they want in life and of being able to combine work with childcare.'

Fear of illness Several of the women talked about the fear of becoming ill and about having neither the opportunity nor the money to hire a stand-in. They also talked about the difficulty of taking time off from work to be with their children and families. The reason for this is that small business owners do not have the same insurance protection that employed individuals have, although there have been some recent improvements in this respect. 'Some of the women said that this pressure was too much to handle and that they as a result became ill and/or sold their businesses,' says Trossholmen. The interviewed women seem to share one feature: They truly love the archipelago and the opportunity to remain in the community.

For more information, please contact Ninni Trossholmen at +46 (0)31 786 53 21 or via e-mail: ninni.trossholmen@ethnology.gu.se

idw :: 15.11.2010