Name: Hedvig Marx
Programme: Gender Studies
Year of graduation: 2018
Occupation: Labour Union in Los Angeles – contract enforcement department.
Country of origin: Sweden
Where do you work and what do you do at your job?
I just started working at SAG-AFTRA, a labour union in Los Angeles where I work with labour union contacts enforcement. Before that, I worked with the California Department of Social Services, where I started in an administrative role before I moved into working with policy. I worked with community care licensing policy, which means writing regulations and doing policy interpretation and clarification for licensees. Part of it is also analyzing bills and monitoring the state and federal legislative process. We worked with group homes and foster care in different ways, and one of the first projects I inserted myself into what a caregiver guide for both professional caregivers and families that take care of foster kids.
It is called the SOGIE-guide, the sexual orientation, gender identity and expression care giver guide. Here, as well as most other places a lot of the time, government agencies are quite slow to pick up on how to express things and what terminology to use. The work with the guide included finding the right sources, so that we could create a truly inclusive guide that also emphasized how the terminology is always changing and developing, and therefore it is important to always listen to the person who is in focus and ask what kind of terminology they want to use for themselves. One of the main things in the guide was highlighting that SOGIE does not just affect the kids who do not have the most normative identities but should include everyone. I really felt that I could use all the knowledge I got in my master’s programme to help shift the perspectives on this. They were impressed with the work I did on the guide, which lead me to move up to an analyst position, and later ending up as a manager for that policy unit.
What is the best and most challenging parts in your job?
I did not realize that I was such a nerd for the language of rules and regulations, but the feeling of seeing words that I have written in California state law is quite cool. Now that I work with contract enforcement, I really like the focus on finding the language that says something very specific while it stays open to things that you haven’t thought of yet. I have become a language nerd in these jobs, which are not necessarily the type of jobs that I anticipated myself ending up in. But I really enjoy it.
In my job at the California Department of Social Services, the main challenge was related to the fact that the work is affected by many different stakeholders with strong opinions, because almost all people care about kids in foster care and foster care is often a political high-profile issue. Your main objective is to ensure the kids’ wellbeing, but you also have to work with legislators, different caregivers, organizations, advocates, and institutions who all have different needs and interests. This can sometimes be an impossible equation.
At my current job, the challenge is having a basic agreement that is 800 pages and extra contracts on top of that. Sometimes, people have not read it properly when signing and you have to remind them on what they have actually agreed to.
Tell us about your background. How and why did you choose to study at Linköping University (LiU)?
I am from Stockholm and did a semester of Gender Studies there. I felt I wanted to continue studying in that field but needed to find a programme that would allow me to work at the same time. The setup of this programme had a large impact on me, but I had also heard good things about this programme from friends who had been part of it, which influenced my decision to apply as well.
Tell us a bit about your programme. What did you enjoy about studying here?
One of my favorite things was the group of people, who came from different areas of the world and had different experiences that they brought with them to the programme. I have taken courses in gender studies before, but this was the first time that the fact that everybody does not have the same entry point to the topics of intersectionality and gender studies was also well reflected in the classroom. It was very fruitful to be a part of that type of setting. The teachers were great, and it was rewarding making connections and friends all over the world.
Another thing I enjoyed was the way that it was set up. The fact that most of the programme was based online suited me well because I was working at the same time, but I really enjoyed the campus weeks as well. We got the opportunity to get to know the teachers and each other which was great.
Is there anything particular that stands out?
I do feel like I went through this programme together with all my classmates even though we did most of the programme online, which speaks to the strength of the setup. I believe that having that interaction also helped make the online elements better. I also liked the structure of having smaller groups where we took turns leading the work in different weeks, which helped me keep a structure in my studies.
How have your studies at LiU helped you in your career? What has stood out as being the most helpful part?
First of all, it is very helpful to have a master’s degree in general. At the California Department of Social Services, they were very interested in this specific degree, and they asked me about it in my interview. I got to talk to them about why I thought this knowledge was important and how I could use it in my job. To have the knowledge to back up my interests and things I find important also helped me get promoted and it has had a big practical impact on my career. I have been able to build upon it and the education in combination with my work experience also helped me get the job at SAG-AFTRA.
I really like that I got to go straight into public administration and public policy because I feel it is such an important place to have the kind of awareness that you get from the programme. Keeping the perspectives on intersectionality close to you in your work can be a truly helpful tool, to ask the right questions, pick things apart from different angles and to get discussions going when dealing with specific cases. The programme gives you tools to talk to people without the same knowledge in a way that helps them understand the issues in a tangible way.
Why do you think others should choose to study this programme? What do you think is unique about LiU that you can’t find anywhere else?
The overall applicability of learning the way of thinking that is a part of this programme and the way you challenge traditional ways of thinking and knowledge production are the big tools that you bring with you after completing this programme. It can be used in all kinds of situations and wherever you chose to work in the future.
What advice do you have for future students at the Gender Studies Master’s programme?
My main advice would be to spend as much time as you can on the courses. Also, try to take advantage of the scheduled group meetings and participate in the campus weeks. It really helps and it makes the programme even more worthwhile. The second advice would be to try to enjoy the studies as much as possible, I believe it is a very rewarding programme!