Gender Equality In Sweden

Gender equality in Sweden: How modern gender roles in Sweden make it one of the best countries for women to live in

Today we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about gender equality in Sweden, and outline why it’s one of the world’s best countries to live in for women. If you’re ready, let’s dive into the facts about gender roles in Sweden.

Gender equality is a goal that many countries have aspired to for many years because of its benefits. Studies have repeatedly shown that empowering girls and women promotes social development, establishes fair societies and expands economic growth.

Gender equality, also known as sexual equality, is the state of equal access to opportunities and resources regardless of gender. These policies uphold the rights of women to take on roles in leadership and decision-making. 

Scandinavian countries have long been global champions of gender equality. They explicitly support the equal right for women at home, work, and public life. They have moved earlier and faster than other nations in promoting their objectives. 

Sweden has been at the forefront of gender equality, along with other Nordic countries, for many years now. According to the Gender Equality Index 2020, Sweden ranks 1st in the EU. With 83.8 out of 100 points, its score is 15.9 higher than the EU’s. 

Their commitment to closing the gender gap has been a cornerstone of Swedish society. Over the years, considerable efforts have been made to ensure that women enjoy the same rights, freedom and opportunities as men do in all spheres of life.

Sweden is now considered a paragon of gender equality, and many people are curious about what led to the development of the countries forward-thinking initiatives and policies.

Find out how gender equality in Sweden has been pivotal in the health and social development of the country, and the steps the administration takes to ensure that women are treated fairly and equally and have access to positions of power.

Gender Equality In Sweden

When did Sweden get gender equality?

Gender equality took root in Sweden long ago when feminism gained a significant social and political role in Swedish society. It goes back to the 17th century when women in intellectual circles discussed it and focused on it.

Their ongoing debates and discussions led to the publication of influential books like Samtal emellan Argi Skugga och en obekant Fruentimbers Skugga by Margareta Momma in 1738 and poems like Fruntimrens Försvar (To the Defense of Women, 1761) that led the way.

Between the years 1718-1772, women were granted conditional suffrage. Later, in the 1800s, girls were allowed to be educated in schools that used to be restricted to males. 

Around the same time, unmarried Swedish women were given the conditional right to vote in municipal elections (this made Sweden one of the first countries in the world to grant this right).

The country continued to progress in the 1900s when universal women’s suffrage was granted in 1921. Reforms such as the legislation of birth control and abortions in 1938, the passing of legislation for compulsory three-month maternity in 1955 and the elimination of joint taxes in 1971 continued to solidify Sweden’s position as a forerunner in gender equality.

Gender equality in the workplace was established after the Swedish government outlawed gender discrimination in 1980. 

This law of was expanded when the Swedish Discrimination Act was passed in 2009 to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, the disabled, religious minorities and ethnic and racial minorities.

The equality for women of color was highlighted after Sweden’s Feminist Initiative, the first feminist political party to win a mandate in the European parliament in 2014, began the conversation about feminism from an antiracist perspective.

What are Sweden’s goals for gender quality?

The overarching objective of Sweden’s gender equality policy is to provide the same power to both women and men when it comes to shaping society as well as their own life. 

The six sub-goals that the Swedish government is working towards broadly include:

1. Equal division of power and influence

Both women and men should be granted the same rights and opportunities to play an active role in developing Sweden’s society.

2. Economic gender equality

The same conditions and opportunities for paid work should be applied for men and women to ensure their economic independence throughout life.

3. Equal education

Girls, women, boys and men should have the same opportunities and conditions when it comes to studying options, education and personal development.

4. Equal access to healthcare

Healthcare should be offered in equal terms for women and men, girls and boys. 

5. Equal distribution of unpaid housework and providing care

Women and men must have equal roles in the household and be allocated the same share of responsibility.

6. Prevention of men’s violence against women

Violence against women must stop. Everyone, regardless of gender, must have the same right to physical integrity.

Swedish policymakers have adopted three practices to ensure they are aligned with these gender equality sub-goals.

1. Gender mainstreaming

This is an approach to policy-making that considers the interests and concerns of both men and women.

The Swedish government ensures that gender perspectives and awareness of gender equality are central to all activities and integrated into policy development, legislation and dialogue.

2. Gender-responsive budgeting

Creating a budget that keeps everyone’s welfare in mind leads to an equal distribution of resources and budgets that are used to realize all gender equality commitments.

Swedes take a budget-sensitive approach that involves assessing expenditures and their potential impact on women’s and men’s welfare.

3. Foreign policy

The Swedish also apply gender equality in their foreign policy. They feel that advocacy for women’s human rights is a moral obligation within the framework of their international presence.

Regular action is taken for forwarding their long-term goals of strengthening the rights of girls and women and the resources available to them, no matter where they live in the world. 

Gender Equality In Sweden

What did Sweden do for equality?

The most significant gender equality reforms in Sweden took place in the 1970s. They boosted the prospects for women in the workplace and increased their ability to become financially independent. 

This, in turn, has improved their overall wellbeing and bargaining power in their homes. 

Collectively, these reforms have contributed to the establishment of a modern welfare state based on equality. 

These are the six most important reforms that promote gender equality in Sweden:

1. Separate income taxation for couples

Separate income taxes for both partners made employment more beneficial for both partners. It also created an incentive for women to work because their income would no longer be part of their partners.

2. Gender-neutral paid parental leave benefit

Sweden was the first country in the world to introduce gender-neutral paid parental leave and has revised the reform many times after that. This dual family model for child-rearing is a fundamental policy in gender equality. 

Under this reform, Swedes get 6-month paternity leave and 12 months maternity leave — one of the world’s most generous parental leave periods.

3. Public child health care

The development of affordable public child care facilities, including the expansion of daycare and preschool systems, was instrumental in women being active in the workplace. 

This policy took away the need to make child-minding arrangements with the help of nannies and family members. It also reduces the stress women face in balancing work, household tasks and raising their children.

4. Gender discrimination in the workplace

In 1980, gender discrimination was made illegal. According to the law, employers need to treat both men and women equally in the workplace and take measures against any form of prejudice and harassment that occurs during employment.

5. Legalizing birth control and abortions

According to the abortion act of 1974, women have the choice of abortion until the eighteenth week of pregnancy. 

After the eighteenth month, the woman will need to get permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to have an abortion. 

Unlike many countries, the legality of abortion is not a controversial political issue and has been mostly settled in Sweden. Measures have also been taken to prevent unwanted pregnancies by legalizing birth control. 

This is done to ensure that children born are wanted and provided for by their caretakers.

6. Female representation in government

To ensure that women’s rights are taken seriously at the highest level of government and to advance their interests, Sweden has put together a government with an almost equal distribution of male and female government officials. 

As of 2019, women made up 50% of the cabinet and 46% of the parliament. Consequently, feminism is now seen as an official government policy versus a social movement.

Can more be done for gender equality in Sweden?

To women living outside Sweden and some who live there, the country seems like one of the best places to be a woman. But how true is this statement?

While Sweden is in the top cluster of gender equality with other Scandinavian countries, like Iceland, Norway and Finland, there is still some way to go before it becomes a feminist utopia. 

According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, Sweden has slipped from the first position to fourth in gender equality charts. Based on a report from “Statistics Sweden, Women and Men in Sweden: Facts and figures,” there are several reasons for this. 

First, there is an unequal representation for genders in education and the workplace. There are just eight out of 269 female managing directors in listed companies. 

Despite all the reforms, there continues to be a gender pay gap like many other developed countries. Based on a 2018 study done by the European Union, women earn 12.2% lesser than men in Sweden. 

While this pay gap is significantly lesser than the U.S.’s 18% and the EU’s average of 14.8%, it’s higher than Luxemburg and Italy. 

Many experts attribute the cause of this wage gap to the customs and expectations around gender roles and norms. Even though Sweden has one of the highest employment rates for women, many employed women work part-time and in low-paying jobs.

Their pay is further reduced when they decide to work less after having children. Like other women in the world, Swedish women are still expected to be the primary caretaker in the household. 

This conflict between childcare and employment makes it harder for them to become financially independent and stay in full-time jobs.

Despite the generous 480 days of parental leave for both men and women, the Daddy Index published by the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO) reveals that men use only one-fifth of their allowance. 

The Swedish government has tried to rectify this by providing some tax relief for using services like laundry, cleaning and gardening. Still, significant reforms to change this disparity are happening slowly. 

There’s more that needs to be done, faster to see improvements.

Gender equality is one of the benchmarks by which a society is judged. A fair society is seen as one where both men and women are equally present in all spheres of life. From this perspective, Sweden is one of the leaders, but there’s still room for improvement.

Gender Equality In Sweden

How men benefit from gender equality in Sweden

Both men and women benefit from the level playing field created by gender equality in Sweden. It’s not just an ongoing fight for women’s rights but a movement that ensures the health, safety and fulfillment of all members of society. 

Getting rid of gender barriers also involves eliminating gender stereotypes, including harmful ones — and women are not the only ones impacted by them. Traditional masculinity that defines how a man should think and act can limit men. 

For instance, men are supposed to show a sense of autonomy and maintain emotional control to conceal their vulnerability. This can lead to bottled-up emotions that result in mental health issues and unhealthy behaviors that involve violence and aggressiveness. 

Breaking down gender roles in Sweden means doing away with the idea that real men don’t ask for help or need support from their loved ones and community. Any manifestation of “toxic masculinity” is considerably reduced because of the new societal norms created by gender equality.

Men have also been shown to be biologically hardwired to care for their children. Once they become fathers, there is a drop in testosterone and an increase in oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” which makes them want to be closer to their children. 

The long paternity leave gives men the time and opportunity to play more active roles in their children’s lives. 

Studies have shown that having a father positively present in a baby’s first year can have a beneficial impact on the child’s views of the social world. The gender equality laws in Sweden make that possible, benefiting both the father and the children.

What’s it like being a woman in Sweden?

With all these rules in place, one might wonder what living as a woman in Sweden is like. An outsider will pick up on a general feeling of mutual respect between men and women. The women are powerhouses of liberation and freedom and command respect no matter where they go. 

Their position in society empowers them. They have a presence of strength and surety about themselves and what they do in society — whether that’s at home, the workplace, or walking down a street.

This is mainly due to the government mandating gender equality, but it’s also because of Sweden’s progressive culture. Men are supportive of women’s growth and their enhanced equality. They stand side by side with their women and remove any notion that they need or depend on. 

Seeing men pushing baby strollers in Sweden and taking them to daycare centers is a common sight. 

However, women who like the chivalry that comes from traditional gender roles might miss being wooed, admired and typical gentleman behavior such as opening doors or being helped with luggage. Being treated like a lady makes women feel cared for and does not imply that they are weak or incapable. 

Yet, for most women in the country, it’s a small price to pay. With all the government has done over the years to create an equal society, Sweden remains one of the best countries to be a woman. 

Other nations can be inspired by the examples they have set.

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