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Sweden is often praised as the utopia of equality and in some aspects, yes, Sweden has come a very long way and is by far much more equal than many other countries. Swedish women have the same rights as Swedish men. We have laws concerning equality (jämställdhet) in the working life, we have an Equal Opportunities Ombudsman (JÄMO), we have paternity leave (pappaledighet), we have an almost 50/50 government (although we have never had a female prime minister). But – it’s far from perfect up there. So, the simple answer to the question above is no. Sweden is not an equal country and won’t be as long as the statistics show the following:
* Swedish women on average earn 84,2 percent as much as men. Thirty years ago, this probably could be blamed on the fact that women normally had less education then men, but today, there are more women than men studying at the University. Also, in female dominated professions (kvinnodominerande yrken), salaries are generally lower.
* If you were to take a close look at the 50 biggest companies in Sweden, you would find only ONE female director. The boards consist of 79 percent men.
* Even though Swedish men can take paternity leave and the mum and dad can divide the days between them as they like – nearly 80 percent of the days are taken by women.
* During one week, Swedish men do 20 hours of chores around the house. Women do 28.
* Almost every other Swedish woman (46 percent) over 15 has been threatened and abused by a man.
Four years ago, the Swedish government set up a goal in order to make society more equal; Women and men shall have the same power to form the society and to form their own lives. In order to achieve this, women and men must have the same rights, possibilities and obligations within all aspects of life. Great goal, isn’t it? Four years on, we are not exactly there. And let’s be honest, we probably won’t be there in four years time either. Not in Sweden, not anywhere. But baby steps are taken all across the globe and hey, Kathryn Bigelow did win an Oscar yesterday, the first female director ever to get one… There might be hope, after all.
Happy International Women’s Day, whereever in the world you are!