Gender equality is more than a matter of justice. Photo: Nicho Södling
Yesterday, the World Economic Forum (WEF) issued a report — The Global Gender Gap Report 2010 — stating that Sweden and three other Nordic countries continue to lead the world in gender equality. The report ranks 134 countries according to gender disparity. It makes me happy to see that actually a majority of the countries involved in the study have made progress toward gender equality over the past five years!
Top 10 – gender equality according to The Global Gender Gap Report 2010: 1. Iceland 2. Norway 3. Finland 4. Sweden 5. N. Zealand 6. Ireland 7. Denmark 8. Lesotho 9. Philippines 10. Switzerland
You might wonder whether I believe that Sweden is a 100 % gender-equal society. My answer is no, not yet. On a macro level, the majority of top management positions are still held by men… but with an increasing number of women. So we’re moving in the right direction but we are not there yet.
On a a micro level, when I look at couples, friends, family and people around me — yes, my personal opinion is that before having children, my fellow Swedes are remarkably equal in their relationships. They share chores and areas of responsibilities. They both work and share in economic decisions, etc, etc.
Then children come along… and something else often happens. I see the most equal of couples dramatically changing their behaviour, and I ask myself if we are back in the 1950′s? (By the way, I’m not completely innocent here myself). Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit — but still, the ‘post children shift’ is surprising. (There are of course some stoic couples who remain equal, and good for them!). Why this shift in behaviour happens to many couples in my close environment, I don’t know. I have many non-scientific theories which I’m not going to bore you with now…
Gender equality is not just about justice though, it has other positive effects. As Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues puts it: “The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report shows a strong correlation between gender equality and a country’s prosperity and economic competitiveness. It should be an indispensable reference for anyone who wants to advance economic, social and political progress worldwide or understand one of the critical reasons why some countries progress and others do not.” So gender equality is important for a country’s progress on many levels.
Having lived in several countries, I find that there is one aspect that stands out in Sweden, and that is the general consensus that gender equality is a good thing, and an objective worth fighting for. I do believe that if we are not careful, focused and determined on both a macro and a micro level, Sweden will never live up to its ambition — to be a completely gender-equal society. Hang in there!