Even in Sweden, some women are still more equal than others
If there really was equality of the sexes in Sweden there would be no need for Inga-Britt Tornell. She was appointed Equality Ombudsman in July 1980 and "there is still a lot to be done," she says.Skip to next paragraph
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Her appointment coincided with a new law forbidding sex discrimination at work. "I put pressure on employers to take the person who is really best qualified for the job -- regardless of sex," she told this correspondent.
That said, Sweden has made giant strides towards equality in recent years.
The most palpable example of how much things have changed came when women air force trainees took over sentry duty at the Royal Palace in Stockholm in the fall of 1980, ending 457 years of masculine domination.
The previous year, 41 women joined Sweden's United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. Willowy blondes like Eva Johansson of Varberg were pictured by the world's press cradling submaching guns and doing their level best to look menacing.
Kajsa Ahlstrand, at 20 became Sweden's youngest priest. She entered a church badly split on the issue of women priests but seemingly giving way to feminist pressures at all points.
Meanwhile, Brita Gerdin, administration chief of Volvo in Goteburg, has a male secretary. Ockie Johansson says he got some strange looks at first but says everyone accepts him now. "I like my job," he said.
Women footballers have well-organized leagues and play the game in deadly earnest. Weight lifting is the new "in" thing with women in the capital. Yvonne Ling, a 24-year-old from Stockholm became a world champion in Kung Fu, the Japanese martial art, in 1980. And the women's athletics lobby is strong and vociferous.
But a survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 1980 revealed that even in a superficially liberated land like Sweden it is still women who do the housework, even if they have a full-time job.
The report, based on 10,000 interviews and 250 pages long, made the following points:
* Women are not as well educated as men.
* Only 61 percent of women work, compared with 78 percent of the male population.
* Women are still given more half-time jobs.
* There is still less chance for women to work overtime to boost their wages. Only 19 percent have jobs that allow a large amount of overtime. Among the male working population the figure is 32 percent.
* If a man and a woman of equal education and experience compete for a top job, nine times out of 10 it will go to the man.
And a report by the government-appointed Equality Commission revealed that in households where both partners had full-time jobs 51 percent of the women worked 20 hours or more in the home, compared with only 18 percent of the men.
Ten percent of the 7,500 women interviewed did more than 40 hours of housework a week. Only 2 percent of the men interviewed did as much.
These and other comparative figures revealed that the Swedish male is every bit as much of a male chauvinist as his counterpart in other countries with worse reputations.
Karin Andersson, equality minister in the three party non-socialist coalition government that rules Sweden, said: "We are still a long way from achieving real equality in Sweden. In the home there is not a lot else we can do, except by keeping the debate alive. Women must change their own situations."
"Sometimes it all seems hopeless but it always takes time to change ingrained habits. It is in the labor market that we must now concentrate our efforts."
Some women are still more equal than others it appears . . . even in Sweden.