11 May, 2017

Gender Equality in Sweden


The Welcome!

Hej, Valkommna! I was greeted by a feminine voice as I swiped my SL card at the entrance of the buss dörR, (do not mistake the capital ‘R’ to be a typo error and also don’t forget to emphasize on the extra ‘R’ while speaking to a Swede, one way to pronounce it takes you through a door from one room to the other while the other pronounciation takes you from one world to the after life :P) .Well, dörr = Door and dör = Death. To be precise, my presumptions that I would be greeted by a male driver were taken to ‘dör’ as I entered the bussdörR.

Honestly, I was still a bit surprised, despite preparing myself that I would be met with surprises in a new country quite different from my homeland. As I sat down, I noted how the partitioned, lengthy bus was handled swiftly and with remarkable precision. I hadn’t seen a woman drive such a mighty vehicle before in my country, except in the hollywood movie ‘Speed’  where Sandra Bullock saves the day by driving a huge bus.


Gender equality

Kvinna  = Man

As I put my observational skills to the fore, I learnt that it’s a very common phenomena. There is absolutely no difference in the way this Scandinavian nation sees its two genders. As you travel by bus, pendeltåg, T-bana or the Tvärbana, you will find that probably 1 of 3 drivers are female and you won’t realize the difference when you take the ride.

I was met with similar experiences at grocery stores, gyms, electronic stores, cleaning jobs etc. The best one being a woman forcefully putting in bolts in an automobile manufacturing shop floor. All these without a shadow of ‘Oh! I am the ‘supposedly’, physically weaker sex, and tough jobs are not for me’.

This, at a time when other countries are still struggling with age old cultures of male dominance while there is also a new rise of unfair feminism. To strike the right balance between the two is something commendable that this nation has achieved. Do not be surprised when you find common ‘Toaletts’ for males and females at majority of the places.

You can credit the facilities, the tradition and the mindset of this country’s people to the unbiased and open culture of equal treatment, rights and opportunities to both genders. It can also be given to the fact that the ratio of females to males was historically higher, though the recent statistics point out men outgrowing women by a tiny margin.

But, irrespective of gender, everyone has the right to work and support themselves, to balance career and family life, and to live without fear of abuse or violence.

In fact, some of the Swedish companies root for equal number of female to male employees. I read that IKEA , the Swedish furniture giant, wants to implement similar policies in it’s new branch, back home in India. Spännande!

However, things sometimes become confusing too. I am not sure, the kind of look or expression I would get if I were to offer a seat to a lady while travelling or to help one lift some heavy thing. ‘Hello, do you think I am incapable of doing this? Or, my sometimes scattered thinking makes me ponder, do some of the women force themselves to do something they do not want to because of the culture or do not call for help when they actually need it. Could be! Could not be! Probably just unwanted buzzers in my head. Generally, I have almost all the time observed polite, helpful and co operative nature from these lovely Scandinavians.

Parents are entitled to share 480 days, or around 16 months, of paid parental leave

The governmental policies are at the forefront in promoting and implementing such equality. The famed welfare system that promotes a healthy work–life balance has been a major factor in making Sweden a gender-egalitarian leader. This can be well seen in it’s attractive parental allowance system. Parents are entitled to share 480 days, or around 16 months, of paid parental leave when a child is born or even adopted.

To be clear, these leaves are for both parents combined, so that they equally share the responsibility of bringing up their kids. This unlike the majority of the Asian countries where the bulk responsibility is taken by the mother, though there seems to be a small shift in the trend now.

Of course, they say that Sweden has one of the most transparent governments in the world. The insurance, labour laws, working hours etc all promote and empower both genders to support each other and a healthy environment. Such facilities help promote equality between daughters, sons, husbands, wives and colleagues.

Sweden’s gender equality is a great example and one that showcases humanity and evolution.

Tack sa mycket!

Written by Junaid Shaikh

IT consultant, Software Quality Assurance, Sportsman, Gadget enthusiast, Tropical fish lover, Traveller and Socializer. From Mumbai, India. In Sweden since 2015 I love this Scandinavian country, the people, the environment, the work culture , the lifestyle etc. When I came here almost all the things seemed a bit alien to me when compared to my home country and needed quick adaptation. I now feel, I have a bit to share through my learnings and experiences and found ‘Newbie Guide to Sweden’ to be a great platform to do that. I hope whatever little I can share will make it easier for Newbies to know a bit more and integrate better with this country. Tack!

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