Gender equality policy in Sweden

Equality between women and men is a constitutional norm and an explicit policy objective in Sweden. The ultimate aim of Swedish gender equality policy is for women and men to have the same opportunities, rights and responsibilities in all areas of life.

How gender equal is Sweden?

The Swedish Gender Equality Agency monitors and analyses the six gender equality policy objectives.

Important years for gender equality in Sweden

Compulsory elementary school is introduced for girls and boys.

Unmarried women (widows, divorcees) are allowed to work, but only in crafts and trade.

The demand for universal and equal suffrage had been a major issue in politics since the end of the 19th century. The first motion for equal political rights for women and men was raised in the Riksdag in 1884 but was rejected. The issue kept resurfacing, but without result.

The first bill on suffrage and eligibility for women in parliamentary elections was presented in 1912 but was voted down in the conservative-dominated first chamber. Outside the Riksdag, there was a strong campaign for women's suffrage i.a. through special associations.

Historically speaking, the right to vote is one of the major issues of the women's movement. On 24 May 1919, the Riksdag decided on universal and equal voting rights for women and men. The reform was carried out following proposals from a coalition government consisting of liberals and social democrats. In 1921, the first election is held where women could vote.

After the 1921 election, five women took a seat in the Riksdag. In the first chamber, Kerstin Hesselgren was elected by liberals and social democrats. In the second chamber, four women were elected: the liberal Elisabeth Tamm, the social democrat Agda Östlund and Nelly Thüring and Bertha Wellin, the Lantmanna- and borgare party. Women's representation in the Riksdag increased rather slowly in the following years. This was especially true in the first chamber, with its eight-year terms of office and indirect election method. In the second chamber, which was directly elected by voters every four years, the increase was somewhat faster.

The law stipulated that women, with certain specified exceptions, would be equal to men in terms of eligibility to hold office (civil service). The Act was passed in June 1923 and came into force in July 1925. The services exempted were mainly military and police. Special regulations applied to clerical positions. Many women's organisations had participated in the long-term pressure work that led to this reform, but particularly large efforts were made by the Association of Academically Formed Women, founded in 1904.

Gender mainstreaming

The use of gender mainstreaming as a strategy to reach the Swedish gender equality goals dates back to 1994. According to the strategy, gender equality work must be integrated into the regular operations and not merely be dealt with as a separate, parallel track.

Read more about gender mainstreaming