What is gender equality?

Gender equality means that women and men have the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities in all areas of life.

In Sweden, the term gender equality became established when the issue of legislation against gender discrimination entered the political debate in the early 1970s.

Sweden’s first gender equality law was passed in 1979, mandating equality between women and men in the labour market.

An ambition to increase gender equality in society is an ambition to give all people an opportunity to shape their own lives without being limited by gender stereotypes. The overarching goal of the gender equality policy is that women and men are to have the same power to shape society and their own lives.

More than gender equal distribution

Gender equality is not a simple matter of achieving equal gender distribution in various contexts; it also refers to attitudes, norms, values and ideals that affect the lives of women and men in the many areas of society.

The work to improve gender equality is therefore carried out with two different focuses, where one helps us to create a clear picture of different situations and conditions using measurable factors, while the other problematises and examines what norms and values generate the reported figures.

Neither women nor men constitute homogeneous groups. People’s opportunities in life are also affected by the socioeconomic groups they belong to, where in the country they live, their ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, ableness and other factors.

As a result, an important task in gender equality work is to consider how all of these categories interact with and influence each other. Only then is it possible to understand how various causes of inequality and discrimination may lead to differing conditions for groups or individuals – an understanding that is needed in order to design appropriate interventions.

Publication date: 23 November 2021

Last updated: 13 June 2024