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Lessons from a Feminist Paradise on Equal Pay Day


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lessons-from-a-feminist-paradise-on-equal-pay-dayThe American:

Sweden seems to be an egalitarian, feminist utopia. So why are American women ahead of their Swedish counterparts in breaking through the glass ceiling?

Christina Hoff Sommers

April 9, 2013


On the surface, Sweden appears to be a feminist paradise. Look at any global survey of gender equity and Sweden will be near the top. Family-friendly policies are its norm — with 16 months of paid parental leave, special protections for part-time workers, and state-subsidized preschools where, according to a government website, “gender-awareness education is increasingly common.” Due to an unofficial quota system, women hold 45 percent of positions in the Swedish parliament. They have enjoyed the protection of government agencies with titles like the Ministry of Integration and Gender Equality and the Secretariat of Gender Research. So why are American women so far ahead of their Swedish counterparts in breaking through the glass ceiling?


In a 2012 report, the World Economic Forum found that when it comes to closing the gender gap in “economic participation and opportunity,” the United States is ahead of not only Sweden but also Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Sweden’s rank in the report can largely be explained by its political quota system. Though the United States has fewer women in the workforce (68 percent compared to Sweden’s 77 percent), American women who choose to be employed are far more likely to work full-time and to hold high-level jobs as managers or professionals. They also own more businesses, launch more start start-ups, and more often work in traditionally male fields. As for breaking the glass ceiling in business, American women are well in the lead, as the chart below shows.




What explains the American advantage? How can it be that societies like Sweden, where gender equity is relentlessly pursued and enforced, have fewer female managers, executives, professionals, and business owners than the laissez-faire United States? A new study by Cornell economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn gives an explanation.





Ever notice that all these articles/studies/panels/speeches only talk about "professional class" women, never about blue collar women?

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