It was a mixture of curiosity and disappointment that I read the results of the Dezeen gender diversity survey. What I found particularly interesting was that two of the three practices with executive management boards consisting of more women than men were Swedish: White Arkitekter and Tengbom.
Sweden is one of the world’s highest ranking countries for gender equality. Our cultural environment today has stemmed from a 1972 government initiative to make equal opportunities between the sexes a central political issue. Today, gender equality is one of the cornerstones of Swedish society. The aim of Sweden’s gender equality policies is to ensure that everyone enjoys the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all areas of life – and I believe this is reflected in Swedish workplaces.
Perhaps it is a little easier for practices like White to achieve gender equity at all levels of practice, when our cultural mindset is shaped and supported by government policy. For example, it seems that in the UK, one of the main barriers for women progressing to executive level is the lack of support for those who need to balance childcare and a professional career. Over the last 15 years in Sweden, we have really seen a greater effort to support and promote women in the workplace. Full-time childcare is guaranteed to all parents with children up to the age of 12; the aim is that nursery school and after-school is affordable for all.