Being the heart of Scandinavia, a region highly praised for its equality and high standards of human rights, gender inequality is often an issue overlooked. Granted, the situation of gender inequality may seem “trivial” compared to what’s happening in other parts of the world. But, inequality is inequality. It hinders how women progress at work and their image in the society.
Gender inequality is a global issue, more deep-rooted in some countries than others. Through my time working in Sweden, there are several things I noticed about how women are seen in professional workspaces. I don’t doubt Sweden is already leading in achieving equality, but this just further demonstrates how serious gender inequality is than we think.
The skewed government fundings for female entrepreneurs
According to Harvard Business Review, one-third of the businesses are owned and run by women in Sweden. Yet, the amount of fundings they get is disproportionate to that ratio. Only a shocking 13%-18% of government funding is allocated to female entrepreneurs.
The selected panel observed in the study consisted of seven judges, two women and five men. In the final round of face-to-face meetings, only 21% of candidates were female. The study resonates with what I witnessed in Sweden. I worked with female entrepreneurs that struggled to build up her brand because very few investors would be willing to give them a chance to present their ideas. Even if they do get the chance, they will most likely lose to their male competitors.
Stereotypical gender images are still prevalent
From the same study done by Harvard Business Review above, comments from judges were recorded. A striking number of those comments are related to gender stereotypes, females get judged by their appearance and looks as opposed to entrepreneurial qualities. Females are often questioned about their credibility and knowledge. Whereas for men, judges fortified the stereotypes that men are innovative, trustworthy and able.
I’m no stranger to being judged by my appearance where my male colleagues can show up in jeans and t-shirt and still get praised for his work. Several times I showed up to meetings, ready to present my work, I was told “you look really pretty today”, “what a nice dress you are wearing”, “nice hair color”. Not once did I hear my male colleagues getting compliments about his tie or his hair. When my male colleagues were at the scene, they went straight to business.
If I showed up to work not all done up, I would sometimes get comments like “is everything okay? Why don’t you care about your image anymore?” They would assume something bad must’ve happened to me and thus my work quality would decrease accordingly. Hilariously enough, when my male colleagues showed up to work in the same fashion, with jeans and a t-shirt, they got praised “I like how you put your focus on your work and not your looks”. I unironically laughed at that because it was so ridiculous that it was just funny.
Women are assumed their capabilities because of their gender
In my line of work, the majority of people I work with are males. Working with a laptop most of the time, I can’t recall how many times I was challenged about my knowledge with tech stuff because of my gender.
A lot of times, people think they are simply cracking an innocent joke “she doesn’t know how to fix it, she is a girl”. Jokes like this aren’t innocent. It directly undermines my efforts at work. I have to work twice as hard to prove my worth and my gender has nothing to do with it.
Work was occasionally taken from me because they preferred to give it to a guy more “trustworthy”. At the end, people believe when it comes to tech/computer stuff, they’d rather bring it to a guy.
Gender inequality is a global issue
Even in the most advanced society, gender inequality is still an issue to combat. Sweden gives equal rights to everyone. However, how those rights are exercised and executed determines how resources are allocated and women’s status in society.
Things may seem innocuous, but it’s harming women and annihilating their efforts at work and their contribution. Women in professional fields are often discriminated and have their abilities judged because of their gender. Unconscious biases are one of the biggest hindrances for women progressing in their fields. In many occasions, they aren’t even given a chance to prove their work because jobs and opportunities are taken from them
Being a female worker, I’m always proud to hear other female professionals taking their names out there. I know it’s not easy to make it, at least not for the majority of us. That’s why I decided to start speaking up about it and created a site dedicated to women empowerment.
Equality will be a long fight, but it will be one worth fighting for.