The World's Best Country for Women
By Abigail Haworth
Photo Credit: Martin Adolfsson
For Ebba, freedom from traditional roles means she has never experienced the turmoil of choosing between her high-profile job and a happy home life. "Few Swedish men expect women to be domestic or subservient," she says. "My boyfriend accepts that my job involves constant meetings and traveling, and he's happy that I enjoy it." Ebba's live-in boyfriend, who works 9-to-5 for a leather company, also does the household chores. According to one study, Swedish men do more housework than men anywhere else an average of 24 hours per week!
While her boyfriend cleans house, Ebba focuses on being a role model for the 250,000 young female readers of her magazine. The glossy is a classic mix of style and beauty tips, but Ebba refuses to run articles about dieting or fads that might endanger women's health. "I try to convey that beauty is about self-respect, not about impossible ideals," she says. Nevertheless, she's a firm believer that Swedish women don't have to give up their femininity. "I love makeup, I wear pink, and I'm obsessed with handbags," she confesses. "I'm proof that you can be both smart and womanly. I get thousands of letters from girls saying that I inspire them."
In fact, most women in Sweden find it easy to meld femininity with feminist ideals. Carin Gablad, 49, is Stockholm's chief of police, in charge of fighting crime in the capital with a force of 4600 officers. "My approach is the opposite of macho," says the tall, blonde police boss. "I use psychology and negotiation in most cases, but I'm not afraid to use brute force."
Chief Gablad owes her high position to one simple fact: She gets results. Crime has dropped by 9 percent under her leadership, and shortly after taking office in 2003, she won acclaim by capturing a top politician's murderer. "Women make excellent police officers because we're less ego-driven and confrontational than men," she says. Nearly one in three police officers in Stockholm is a woman, and female recruits now outnumber men at some police training academies. "I think women are increasingly keen to join professions like the police because they are no longer told to act like men," she says. "They are rewarded for being themselves."