Equality is a cornerstone in Swedish society. Sweden has, in effect, an almost single-class society. The government consists of nearly equal numbers of men and women, and almost everyone in the country is on a first-name basis.
In Swedish culture, there is a strong belief that a more just and democratic society results from women and men sharing power and influence equally. Women and men in Sweden have the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all areas of life. Equality is such a big part of Swedish society that there are two specific words for it in Swedish: jämställdhet, for gender equality, and jämlikhet, for equality in general.
In order to support these ideals, a well-developed welfare system is in place that makes it easier for both genders to balance their work and family life. Sweden is one of the world leaders in gender equality according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2008.
Beyond gender issues, Sweden supports a wider scope of equality. Here, professional titles are rarely used when addressing another person, and the social hierarchy is flat. Laws are in place to ensure that salaries are not affected by gender or ethnicity. The Equality Ombudsman is the government organization that protects against discrimination on several grounds, such as religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or disability. Other laws are in place to protect employees or applicants from harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
The Swedish school system aims to stop prejudice before it leads to inequality. For this reason, gender pedagogy is increasingly common in Swedish preschools. The goal is to give children the same opportunities in life, regardless of their gender, through teaching methods that allow each child to grow into a unique individual. The Swedish government has appointed a special committee to find more ways to boost gender equality in schooling and adult education.