Comparison between Swedish and American data about the number of women performing key political and economic roles shows that gender equality in the United States is far from being a reality. In 2015, the rate of women in the US Congress was just 20%, while, only one year before, 43,6 % of the Swedish Parliament was held by women. These figures reflect a profound difference in the way the two countries handle social and gender policies.
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The welfare policy in Sweden aims at reaching gender equality in both family and professional environments. The parental leave is extended to fathers, and the government strives to maintain a fair gender proportion in the top positions in public agencies (Guðný & Rostgaard, 2016; Sweden, 2017). The Scandinavian welfare is universally known for promoting gender equality.
In the United States, social and gender policies lack strong imprinting from the central government and are left to the initiative of each state. As a consequence, they are conciliating work with family life is almost impossible for many mothers.
As already highlighted by Anne-Marie Slaughter in 2012, within the government and public environment, the schedules are not designed to match with the most common family commitments and compel women to demand feats to meet work and family requirements (Slaughter, 2012). Women pursuing a public career are just a minority. Apart from the need for social incentives, most women are discouraged by the lack of paid parental leave and have to cope even with harsh situations.
Paid parental leave has proved to bring several benefits to society. In addition to representing a crucial step toward real gender equality, paid parental leave favors the reconciliation of working and family life, affects the well-being of children positively and increases the fertility rate (Danzer & Lavy, 2018). From this perspective, the United States should introduce paid parental leave at a central government level, fostering the participation of women in public and private key positions and ensuring a fair division of these roles between genders.
Danzer, N., & Lavy, V. (2018). Paid parental leave and children’s schooling outcomes. The Economic Journal, 128(608), 81-117. Web.
Guðný, E. B., & Rostgaard, T. (Eds.). (2016). Fatherhood in the Nordic welfare states: Comparing care policies and practice. Bristol, United Kingdom: Policy Press.
Slaughter, A-M. (2012). Why women still can’t have it all. Web.
Sweden. (2017). Gender equality in Sweden. Web.