Offering 480 days of parental leave
Sweden, which has a population of about 10 million people, has the most generous paid parental leave policy in the world. Parents get 480 days of leave to share, 390 of which are paid out at 80 percent. (Single parents are entitled to the full 480 days.) These days can be used until the child turns 8. Sweden’s parental leave policy also applies to adopting parents.
Deconstructing gender in education
Starting with preschool, many of Sweden’s government-funded schools are doing what they can to “counteract traditional gender roles and gender patterns,” my colleague Ellen Barry reported last year. State curriculum even “urges preschool teachers and principals to embrace their role as social engineers.”
How are they doing that? Preschool teachers, for example, “avoid referring to their students’ gender,” Barry reported. They say “friends” instead of “boys and girls,” and play is organized to prevent children from sorting themselves by gender.
Today, girls generally earn better grades and perform better in national tests than boys, according to Sweden’s official website. And women now earn nearly two-thirds of all university degrees in Sweden. (Oh yeah, another thing: Swedish colleges and universities are free.)
Adopting gender-neutral pronouns (and quickly)
In 2012, the gender-neutral pronoun “hen” was introduced and swiftly absorbed into mainstream Swedish culture, something that, linguists say, has never happened in another country.
Prosecuting crimes against women
Last year, the Swedish Parliament passed a law requiring explicit consent from participants before they engage in a sexual act. “Sex must be voluntary — if it is not, then it is illegal” was the language used in the law, which aims to change the way sexual crimes are prosecuted in the country.
And 20 years earlier, in 1998, Sweden passed the Act on Violence Against Women, which pertains to crimes against women by current or former spouses or live-in partners. Under the law, men can be sentenced for each instance of physical abuse or sexual and psychological degradation against a woman.