Gender, Military Effectiveness, and Organizational Change: The Swedish Model

By Haring, Ellen | Parameters, Autumn 2014 | Go to article overview

Gender, Military Effectiveness, and Organizational Change: The Swedish Model


Haring, Ellen, Parameters


Gender, Military Effectiveness, and Organizational Change: The Swedish Model

By Robert Egnell with Petter Hojem and Hannes Berts

New York; Palgrave Macmillan 2014

200 pages

$95.00

Despite annual rankings placing Sweden at the top of the UN's list of most gender-integrated countries in the world, their military remains strongly resistant to the complete integration of women. A 1980 Swedish Equality Act opened all military occupations and positions to women. Today, Swedish women serve in all combat and combat support specialties and have done so for more than 20 years. While the military has officially opened its doors to women, they serve as a fractional minority and in almost no senior decision making positions. Sweden, acknowledging that the military has not met integration aspirations, is now tackling gender equality in its most resistant organization: their Armed Forces.

Dr. Robert Egnell's book is an effort to capture and chronicle Sweden's innovative and evolving approaches to organizational change within the Swedish Armed Forces. Accepting and embracing the goals established in 2000 and 2008 by UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820, which advanced the requirement for women to be included as full partners in peace and security operations, Sweden moved aggressively to create a culture that integrates a "gender perspective" in all areas of military activities. Egnell notes that Sweden's effort is a work in progress but many emerging insights merit consideration by US policy makers.

One of the most important insights of this book is Sweden's decision to focus on infusing the organization with a heightened gender perspective (a way of assessing gender-based differences of women and men as reflected in their social roles and interaction, the relative distribution of power and their access to resources). This gender perspective is intended to be broad based, looking both internally (at the institution itself) and externally (at operational effectiveness).

Early debates considered whether the approach should be about "what is the right thing to do" or "what is the smart thing to do. …

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