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Sveriges statsminister Magdalena Andersson
Sveriges första kvinnliga statsminister Magdalena Andersson (s).
Photo: Kristian Pohl/Regeringskansliet
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Symbolically important but the same policies with female prime minister

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Now that the Riksdag has voted in favour of Magdalena Andersson, Sweden has gained its first female prime minister. This historical event, which takes place exactly 100 years after Swedish women were enfranchised for the first time, has received widespread attention. Symbolically, it matters that there is a woman at the top. That policies will be different is however, doubtful, according to Birgitta Niklasson, senior lecturer in political science.

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Birgitta Niklasson
Birgitta Niklasson<br /> Photo: Carl-Henrik Trapp
Photo: Carl-Henrik Trapp

Will it be noticed that Sweden now has a female prime minister?

“When it comes to the content of policies, I do not think there will be any difference. But I think people will talk about it and that the media will analyze it on the basis that she is a woman. However, it is not clear that a woman gaining this type of overarching national leadership means that she will pursue political issues which appear to favour women specifically”.

 “But symbolically it plays a role, and the value of a female role model should not be underestimated. As such, Magdalena Andersson can inspire other women in politics and in other areas. This is also related to the idea of justice. If we assume that women and men are equal in terms of knowledge and skills, over time there should be as many women as men who become prime ministers. If there is a systematic deviation from this, it indicates that there are unfair structures in society. That is why it is important to have a female prime minister. It shows that it is possible for women to reach the highest political position, even if they encounter greater obstacles than men do in getting there”.

 Why do you not think that the political content will be different?

“As prime minister, Magdalena Andersson represents everyone, not just women. If there had never been any women in politics, it would have looked different in Sweden today. In the beginning, when women entered politics, they mainly pursued issues that were important to women, such as the expansion of daycare centers. Women still pursue issues that largely are more relevant to women than men, but the division is less clear today.

 Is female leadership different from male leadership?

“There are expectations that women will have a different leadership style. That men's leadership style are more hierarchical and controlling, while women’s are more communicative and less abrasive. But the research is divided in this regard and there is no unequivocal research that shows that women have a different leadership style”.

Finally, the five Nordic countries all have a common focus on gender equality. How is it that Sweden is the last country in the Nordic region to have a female prime minister?

“It is hard to say. My first thought is that although there have been several candidates within, for example, the Social Democrats, for various reasons it has just not happened. Anna Lindh was seen as one of the main candidates to succeed Göran Persson, but we all know why it did not happen. Then Mona Sahlin led the Social Democrats in the 2010 election, but she resigned after the Alliance won for the second time”.

By: Ulrika Lundin