Cheap women

The wage gap between men and women hasn't changed in the last twenty years, according to a new report from Jämo, the equality ombudsman's department. And it's female professionals who are facing the greatest inequalities.

Following the news a couple of weeks ago that men are paid more in every single industry sector in Sweden, Saturday’s Expressen revealed that for women “the further on in their career they are and the higher their level of education, the greater the wage gap.”

Jämo’s Marie Trollvik told the paper that women’s difficulties in reaching the top has a lot to do with women’s own preconceptions about what they can do.

“We women maybe don’t dare to try for, or even show interest in, the top jobs,” she said. “Maybe we think it’s too hard.”

So much for girl power. In fact, both Göteborgs Posten and Expressen carried stories this week which suggested that women face a far greater workplace foe than their own lack of self-confidence – stupid male bosses.

First to Gothenburg, where 20-year old Susanne Rutgersson was offered a job on 12,400 crowns a month as a receptionist at Gothenburg Shipping Logistics. On her first day in the job they told her that in fact she would be paid only 9,000 crowns a month throughout the three summer months.

Susanne questioned the discrepancy and said that she had spoken to her union, HTF, who agreed that the wage was ‘laughable’. An hour later she was told that the job had gone to someone else.

“At first it seemed like a good place to work,” she said, adding that in the interview the company said that it followed the HTF rules for a minimum wage. What they didn’t say was that they ignored those rules in the summer. The manager, Johnny Olsson, gave a full and frank explanation of the company’s actions:

“I don’t know. We just decided. I think it’s a reasonable salary – to be a receptionist doesn’t require any education at all.”

27-year old Maria Hjelm experienced similarly clumsy recruitment practices when she applied for a sales job at Textilhuset in Uddevalla.

“After three interviews they said I was too young and inexperienced to work in the sales department,” Maria, who has six years’ sales experience, told Monday’s Expressen.

“Instead they offered me a job in the office, with the explanation that as a woman I could do their cooking and washing up.”

Maria then found out that the person who got the job was younger, less experienced – and male. So she contacted Jämo, who initiated negotiations between Maria’s union and Textilhuset’s managing director, Hans Åsenfors.

The company was found to have broken equality and employee protection legislation, and agreed to pay a settlement of 24,500 crowns to Maria. Explaining that he only settled so he “could concentrate on more important things”, Åsenfors was unrepentant.

“This wasn’t about equality. This was about personal chemistry.”

Meanwhile, both of Wednesday’s tabloids set the campaign for equality back a few decades by publishing picture specials of the previous evening’s Miss Universe competition. Katarina Wigander, Sweden’s representative, did not win.