Swedish sport ‘ignoring gender equality laws’

Athletics in Sweden fail to live up to demands set by the country’s laws on gender equality, according to an investigation by the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman (Jämställdhetsombudsmannen - JämO).

The ombudsman examined the Swedish Sports Confederation (Riksidrottsförbundet) as well as 17 specialized athletic associations and found a general lack of interest and understanding of efforts to ensure gender balance in Swedish sport.

Most of the associations investigated lacked any plan whatsoever to address issues of equality, writes Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Ann-Marie Bergström in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

“The investigation shows that the majority of employers haven’t pursued their gender equality work in an active and goal oriented way as required by law. One has to ask themselves whether certain employers have any active or planned gender equity work at all,” she writes.

The lack of progress is especially glaring, according to Bergström, as the Sports Confederation decided back in 1999 to actively include a gender perspective in its daily activities.

JämO’s 2007 study found that only one athletic association fulfilled its requirements regarding equal pay for men and women.

More broadly, the JämO study reveals that staff salaries is one of the most difficult aspects of the law for athletic associations to fulfill.

The Ombudsman criticized thirteen associations for “lacking goals and active measures” to make it easier to unify work life with the responsibilities of parenting.

“In concrete terms, girls and women risk being disfavoured with respect to boys and men both when it comes to their influence over operations and the allocation of resources,” writes Bergström.

A total of sixteen associations had no policy or plan to combat sexual harassment and harassment based on gender.