Photo: Catarina Axelsson/MFA
In recent years, the number of women in the Swedish Foreign Service has been increasing. The trend is particularly evident in management posts.
In total, 60 per cent of Swedish Foreign Service employees are women. The proportion has remained relatively consistent over the last 20 years. But if we look more closely at the figures for management posts, there has been a clear change over time at all levels. Among managers in the Swedish Foreign Service last year, 43 per cent were women and 57 per cent men. Ten years ago the proportion of women managers was 31 per cent, and in 1996 it was just 17 per cent.
“The Human Resources Department works to achieve a modern and gender-equal foreign service by means of a strategic personnel policy. This involves using recruitment and staffing to ensure that women and men are equally represented in everything from programmes for administrative services such as the third secretary programme, the foreign service administrator programme and the Diplomatic Training Programme,” says Head of Human Resources Lena Nordström, and continues:
“When staffing, we also try to strike a balance between women and men, as well as junior and senior officials at missions abroad and in Sweden. We need a variety of experiences and curiosity, different perspectives and expertise to be able to contribute to the implementation of foreign policy.”
Twenty years ago, just ten per cent of ambassadors were women. Ten years later, the proportion had risen to 32 per cent, and today 40 per cent of heads of mission abroad are women.
At head of department level, too, the proportion of women has increased: from 28 per cent in 2006 to 44 per cent today. The largest increase is found at head of group level: in 2006, 33 per cent were women, while today the figure is 63 per cent. The proportion of women and men in deputy head posts remains approximately the same now as in 2006, at just over 50 per cent.
The majority of managers are recruited through the Swedish Foreign Service internal rotation system. The recruitment base is thus the lower management levels, the majority of whom are now women. This guarantees continued good prospects of achieving a full gender balance in senior management posts.
At senior official level, three out of five posts are currently held by women.
It is also worth noting that all three ministers in the Swedish Foreign Service are women, along with three out of four state secretaries.
The number of women employed as desk officers has also increased: in 1996 women made up 45 per cent of such posts, which had increased to 55 per cent by 2006, and last year the proportion of women had reached 59 per cent.
However, there is a serious imbalance of women and men in administrative positions in the Swedish Foreign Service. This imbalance is found at all levels. Large numbers of administrative staff have retired in recent years, with more staff due to retire. In the current recruitment of new foreign service administrators and third secretaries for missions abroad, the MFA is thus paying particular attention to the need to recruit more men.
Proportion of women in management posts 2016:
Heads of missions abroad (ambassadors and consuls-general): 40%
Stockholm-based ambassadors: 62%
Heads of department at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs: 44%
Deputy heads of department: 52%
Heads of group: 63 %
Gender distribution in the Swedish Foreign Service in numbers: