Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Women in power

Swedish situation (original contents)

A common complaint, in particular in Sweden, is that there are too few female executives, members of cabinet, and so on; and, despite Sweden having an unusually high female representation, demands for quotas are regularly raised. In fact, several Swedish leftist parties have internal quotas—which do more harm than good, because women who are not up to the task are given posts that would otherwise have gone to more able men.


Beware that they are not less able through being women, but through being artificially selected: For one thing, there are more qualified men around than there are women (cf. e.g. my discussion of differences in ability), which means that there are not enough women around that are sufficiently suitable—and the artificially chosen must be picked from those unsuitable. For another, men and women have different priorities, and a lesser proportion of the intelligent women have the drive to both develop their abilities and to have a top-level career—which further diminishes the pool of strong female candidates compared to the pool of male candidates.

Highly intelligent, well educated, and rational women should be welcomed into politics. However, under no circumstances do I want people like the following to gain power (descriptions current in 2010):

  1. Mona Sahlinw: An uneducated woman, who only failed to become Sweden’s first female prime minister through the revelation of her expense-account fraud. She is now the leader of the Social Democrats.

  2. Wanja Lundby-Wedinw: A nurse with no higher qualifications, who became a Social-Democratic big shot and leader of national and international trade unions.


    The Swedish Social-Democratic movement is divided into a political and a union arm. Wanja Lundby-Wedin is the leader of the latter; Mona Sahlin the leader of the former. At the moment, with a non-leftist government, the union arm is by far the more powerful.

  3. Gudrun Schymanw: With a low-level college degree in social work, she became leader of the Communist Party, but was forced to resign due to tax fraud. This after her severe alcohol problems had made her infamous—including several Jeltsinesque public appearances. She is now trying to push a gender-feminist agenda outside of conventional parties.

  4. Margot Wallströmw Another uneducated woman, who has held several cabinet posts, almost became leader of the Social Democrats (declined of own volition), and has been given international assignments of import—while not displaying enough competence that I, personally, would consider hiring her for any qualified position (let alone appointing her to office).

Give me instead Angela Merkel, a Ph.D. carrying physicist with a background in academic work; or Margaret Thatcher, with successful studies in chemistry, a period as a research chemist, and another as a barrister—we may or may not agree with their ideology, we may or may not consider them good leaders, but we cannot deny that they are in a very different league competence-wise. Hell, I would even take Hillary Clinton over the Swedish ragtag of anti- and pseudo-intellectuals (not, however, with great enthusiasm).


The problem of unqualified politicians is by no means limited to women—in fact, I consider the problem so severe that I am in favour of strict criteria to combat it, possibly that an MP must have a Master’s degree and a certified IQ of at least 130, with a Ph.D. and an IQ > 140 for a cabinet post. (With similar rules applying to e.g. judges, higher level civil servants, and the like.)

However, the problem is particularly obvious in the Swedish left, where women are given preference based on their being women, and where education and intelligence are often frowned upon.

Another twist: Something that I have repeatedly seen in Swedish news is that an odd number of governmental posts, e.g. director of this-and-that, are filled at the same time. Say that four out of seven go to men, three to women: Immediately the appointments are attacked for discriminating against women. (With the opposite numbers, I can recall no such attack taking place.) This despite it being obvious that a 50–50 distribution is impossible (even if it were beneficial, which is dubious), and that one of the sexes must be in the majority by mathematical necessity. The implicit assumption is that anything less than four women is wrong, with the result that women would necessarily gain a majority over time. (As a further complication: Looking at the number of candidates and/or their respective qualifications, it is very often the case that appointing even three women is only possible by discriminating against men, by applying unequal criteria.)


Such absurdities are not limited to Sweden: What the Brits are up toe is fully on par with all but the very worst Swedish examples.

Addendum on women in German politics

I am currently (January 2012, several years after writing the above) skimming through a German book on incompetent politicians (Thomas Wieczorek, “Die Dilettanten”). While slaughtering more-or-less any politician of note in Germany, the author only sees six as “completely incompetent?” (in the chapter titled “Komplett inkompetent?”). Of these, 5 belong to SPD (Social-Democrats, main left party), one CDU (Conservatives). Furthermore, four are women and two men (both SPD).

This estimate is the subjective opinion of one man. (I do not necessarily agree or disagree with his take on any individual politician—but whole-heartedly agree that most of them are idiots, over-focused on their careers and personal power, opportunistic, or otherwise unsuitable for public office.) Furthermore, there is always a possibility of partisanship; however, from the overall text, he seems to be decidedly left-leaning, for instance by using every opportunity to loudly complain about Neoliberalism. Correspondingly, if anything, “truer” estimates would give a better image of the CDU and a worse of SPD.

His category of “Completely incompetent?”, however, well matches my own impression: Complete incompetence is more common among female politicians than male, more common among leftish politicians than rightish, and the most common among the women on the left. Indeed, breaking down the numbers further, we have three SPD women, two SPD men, one CDU woman, and not one single CDU man.


Beware the dangers of small samples and the possibility of other proportions for other levels of incompetence.

Further note that these numbers may need adjustment for the proportions of male/female and CDU/SPD politicians to give a more accurate view.

Looking at the most flattering category, “Wer kann und tut was?” (very roughly: Who knows and does something?), the picture is similar (m.m.):

Two men and two women (including Angela Merkel) from CDU; three men from SPD.

(But note that these are still strongly criticized, referred to as the one-eyed among the blind.)

If we semi-jokingly move away even further from stringency and look at the differences between values, we see that CDU men “score” +2 (2 - 0), CDU women and SPD men +1 (2 - 1 resp. 3 - 2), and SPD women -3 (0 - 3). Should we welcome women in German politics? Yes—but not when they come from the left...