The Armed Forces are one of Sweden's largest government organizations, and one of the most gender-segregated and male-dominated among them. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and their leaders and commanders have long been men only. Though women could join patriotic volunteer military organizations as early as the 1900's, it was not until 1980 that they were first allowed to enter the military as volunteers-but in specific positions only. Such restrictions were removed in 1989, however, and there have been no formal limitations since then on the roles and units for which women can apply in any of the armed services. 1 Today, 37 years after the first Swedish females saw professional military service, the number of servicewomen amounts to 8.4% of the active-duty force. While that proportion has long remained stable, the Armed Forces have now decided to increase it-though they admit to experiencing difficulties in recruiting and retaining women. In line with current legislation, the Swedish military is required to treat all persons equally, and is actively engaged in ongoing developmental work to ensure that their treatment is premised on merit, competence and proficiency, 2 irrespective of gender. This should be achieved more easily in the military than elsewhere since it is marked by a unique culture, team spirit and a manner of dress intended to generate solidarity and to create trust among the women and men who serve in it and, in the most profound meaning of the phrase, are prepared to sacrifice their lives if necessary. 3 From time immemorial, to defend the country against armed attack at the possible cost of one's own life was a man's role, and only in the most recent decades have women taken part in that effort. Despite developmental work and policy programmes to the contrary, the Swedish Armed Forced have not succeeded in integrating women into the organization to any particularly large extent. 4 This makes it especially interesting to probe what it means and feels like to be a woman in today's military. The purpose of this study is to develop a deeper understanding of the experiences of female military personnel in a traditionally male-dominated organization.
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