Undercover Operations in No-women's Land. The Swedish Armed Forces through a Gender Lens.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


Since 1980, there are no formal restrictions for women to serve as officers wherever and in what positions they want to in the Swedish Armed Forces (SAF). In this thesis, the author examines what has been achieved so far in terms of integration of women, what the situation of female officers is looking like today, and what impact their presence has had on the military organisation.

The empirical ground of this thesis comprises three separate studies. The first one falls into the following three elements: - Analysis of statistical material from the Swedish Armed Forces databases, - Questionnaires sent out to female and male officers, and - Interviews.

The first study shows that male officers are promoted at a more rapid pace than their female colleagues, that female officers are underrepresented in the higher ranks, whereas over represented in the lower ones, and that female and male officers work at different positions in the organisation. The discrepancies in career paths can partly be explained by the concept of a “glass corridor”, meaning that the position through which an individual enters the organisation is crucial when setting the direction of the applicant’s career, leaving merely small options for future changes.

In the second study, one of the more structured efforts of the SAF to improve the conditions of female officers, a project named The Creative Difference, is being analysed. The empirical grounds of the second study are e.g. official documents related to the above project, and shows that the discourse on minority issues has been changing – from broaching gender integration matters into dealing with diversity – primarily based on a multiplicity cultures and multi-ethnicity. One interpretation is that women seen as a group are marginalized in the official discussions on minorities, thus minimising the potential risk of the SAF being compelled to take measures that would actually increase the number of serving women.

The purpose of the third and last study is to highlight some of the ways in which femininity is constructed within the SAF. Here a number of situations are described and the inherent constructions of femininity brought up for discussion. The dimensions of femininity proven in this study are that women play the role of outsiders and that their main contribution is either as sources of pleasure or service-providers, whereas men are involved in combat.

The overall findings of this thesis, with regard to the current situation of female officers in the SAF, are marginalisation and segregation of women seen as a group, especially in terms of lacking power. It is also evident from the thesis that even though there are no more any formal restrictions in opportunities for women, there is still a very strong resistance in the shape of organisational culture. One, maybe rather provocative issue based on these results, is whether this resistance can prevail due to the fact that the main part of the Armed Forces, the Army, has not been put to the test in live operations for some two hundred years.


  • Anders W Berggren
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • equality, military, gender, armed forces, organisational culture, organizational culture, power, officers, Industrial psychology, industripsykologi, Arbetspsykologi
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2002 Sep 28
  • Anders W Berggren, Solhagavägen 36, S-163 52 Spånga, Sweden,
Print ISBNs91-89683-09-9
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2002-09-28 Time: 10:15 Place: September 28, 2002. Kulturens Hörsal, Lund. External reviewer(s) Name: Sundin, Elisabeth Title: Professor Affiliation: [unknown] --- Article: 1. Organisational Culture Manifested as Organisational Structures - Identifying the Gender Glass Corridor in the Swedish Armed Forces. Article: 2. Diversity at the Expense of Gender Equality. Article: 3. Was there a Striptease at Work today, Honey?