In egalitarian Sweden it’s no surprise the country is brimming with inspiring women. Covering fields as diverse as politics, tech, business, and culture, Swedish women are not just making their mark on their homeland but around the world. Here are 13 you want to watch and become inspired by.
One of Sweden’s most powerful politicians and a big player on the international stage, Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Margot Wallström has been on the political scene since being elected to parliament at the age of 25. She’s served both inside and outside of Sweden, including as the European Commission’s first Vice President. She’s also the UN’s first Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and has a long track-record of tackling some of the thornier issues of our time.
She’s considered the most powerful businesswoman in Sweden and Azita Shariati did it through a potent mix of brains, moxy, and a lot of drive. Born in Iran, she landed in Sweden after visiting a boyfriend in Gothenburg, after which she decided to stay, learn Swedish and get her education. Thirty years later she’s Managing Director of Sodexo Sweden, and a powerful advocate of both gender equality and multiculturalism.
Known as the Queen of Shitty Robots, 25-year-old Simone Giertz is a professional YouTuber, inventor, maker and, of course, a robotics maniac. She herself uses the words ‘useless’ and ‘unnecessary’ when describing her creations but she may be displaying that famed Swedish humbleness, because the Wake-up Machine, which smacks you in the face with a rubber arm when the alarm goes off, is absolutely necessary for some of us. She’s quirky, smart, funny, charming – and above all she’s changing the way we view both women and invention.
Her name and face went viral when Tess Asplund faced-off with neo-Nazis during a far-right demonstration in Börlange, Sweden in 2016. Originally from Colombia, the tiny Asplund was fearless when faced with 300 far-right wing marchers, and has said she was so angry at what they represented that she stood right in the middle of the road and ‘did a Mandela fist’. Asplund is not new to the fight – she’s been an anti-racism activist for two decades and has no plans to stop. Impressive indeed in the world of today.
In a country brimming with sports stars and surrounded by water, you’d think there would be more top swimmers. Yet, while there have been plenty who have made their mark, few have done so quite as successfully as Sarah Sjöström. She’s the current world-record holder in, among other things: the 50-metre freestyle, the 100-metre freestyle, the 200-metre freestyle, and the 50- and 100-metre butterfly. She’s also the first Swedish woman to win Olympic gold in swimming – and she’s done all this before the age of 25.
At just age 25, Nikeisha Andersson has already made a big splash on the media scene, which should come as little surprise when you consider she kicked off her career at the age of 16, when Sony Music got in touch after they saw a film she made of a flashmob in Stockholm‘s Sergels torg. Andersson worked with Sony for two years making films, before moving on to PR agency Jung Relations. During that period she grabbed a slew of industry award nominations and then did what any self-respecting upstart with talent would do: started her own company, Nikeisha Andersson Film, which has produced videos and films for some of the biggest musicians on the scene.
Being a princess might sound like a life of ease and luxury but when it comes to Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria she’s taken a different route in life. Perhaps using the example of her mother, Queen Siliva, who founded the international charity the World Childhood Foundation, Victoria has put much of her focus on children, founding the non-profit GEN-PEP, which was created to raise awareness around youth health. This, in addition to her royal duties, which will see her become Sweden’s first queen regnant since the 18th century, means Victoria is a thoroughly modern princess.
Called the Mother of the Stockholm Startup Scene, Jessica Stark landed in the burgeoning tech world by chance, after a career in PR and communications. She was co-founder at Stockholm’s most prolific startup hub, SUP46, and while there she not only put the hub on the map, she was instrumental in developing the entire scene into what it is today: second only to Silicon Valley in terms of per-capita investment. This year she decided to leave her CEO position to take on new challenges, though she remains on the board and her influence will continue to be felt.
She’s young, she’s beautiful, she’s talented, she’s an icon to young women across the Western world. After winning the Swedish talent competition Talang Sverige in 2008, Zara Larsson parlayed that into, among other things, a chart-topping album, a performance at the 2016 UEFA Euro Championships, and a spot on Time Magazine‘s 30 Most Influential Teens of 2016. However, this grounded young lady isn’t a dilettante – she uses the power of her platform to bring attention to social issues while championing female empowerment.
The daughter of a teacher and a carpenter, Sofie Allert grew up in the small town of Skövde and it could have all ended there – a quiet life in rural Sweden where not much ever really happened. Instead, Allert attended the prestigious Chalmers University (sometimes called Sweden’s MIT) where, while doing her Bachelor thesis on how to produce bio-fuel from algae, she met Angela Wulff, who had discovered algae that could stand up to the cold and darkness of Northern Europe. The result was a new business that has developed a new kind of algae cultivation and wastewater treatment system. Sofie Allert is the future.
She’s among Sweden’s best-known businesswomen with a reach that goes far beyond the country’s borders. Daughter to famed Swedish investor and industrialist Jan Stenbeck (and granddaughter to Hugo Stenbeck, a legendary businessman in his own right) Cristina became chairperson of the family company, Kinnevik AB, in 2007, while serving on the boards of numerous important media companies, such as MTC and Metro International. After successfully running the company for nearly a decade, she left and began shaking up the tech world, both in Sweden and across Europe. She’s one of the most powerful women in the world and she’s not yet even 40.
Praised for her acting ability as well as her social activism, transgender actress Saga Becker overcame depression to become not only an award-winning actress – the Guldbagge Award for the film Nånting måste gå sönder (Something Must Break in English) – but also an ambassador for Suicide Zero. She works tirelessly to encourage the Swedish film industry to hire more transgender actors and actresses.
This Academy Award-winning actress (for The Danish Girl) got her start in small Swedish film and television roles, after training as a dancer at Stockholm’s Royal Swedish Ballet School and the School of American Ballet in New York. Not one to sit on her laurels or do what comes easily, Vikander has become one of the most sought-after young actresses in the world. And while she’s happy to do a blockbuster (Tomb Raider will be released in 2018), she’s also happy to appear in more experimental work. In the vein of some of Sweden’s most legendary actresses, Vikander keeps it low-key when it comes to her private life, letting the work speak for itself.