A global immersion course to Sweden proved there’s more to the country than meets the eye, according to Tuck professor Hanne Pico Larsen and MBA student Charlotte Eisenberg T’23.
The title of the Sweden GIX was Gender Equality, Sustainability, and Lifestyle Branding—a GIX in search of fashionable welfare. Sweden has so much to offer on this front.
Our wonderful team was made up of a truly diverse group of both T’23s and T’24s who brought different expertise, interests, and backgrounds. All were eager to live the experience, to sift and sort through our many impressions, and to take home with us—both big and small—the lessons we gained.
If you look at the various learning goals for a GIX, we checked all the boxes—and a few more. On the first day we arrived there was a snowstorm, but we trotted onward to meet with professor Per Strömberg of Stockholm School of Economics and Nick Baum D’05, founder of Storyworth. Both shared their life stories and values in life, which served as the foundation of all our other visits. At Vogue Scandinavia, Editor-in-Chief Martina Bonnier offered us good advice: Do not think only about what your future employer (and other relations) can give you; work on your own story and what YOU have to offer in return. Her tireless work creating a Scandinavian universe in the fashion media was truly inspirational.
“At Vogue Scandinavia, Editor-in-Chief Martina Bonnier offered us good advice: Do not think only about what your future employer (and other relations) can give you; work on your own story and what YOU have to offer in return.”
Cristina J. S. Ljungberg T’01 hosted a full day focused on exploring issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion at various artsy institutions and in her own beautiful home. That day was an important day to me. The gifted speakers showed us that, even when living in what is commonly thought of as an equal society, there is still lots of work to be done—and that we have to be part of the solution.
We ended the evening at Misschiefs, the womxn arts collective, eating Indian food and looking each other deep in the eyes in a shared exercise led by one of the residing artists. I would love to go back and re-live those moments. In Gothenburg, we learned everything about ball-bearings at SKF, one of Sweden’s old internationally-acclaimed companies, and spent the afternoon at Volvo Group’s Campus x, where we learned a great deal about electrical trucks, sustainability in the world of logistics, and long haul. We heard about their venture capital strategies and incubators where they hatch new ideas—Wow!
We visited the port of Gothenburg, the largest industrial port of Scandinavia. Back up in Stockholm we did fieldwork for Burton and visited Asket, a young sustainable fashion company. The students were flabbergasted and acted as if we were attending a rock-concert. At the Abba Museum, we met with Abba´s costume designer, Owe Sandström, who was so alive and kicking with good stories. The slogan of the museum is: “walk in, dance out.” I am still dancing (queen).
Last, but not least, we met with Ian Richardson at Stockholm Business School, and had coffee with executive MBA students. Ian helped us sum up and put our Swedish experiences into perspective(s). Well done! The students were also busy in their spare time, but you have to ask them about that. We were all over the place in Sweden, however, it all came together so beautifully, and I am so grateful to all the participants, speakers, hosts, and colleagues in Sweden who helped me make this program so diverse, fun, and really thought-provoking. So much fashionable welfare in Sweden!
Long before I embarked on my GIX, I had always been intrigued by Sweden. I admired the country’s balanced lifestyle, minimalist design, and progress towards gender equality. In my mind, Sweden was a utopia where everyone was beautiful, and everything was fair. In terms of social services, Swedish citizens receive excellent and free health care from the country’s national health service. Childcare is accessible and the education system is compulsory—even universities are fully subsidized for Swedes as well as EU citizens. In addition, all Swedish parents, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or relationship status, are eligible for 480 days of paid parental leave. For an outsider looking in, life in Sweden looks ideal.
Once I arrived to Sweden, however, and our course progressed, our various hosts began to probe beneath the surface of this ideal state. While it is true that Sweden has tremendous government benefits, a comfortable middle class, and a comparatively progressive society, we examined the tensions that also exist in parallel. In Sweden, citizens pay a high-income tax, but a low capital gains tax, effectively allowing the rich to get richer and pay fewer taxes than the average citizen. And while it is also true that both men and women have generous and equitable parental leave, women are still underrepresented in positions of power and ownership, resulting in a significant wage gap between genders. Like many other places in the world, life in Sweden is nuanced, and I’m not sure I would have understood these complexities without my GIX experience.
“Swedes value self-sufficiency, inspiring a culture that values independence and equality. At the same time, Swedes rely on community, manifesting in a reverence for government and a desire for harmony.”
Ultimately, after spending ten days in Stockholm and Gothenburg, I have a newfound appreciation for what makes Swedish culture unique. I understand traditional Swedish mores and the evolution of its political institutions which explain the Sweden we know today. Swedes value self-sufficiency, inspiring a culture that values independence and equality.
At the same time, Swedes rely on community, manifesting in a reverence for government and a desire for harmony. Thanks to our generous hosts, I was able to see these Swedish values come to life firsthand. Some of my favorite visits were with the editor-in-chief of Vogue Scandinavia and the CEO of capsule clothing brand ASKET who both demonstrated how pushing boundaries through design, representation, and sustainability make up the fabric of Swedish culture. I am so grateful for my GIX experience and the opportunity to gain a new perspective on how business is done in another part of the world.
Global Insight Expeditions (GIXs) help students develop cultural awareness, empathy for the thoughts and attitudes of local people, and agility to adapt their behavior to successfully navigate different business environments through structured reflection. Each course begins with classroom sessions on Tuck’s campus. Students then travel with one or two faculty members where they engage with corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, community leaders, government officials, and local people from different walks of life.