Abstract: Setting a Trend: Feminization of the Commercial Bank Sector in Sweden, 1864-1975

Kajsa Holmberg and Maria Stanfors


When Stockholms Enskilda Bank hired two women in 1864, it was presumably the first bank in the world to do so. The fashion of hiring women gradually spread, and bank telling became female-dominated. We describe and analyze this process, identifying three periods in the feminization of the Swedish commercial bank sector. Economic, institutional, technological, and cultural factors were all instrumental in feminization; their relative importance varied over time. During our study period, banking went through radical changes, bringing it closer to "women's work"; thus, feminization proceeded without radical changes in social norms or views on female labor. The commercial bank sector's loss of status as a male workplace began in the early twentieth century, preceding feminization, rather than following it, and creating an opening for women. Employers' economic incentives were also important in the feminization process; women made their strongest advances during times when employers had strong incentives to cut costs.

BEH On-Line Paper