10 Swedish superwomen
Greta, the Crown Princess, a fashion designer and many more – here are some super-interesting Swedish women!
(Please note that this is not a ranking – it's an alphabetical list of Swedish women by first name.)
1. Agnes Wold – professor and opinion maker
Agnes Wold is not your average professor in clinical microbiology, if there ever was one.
Wold has become widely popular. She approaches difficult subjects and by explaining various health issues in a way that people understand. She questions many things that most of us believe to be true. For example, she dismisses our need for mindfulness, and says that we’re not meant to live our lives in harmony – restlessness helps drive us forward.
For the last couple of years, Wold has become a household name in Sweden – as an opinion maker and ‘corona educator’ of sorts. She has strived to explain the Covid-19 pandemic in comprehensible ways and make people understand the benefits of getting vaccinated.
Wold first became known to the wider Swedish audience some 20 years ago, when she put the spotlight on discrimination against women in the research community. From then on, she’s been speaking up for and against different causes in newpapers, TV interviews and podcasts – and on Twitter.
2. Camilla Läckberg – crime rock star
‘Nordic noir’ – or ‘Scandinavian noir’ – is quite a broad term for crime fiction set in Scandinavia or the Nordic countries. Sometimes referred to as the ‘rock star of Nordic noir’, Swede Camilla Läckberg has published books in around 60 countries and sold nearly 30 million copies to date.
Läckberg announced her arrival in 2003 with The Ice Princess, the first of the very popular detective novels known as the Fjällbacka series. The common thread of these eleven books to date? Mysterious deaths that occur in the tiny community of Fjällbacka. The duo of author Erica Falck and police officer Patrik Hedström investigate. Fjällbacka – a seaside town on the Swedish west coast – is where Läckberg herself grew up.
Productive as few, Läckberg has several other books to her name, including a handful of children’s books. She recently teamed up with psychology writer Henrik Fexeus for a crime novel series about detective Mina Dabiri and mentalist Vincent Walder. In 2021, the writing duo’s first book BOX appeared.
Läckberg began her working life as an economist, but a creative writing course changed all of that. We bet the economist in Läckberg smiles at the lucrative career change. It seems she might also have paved the way for other crime writers.
3. Caroline Farberger – businesswoman
Caroline Farberger is proof that you can have a stellar career while being true to yourself.
After six years as chief executive at ICA Försäkring – a major Swedish insurance company – Farberger took the next step in her career in 2022. That's when she became partner and chair of the board at Swedish investment company Wellstreet.
She also lives openly as a transwoman.
Farberger decided to come out in a very public way. She said that she wanted to encourage other people, especially in the corporate sector, to find the strength and courage to be who they truly are. In 2019, Farberger was named LGBTQ person of the year at the QX Gala, an event that is arranged by QX, Scandinavia’s largest LGBTQ media publisher.
Farberger recounts her life journey in her autobiographical book Jag, Caroline: Yrkeskvinna och familjefar (‘I, Caroline: Professional woman and family father’), which was released in 2020.
4. Greta Thunberg – climate activist
An ordinary Friday in August 2018, a 15-year-old with a protest sign sat down outside the Swedish parliament. The sign read ‘School strike for the climate’. Greta Thunberg would strike every Friday to protest the perceived lack of action from Swedish politicians on the climate crisis.
At the time, nobody would probably have guessed that this girl alone would start a massive, global movement for the environment. But Thunberg and her Fridays for Future movement has gone from one individual's protest to engaging 18 million strikers in 233 countries – to date, according to their own statistics.
At the UN Climate Action summit in New York in September 2019, Thunberg was urging the leaders of the world to acknowledge the facts and start acting:
‘I shouldn’t be up here’, she said. ‘I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering.’
5. Helena Samsioe – drone queen
Helena Samsioe beams of confidence, so when she says that ‘what would take four hours with a car, a drone can solve in 20 minutes’, it sounds trustworthy. Maybe that’s what makes her such a fantastic entrepreneur, together with her ability to find solutions where others only find problems.
Samsioe grew up in many different parts of the world. Her parents were doctors and brought her with them on their travels with aid organisations. This made Samsioe realise that the world doesn’t look like Sweden, which sparked an urge for problem solving.
In 2015, the entrepreneur founded Globhe, a company that uses drones to capture image data. The data is used to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks around the world. For example, during the cholera outbreak in Malawi in 2018, Globhe could inform the United Nations about how many were affected by the outbreak, which – in turn – made the UN respond more efficiently. The drones are also used to deliver blood, vaccines and medicine in many rural parts of Africa.
Samsioe is on the Top 50 Women in Tech lists by Forbes Magazine, and in 2019, she was named 'Businesswoman of the year' by CEO Today magazine. In January 2020, Globhe was also awarded the Zayed Sustainability Prize for driving impactful, innovative and inspiring sustainability solutions.
6. Sandra Näslund – daredevil skier
‘In a race with such a high degree of seeming randomness, where it is so easy to crash, the dominance of Sandra Näslund is simply astonishing,’ the New York Times wrote in 2022, following the Swede’s ski cross Olympic win in Beijing.
Ski cross – a sport that made its entry into Olympics in 2010 – has four skiers burst out at once to race down a bumby course. It’s dangerous, requires plenty of guts, and a single mistake can be costly. But Sandra Näslund has won so many ski cross races by now that her CV looks anything but random.
2022 was perhaps her most impressive year to date as she not only lived up to expectations with her Olympic win but also won the ski cross World Cup in dominant fashion, topping 11 out of 12 races.
Näslund won the 2017-2018 and 2019–20 ski cross World Cups, and she was the overall winner of the 2017-2018 Freestyle Ski World Cup, which that season combined six disciplines: moguls, aerials, ski cross, halfpipe, slopestyle and big air.
Näslund is also a two-time world champion, having won the 2017 ski cross gold in Sierra Nevada as well as the 2021 gold in Idre, Sweden.
Born in 1996, Näslund is far from done yet. During the ongoing 2022-2023 season, Näslund has clinched 16 straight World Cup wins – so far.
7. Selam Fessahaye – fashion designer
Beyoncé, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Sam Smith – naming just three stars – have all worn Swedish fashion designer Selam Fessahaye’s creations. But fashion design has first and foremost been about self-expression to Fessahaye.
She began her career as a stylist but felt something was missing in the industry and eventually set out to fill that void as a designer. At Stockholm Fashion Week 2018, Fessahaye showcased her first full collection and made an immediate impression with her distinctive blend of strong colours, oversized shapes and innovative use of the material tulle.
She has since created three more collections. In her 2020 fall collection, Fessahaye focused on her own personal story and her family from Eritrea.
In 2021, she designed the pink ribbon for the Swedish Cancer Foundation and made it out of tulle.
8. Tove Alexandersson – multi-sport champion
What to do when you totally dominate two sports? Why, find another two of course!
While amassing 25 world championship golds and 16 European championship golds to her name in orienteering and ski-orienteering, Tove Alexandersson has looked for a few new challenges along the way.
In 2018, she decided to also compete in skyrunning – the sport of running in steep, high mountains – and became world champion there too during her second skyrunning race ever. This win made her a reigning world champion in three sports simultaneously.
The year after, Tove Alexandersson made her competitive debut in ski mountaineering (SkiMo). It's a discipline where you climb mountains either on skis or while carrying them – depending on the steepness – and then race down on skis. In her second season (2020/21), she won a combined gold at the World Championships, which means Alexandersson has been world champion in four different sports to date.
Then, at the World Orienteering Championships in 2021, Alexandersson won all five distances for an unprecedented five golds.
‘I always want to be the best but I like even more to compete against people that are better than me. To push my limits and always try to improve,’ Alexandersson says on her website. Time to find yet another sport?
9. Tove Lo – pop sensation
With more than 15 million monthly listeners on Spotify, you could say that things are going pretty well for Swedish pop sensation Tove Lo. In 2022, her tune 'How Long' featured in the popular American series Euphoria. That same year, her fifth studio album, Dirt Femme, was released.
Tove Lo began writing short novels and lyric poetry as a young girl. At 24 she was discovered by Swedish songwriter Max Martin and wrote hit singles like Ellie Goulding’s ‘Love me like you do’. Two years later her own artist career was a fact with the release of international hit ‘Habits (Stay High)’.
Lo has won a couple of Swedish Grammis Awards over the years. And she was nominated for Best Music Video at the American Grammy Awards for single ‘Glad He’s Gone’.
Lo is also an outspoken feminist. With an album title like Lady Wood and multiple songs about female sexual liberation, she sums up two things many Swedes are proud of: Sweden's great music and powerful stance on equality.
In 2021, Lo made her feature acting debut in the Swedish-language film adaptation of Vilhelm Moberg's The Emigrants.
10. Victoria – Crown Princess
In the summer of 1977, a Swedish princess was born. Despite being King Carl XVI Gustaf’s first child, the Swedish law said that the crown could only be inherited by a male offspring, i.e. a prince. But this was changed only a couple of years later. An amendment in 1980 stated that the eldest child, no matter the gender, will inherit the crown.
This made Victoria crown princess and will, in the future, make her Sweden’s first queen since the 1700s and the third female regent in Swedish history.
Support for monarchy is not a given, but Crown Princess Victoria is definitely a public favourite. She is loved for being modern and open-minded, and a strong advocate for children’s rights. In 1997 she founded the Crown Princess Victoria’s Fund (Kronprinsessan Victorias fond, link in Swedish), which enables children with disabilities or chronic illness to have active lifestyles.
Her husband, Prince Daniel, is also engaged in questions like children’s health. The royal couple has two children: Princess Estelle (born 2012) and Prince Oscar (born 2016).