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Nordic gender equality paradoxes and power distribution

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

More than 100 years after Swedish women got voting rights, Sweden got its first female Prime Minister last year.

Magdalena Andersson helped lift the Nordic region to a new record level of 90 points in the Nordic Labour Journal’s gender equality barometer, where 100 points mean full gender equality for the 24 positions of power we measure in each of the Nordic countries.

The barometer looks at whether a man or a woman holds the positions of power on International Women’s Day 8 March each year. We have some days to go, so unforeseen things could still happen. 

Since 2009 we have looked at the gender of 13 different government ministers, leaders for top labour market organisations and for five symbolically important jobs. But the barometer goes all the way back to 1971, with the foundation of the Nordic Council of Ministers. 

It is an easy way of measuring gender equality, a bit like having a landmark to steer towards when you are out sailing in order to measure whether you are on course or if the headwind pushes you away from your goal.

This year we also take stock of the situation at the very top of the power hierarchy. Queen Margrethe of Denmark might not have much political power, but her symbolic power is all the more evident. One of the things she has used this power for is to promote gender equality. This year marks her 50 years anniversary as Denmark’s head of state. 

There are far more sophisticated indexes for measuring gender equality out there, but our barometer is easy to understand. The fact that all the Nordic countries have now not only had female prime ministers but also women in all the twelve other ministerial posts we include, says something about gender equality.

But we also look at gender equality in some more detail. All Nordic countries want entrepreneurs since most new jobs are created by new companies. But why are there far more male entrepreneurs than women? And are they motivated by the same things? We look at two new studies – one from Sweden and one from Finland – that focus on these issues.

The Nordic centre of excellence Nordwit has spent five years studying women who have chosen a tech career. We talk to retired professor Päivi Korvajärvi, who has been part of the centre’s work and who discusses what is being called the Nordic gender equality paradox – the higher their education, the less women are willing to discuss the issue. She says there is a culture of silence around gender equality in academia.

We also write about violence as a hidden cause of long-term unemployment. The Swedish Public Employment Service has been awarded the 2022 Swedish Gender Equality Prize for their four-year-long work on violence in close relationships. 6,000 employees have been trained to easier spot the problem.

With runaway energy prices and the invasion of Ukraine, there is a risk that there will be less focus on the green change. The environment is the theme for our next edition. But we make a head-start with a story from Iceland where households in the capital area will finally begin to separate waste long after this has become routine in the rest of the Nordics.


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