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It is time to get women on board again

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

The number of female state leaders is falling. In rapid succession, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced their retirements.

Although Sturgeon could not call herself the leader of an independent country, she and Ardern were two clear voices on a world stage which no longer has an equivalent to Angela Merkel.

The EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, topped Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful women in 2022. Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni came seventh.

Only 13 of the 192 countries in the UN are run by women. Danish Mette Frederiksen is down at number 74 and Finland’s Sanna Marin is number 83 on Forbes’ list. Katrín Jakobsdóttir did not even make the list, which is coloured by an American view of what are the critical positions of power.

The Nordic Labour Journal’s gender equality barometer looks at 24 positions of power in each of the Nordic countries. This is a humble project that aims to produce a comprehensive picture of how many women there are in Nordic governments, the labour market organisations and in six symbolically important positions.  

This year the curve points sharply downward. It looks like women will get only 75 points, down from 92 last year. We measure the situation as it is on 8 March. Is this just coincidence, like the fact that after Sweden’s change of government, the government ministries we measure are now mostly led by men?

Do we put too much emphasis on who heads the trade union confederations in the different countries? All surveys have their weak points, but by steadfastly asking the same question every year it is also possible to highlight things that would not otherwise be noticed. Like the fact that Denmark got its first female national police commissioner in 2022 – at least for a couple of months. 

We write about another barometer too in this issue – the Norwegian joint decision-making barometer. The annual survey asks 4,600 workers whether they feel they have got more or less say in their working life in the past year. This year, one in four workers answered they have been given less say, and this is particularly true for the public sector. 

It is one thing to map how power is divided and another to do something about it. If you want a gender-equal society, it is a good starting point to make sure men and women study for different occupations within different disciplines. 

“If you want to help save the world, science is one way to go,” says Sunniva Johanne Rose.

She is a blogger and nuclear physicist and a speaker at one of many events taking place across Norway as part of the “Girls and technology” project which aims to get more women to study sciences. 

Sunniva Johanne Rose’s message is that it should be possible to be interested in pink lipstick and science at the same time. 

Education is not all that is needed, however. Because why are there so few female entrepreneurs? We meet Danish Hanne Jarmer, who like Rose is a role model in her field. She invented a way of training dogs who are home alone, sad and bored.

If surveys about power have taught us anything, it is that in order to gain influence you need to get organised. Anette Steenberg is CEO of Medicon Valley Alliances, which helps bring companies working with life sciences together in the Öresund region. It is not enough with just a bridge – you need other measures too.

The Tur - Retur project has an opposite starting point. In Finland, and in particular among the Swedish-speaking Finns in Ostrobothnia, there is a strong tradition for migration. The threshold has always been low for moving to Sweden, which is seen as a home market.  

Yet project leader Linda Granback does not settle with trying to make it easier for Swedish-speaking Finns to return home. Why not tempt Swedes to move to Finland also?


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