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Women strongest in times of change

| By Berit Kvam

Nordic countries have cooperated on gender equality for 40 years. Now it’s paying off. The Nordic Labour Journal’s gender equality barometer shows Norway is a world leader in equality. For the first time ever, women and men have an equal share of positions of power.

Once upon a time people in Norway didn’t think a woman could be Prime Minister and lead the country. Then we became so used to Gro [Harlem Brundtland] that we didn’t think we could do without. Now we have Erna and Siv sharing power. That is interesting. When gender equality becomes visible, it does something to us. When Norway’s social partners enter into this spring’s wage negotiations, women will be leading both the Confederation of Trade Unions and the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise. It will be interesting to see the outcome.

The NLJ’s gender equality barometer presented in this month’s theme is historic. It shows women and men in Norway now have an equal share of power according to the parameters we have used. These things vary of course, but now Norway has shown it is possible, and the other Nordic countries are following suit. It is as if the gender dimension has been abolished.

The Finns have become gender blind, claims Finland’s Ombudsman for Equality in the Portrait. People think Finland has achieved gender equality, so they can now concentrate on other issues. This is a good warning, because while power is more equally shared, the Nordic region still has a gender divided labour market and male dominated occupations still pay better. This pay gap is a stain on Finland’s reputation, says Ombundsman Pirrko Mäkinen. But not only on Finland’s reputation. On the Nordic reputation.

Denmark’s Minister for Equality says gender equality is the key to integration. Manu Sareen thinks he has seen how many young people in minority communities get furious when their parents’ attitudes clash with their own reality. That’s why society must take action, he says.

The debate doesn’t stop there. When Swedes work with motivation and training to get more women into leadership positions, it creates experiences we gladly share. Gender balanced organisations are sustainable and much more fun to work for, says Storebrand’s HR Director. We are not credible if we only have men as leaders, claims Anette Sägerkrantz.

Measuring gender equality in numbers shows us beyond doubt that quotas work. Norway has become a role model in Europe. Even Italy’s boardrooms have become far more female heavy as a result of quotas. Perhaps that debate has something to do with the fact that eight of Italy’s 16 new government ministers are women, and three of them are tasked with changing the constitution and electoral system.

What were once established truths are being measured against new thinking. In these changing times it is interesting that so many choose to put their faith in women.


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