Gender equality - in our generation?
Nordic women are far ahead in most areas, yet powerful positions within politics and in working life remain male-dominated. Nordic Labour Journal’s barometer shows how women have lost political power in the past year. It’s not a trend change, but a warning signal. Nordic governments want better gender balance, but how to achieve it? Sweden goes for women entrepreneurs, Denmark’s government has promised to turn the tide on gender equality and the Minister for Equality says he wants to change his efforts up a gear to get more women into leadership positions. EU commissioner Viviane Reding is impatiently waiting for results and threatens gender quotas to get more women into boardrooms. A Danish brewing giant realises something must be done and takes unlateral action. Yet not like in Norway where a quota law backed up by effective sanctions is proving a success.
The Nordic Labour Journal’s gender barometer shows equality between the sexes in top political and professional positions is falling in the Nordic region. Denmark gaining its first female prime minister with Helle Thorning-Schmidt does not make up for the fact that Finland has just got a male president and a male prime minister.
Denmark’s new Minister for Gender Equality, Manu Sareen, promises to turbo charge gender equality. His main focus will to fight violence against women and a gender-divided labour market. He wants more women in top management and into board rooms.
It’s looking bad for gender equality in Danish companies’ boardrooms and management. There is massive opposition to legally binding female quotas. Now one of Danish business’ old giants is taking voluntary action: from 2015 at least 40 percent of the elected members to the board of Carlsberg brewery will be women.
The law on quotas is the most efficient measure to improve the boardroom gender balance. “But the law should be followed up by effective sanctions and state measures which help stimulate the action.” That is the advice from head of research Mari Teigen to other countries looking to legislate for quotas on company boards.
There is strong political will in Sweden to strengthen women’s entrepreneurship and between 2007 and 2014 the centre-right government spent a total of 800m SEK (€90m) on supporting, developing and highlighting women’s enterprise. De-regulated public sector markets open up for new businesses, but there is a risk that Swedish businesses will mirror the Swedish labour market and end up being just as gender segregated.
EU Commissioner Viviane Reding’s patience has ran out. European companies have failed to improve board room gender equality to a satisfactory degree. The European parliament has already voted to introduce quotas to secure at least 30 percent women board members by 2015 and 40 percent by 2020.