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The Nordic region became a bit more equal this year

The Nordic region became a bit more equal this year

| Text: Björn Lindahl

Never before has there been more gender equality in the Nordic countries when it comes to positions of power within politics and working life, according to the Nordic Labour Market’s barometer.

The five Nordic countries reach 69 points, up five points on last year. But there is still some way to go before they reach 100 points. Norway is still in the lead, while Sweden’s new government represents most of the increase. Finland is bottom. The most remarkable fact is that the church is now run by women in three out of five countries.

This is the fifth year the Nordic Labour Journal publishes the gender equality barometer, which looks at 24 different positions of power in society and whether these are held by men or women. We give out 200 points for the entire Nordic region. 100 points to women would mean full equality. Each country has 40 points and needs 20 female points to reach full equality.

CountryPoints 2015Change
Denmark 14 -1
Finland 7 -2
Iceland 10 +2
Norway 22 -
Sweden 16 +4
Nordic region 69 +5


Last year Norway reached 22 points and became the first Nordic country to reach full gender equality. This was because many women held positions of power, but also because they had the most important positions which scored the most points. Four of the most important posts according to the barometer are prime minister and finance minister, president for confederations of trade unions and general director of confederations of enterprise. In Norway women hold all of these positions, which gave a total score of 14 points.

Graph Sweden


After Stefan Löfven from the Social Democrats formed a government with the Swedish Green Party, two important government posts were filled by women. Magdalena Andersson became Minister for Finance (three points) and Margot Wallström became Minister for Foreign Affairs (two points). The Ministers for Communication, Culture, Environment, Employment and Social Affairs are also women. 

Carola Lemne became Director General for the Confederation of Swedish Enterprises on 11 May 2014. We have given two points to director generals and two points to directors of employer organisations, since power is more divided here than among confederations of trade unions. 

On 15 June Antje Jackelén became Arch Bishop. Women have held similar positions earlier in Norway and Iceland (see separate story).

Sweden gets 16 points in all, and a second place.  Denmark lost two points in the barometer during a government reshuffle on 10 October 2014.

Graph Denmark


The Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt formed a four party coalition government on 3 October 2011, the first with a female prime minister in Denmark. She made changes to government minister posts twice towards the end of 2013, and reorganised the government on 3 February 2014 when the Socialist People’s Party left the coalition. This was a protest against the state’s decision to sell its shares in the oil company Dong.

Six government ministers left, seven were reshuffled and four new people got ministerial posts. This meant a loss of two points in the gender equality barometer, leaving Denmark with 14 points.

There have been no changes within working life or in symbolic positions. But between 25 and 28 October this year a new president for the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions will be elected. This is very likely to be a woman, Lizette Risgaard. She has been the deputy president since 2007. There are two other candidates, but 58 percent of the 400 voting delegates told a survey in the Finans magazine in January they would be supporting Lizette Risgaard. 

Graph Finland


Changes to governments often leads to less gender equality. There is less focus on gender balance than when a completely new government is formed after an election. This was the case in Finland, when Alexander Stubb from the National Coalition Party of Finland became Prime Minister on 24 June. The number of government ministers was cut at the same time. Among those disappearing was Finland’s first female Minister for Finance, Jutta Urpilainen, who had lost the fight to become party leader for the Social Democrats some time earlier.

As early as 18 September there were new changes to the government. The Greens of Finland left the government in protest when energy company Fennovoima was given continued permission to build a nuclear power plant.

As a result Finland only gets seven points in the gender equality barometer, the lowest score out of all the Nordic countries. On 19 April there are general elections in Finland, which could influence the government’s composition.

Lizette Risgaard


There have been changes to the government in Iceland too. Sigrún Magnúsdóttir became Minister of the Environment on 31 December 2014 and replaced a man. Ólöf Nordal became Minister of the Interior. Iceland is always the most difficult country to compare to the others because there are so few government ministers, but the country gets two extra points compared to last year and ends up with 10 points.

Graph Norway


Norway is top of the class with 22 points. Here women actually have two points too many for the genders to be equal. But the country is the most gender equal of all in the barometer and has not seen any changes in government in the last 12 months. 

There have been no changes in the labour market or in the symbolically important positions either. Last year the centre-right government faced problems with feminist priority issues, like prostitution and abortion. This year the conflicts are between the government and its two supporting parties in parliament, the Christian Democrats and the social liberal party Venstre, over asylum and integration policies. A government reorganisation is not out of the question after this autumn’s local elections. But Frank Aarebrot, Professor of comparative politics at the University of Bergen, believes it will take longer before the Christian Democrats choose to work with the opposition Labour party. 

New government in Sweden

When Stefan Löfven from the Social Democrats formed a government with the Swedish Green Party, two important government posts were filled by women: Magdalena Andersson became Minister for Finance and Margot Wallström became Minister for Foreign Affairs (photo above).

How we calculated

50 percent female government minister representation might look like gender equality has been accomplished. But it also depends on which positions are being held by women.

We have distributed 200 points - 40 for each Nordic country. 100 female points equals full gender equality.

We have looked at 13 government minister posts. Each gives one point except prime minister (5), finance minister (3) and foreign minister (2).

We have also included leaders of the largest trade unions and employers' organisations:

Leaders of confederations of trade unions (4), leaders of service industries unions (2), leaders of trade unions for academics (2), leaders of employers' organisations (2) and managing directors at employers' organisations (2).

And finally six important symbolic positions:

Heads of state, supreme court presidents, heads of central banks, arch bishops, police commissioners and commander-in-chief. 

Heads of state get three points, while the others get one each. We have not included leaders of major companies because they are not considered to be employed as a result of a democratic process. We measure at 8am on 8 March each year.

We have made certain adjustments for Iceland. Since the country only has seven government ministries, some ministers have been given an extra point, giving Iceland the same maximum of 40 points as the other Nordic countries. 

For all the details, download: Women in power in the Nordic Countries 1970-2015


The gender equality barometer measures the situation March 8, at 8.00 AM. There might be some unforeseen changes until then. In that case the barometer will be changed.


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