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Editorial

Nordic gender equality 2018 – from #metoo to new structures

| By Berit Kvam

#metoo has thrown the spotlight on sexual harassment and indecent behaviour towards women, and marks a new chapter when it comes to discrimination. But loud voices, engagement and structural measures are all needed to achieve gender equality. The Nordic Labour Journal’s gender equality barometer shows that the Nordic countries are developing in somewhat different directions, yet action is being taken to target inequalities.

The NLJ's gender equality barometer looks at the proportion of men and women in 24 positions of power in the Nordic countries. This year’s barometer shows Norway still in the lead, while Finland has seen a negative development. OECD statistics show that Finland also lags behind the rest of the Nordics in other areas: The gender pay gap is wider and well above the OECD average, female unemployment is higher and the employment rate is several percentage points lower than in the rest of the Nordic region.

Finland is also the country with the fewest nursery places – only half of two year olds have nursery places compared to 90 percent in other Nordic countries. In the story "Finnish home care support increases inequality" the action group Mothers in Business call for the abolition of the home care support system, which allows parents to stay at home with their children beyond the normal parental leave period: “It is a women’s trap”.

Denmark and Sweden go in the opposite direction, and pay extra to get women into the labour market. Region Gotland has a double goal with the extra cash; to increase salaries in female-dominated professions and to fill labour shortages. In the story “Earmarked equal pay pool to reduce gender pay gap”, parts of the trade union movement and the Danish parliament propose to introduce a special pot of money to increase wages in female-dominated professions. Yet more is needed to close the gender pay gap, believes head of research Lisbeth Pedersen. She encourages Nordic countries to come together and focus on equal pay.

The gender divided labour market is a problem on many levels, and contributes to maintaining inequality. Unequal recruitment is a challenge which the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU, is trying to do something about, by inspiring girls to chose sciences. “Ada” is one of several recruitment projects aimed at girls at NTNU, and the rest of the Nordic region is following suit. The Aalto University in Finland, KTH in Stockholm, Chalmers in Gothenburg, the Luleå University of Technology, the Technical University of Denmark and Aarhus University have all visited NTNU to learn about the recruitment of girls.

A range of efforts aim to change structures that maintain inequality and discrimination. This year, Iceland is introducing a legally binding equal pay standard which by 2021 will cover all companies employing more than 25 people. This has led to so much international interest that Icelandic authorities have set up a dedicated website to provide information about the law.

“I believe that doing more for gender equality is one of the tools I can use to improve the quality of my own institution,” says Curt Rice in Portrait. He is Rector at Norway’s new university OsloMet, a gender equality champion and the chair of the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research 2018-2021. He has been an adviser to the Nobel committees on how to increase the number of female laureates: Give all the prizes to just women one year, he proposes. That would create enormous engagement. There is an awakening taking place. #metoo has opened our eyes to gender inequality anew, and shows the need for structural change, just like the Nordic trade union conference on the topic points to

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