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Editorial: The many reasons for gender equality

| By Berit Kvam

The Nordic Labour Journal’s gender equality barometer, the third in as many years, shows progress for women’s representation in Nordic power positions by one percentage point in 2012 in relation to a 50/50 gender distribution.

"Europe Back on Top with 50/50" is the name of the campaign launched by the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) in early March. It focuses on equal participation in politics and working life, and expresses a belief that women can make a difference in times of crisis.

We have looked around the world to learn from the 80 women who have held office as presidents or prime ministers, about dilemmas which can arise if there aren’t enough women in leading positions. But primarily our theme ‘Women in the labyrinths of working life and power‘ has a Nordic outlook on debates about quotas and other initiatives aimed at increasing female participation.

Swedish leaders call it "Battles of numbers". Their campaign has just been launched. Bosses in Sweden’s largest companies want more women in leading industry positions. It pays, the Swedish businesswomen say, but they want it to be voluntary by using networks and campaigns. 

Forced gender equality, as the Danes say, is not popular in Denmark or in Sweden, despite the fact that EU’s Minister of Equality Viviane Reding has tried to get member countries to support her on this. Denmark lags a bit behind the rest of the Nordic region, except when the three party leaders meet for government debates. Then they are in a majority - but not because of quotas.

In Norway we are proud to say Gro Harlem Brundtland, as one of the 80 women in the world who have been heads of state or government, first joined government as a result of a quota system. Later she won government power, over and over again.

“We think we are equal,” says Maria Hemström Hemmingsson, chief secretary for the Swedish government’s gender equality commission, “but it strikes me how big the differences really are between men and women in working life”. There are many reasons for maintaining focus on gender equality. The progress shown in our barometer is proof of this. 

50/50 is the European Women’s Lobby’s top priority. Why? If Europe is to come top again? Why not 60/40 in the women’s favour?

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