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Kvinfo Director: The Nordics can’t afford not to be gender equal
Portrait

Kvinfo Director: The Nordics can’t afford not to be gender equal

| Text: Marie Preisler, photo: Kvinfo

Modern gender equality must liberate both sexes, and the Nordic region must be at the forefront of this. It is too expensive not to, says Nina Groes, Director at the Danish Centre for Information on Gender, Equality and Diversity, Kvinfo.

The gender equality debate in Denmark and the Nordic region has gained a new high profile player in Nina Groes, who started her job as Director of Kvinfo six months ago. She has just launched a new bold strategy for the Danish Centre for Information on Gender, Equality and Diversity. 

“My ambition is to get gender equality onto all the major social agendas, be it the labour market, education or growth. Denmark and the Nordic region represent a small area globally, and we simply cannot afford for individual men and women not to be able to realise their full potential because of a lack of equality,” she says.

Liberate both sexes

Nina Groes is young, a mother of two and married to a government minister. She has a business background, working with knowledge dissemination as an entrepreneur. She brings a new approach to the work with gender equality.

“Equality should not be a niche debate, it should be omnipresent and focus on giving every person the chance to apply themselves no matter their gender. Modern gender equality is about liberating both sexes. It is not a zero-sum game where one sex wins at the expense of to the other. More gender equality is a win for both sexes and for all of society.

She sees plenty of areas where the lack of equality is an obstacle both for the chance for individuals to shine and for social development. Danish women are paid up to five percent less than their male colleagues for the same work with the same education and experience .

“That in itself is an unfair difference, but is also leads to inequality in a range of other areas, for instance the fact that women more often choose to work part-time, and the salary gap continues all the way into old age when women pensioners are left with considerably lower pensions than men.”

Entrepreneur with a gender agenda

Nina Groes also thinks it is unfair that Danish men get far less parental leave compared to men in the other Nordic countries, and this has deep and unfortunate social consequences. 

“This is not only a problem for the individual father, who won’t get to spend time with his small child. It also has an effect on the couple’s relationship and the woman’s career opportunities.”

During her own time as an entrepreneur, she saw that only three in ten entrepreneurs were women. She missed female role models, and felt the debate among entrepreneurs was very masculine.

“You almost talk about the entrepreneur as a predator, and we need to change that image. Entrepreneurship helps create opportunities for the Nordic region, and it is important to get gender onto that agenda too.”

Better dialogue with young people

She considers it an important task for Kvinfo to challenge gender stereotypes with the aim to allow everyone to be who they are. And that work begins with young people. With Nina Groes at the helm, Kvinfo has presented a new strategy which aims to make the equality debate relevant to young people. Kvinfo has opened a new school service.

“We want to improve our dialogue with young people. Our analysis shows that many youths consider gender equality to be something their grandmothers fought for, and something which they enjoy today. At the same time many young girls are struggling to live up to perfect ideals, and old fashioned stereotypes about male and female trades are very much alive. To take an example; 25 percent of young people think men are better managers than women.”

Widening the gender equality debate to include the entire country is a new focus area for Kvinfo. The debate can easily become too elitist, Nina Groes points out .

“Kvinfo will go out and talk to people even more. Gender equality is viewed very differently in the city and in the countryside. It depends on geography, age, social economy and ethnicity, and if you are a white, highly educated middle class woman like me, spending most of your time in the big city, there’s a great risk that you end up talking about gender equality based on your own little world.”

 

Nina Groes

Director for Kvinfo since January 2014

Was an entrepreneur with her own company, Change Agency, which provided advise on knowledge dissemination, strategies and change processes 

Master of Science in Public Administration from Roskilde University, RUC

35 years old 

Married to Minister of Transport Magnus Heunicke (S)

Has two daughters aged six and nine

Gender equality at home with Nina Groes

Who makes up your household? 

We are four. My husband, my two daughters and me.

How do you share domestic chores? Who does the shopping, cooks and cleans?

Both my husband and I work full time and then some. So we depend on quite a lot of help. Both my father and my husband’s father collect and look after our children every week, and my father also sometimes cooks. Otherwise our lives would fall apart. We pay for a cleaner.

Who does most at home – you or your husband?

Right now it is me who does the least, but it wasn’t always like that. We are not running a miniature tyranni but try to make room for all four of us to realise our dreams. That to me is gender equality.

Do you encounter equality challenges in your own life?

I see them every day. When I open a newspaper or fetch my daughter from nursery and she is playing in the dolls’ corner because the boys are occupying the pirate corner, and when the girls in my eldest daughter’s school class get to bake on their theme day while the boys go fishing. I was myself labelled as a female entrepreneur, as a young woman politician and as a child. I liked wild games and was called a tomboy.

About KVINFO

The Danish Centre for Information on Gender, Equality and Diversity

The centre’s tasks:

• Disseminate knowledge, documentation and research

• Initiate and support research

• Contribute to the development of a more equal society

KVINFO is also an international knowledge and development centre running a range of communication and documentation projects in the Middle East and North Africa together with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ ‘Arab Initiative’

Has 30 employees, half of whom work with projects abroad

Founded in 1987

Focusses on both sexes' problems when it comes to equality

Has Denmark’s largest collection of literature on men’s studies

An independent institution linked to the Ministry of Culture

The main users are pupils, students, researchers, journalists, politicians and authorities

Runs a mentor network which matches refugee and immigrant women with women who are active on the Danish labour market

Has an expert database which highlights women’s knowledge, experience and expertise. It contains 1,000 profiles of Danish female experts

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