Gender equality in the Nordic region - vision or reality?
Nordic countries a leaders in international gender equality surveys. Is reality as splendid as the vision of gender equality in the Nordic region? Why do women in the care sector suffering with part-time work, low wages and bad pensions even when they want to work full-time? Why does Denmark's Minister for Gender Equality abandon International Women's Day on 8 March? Is it because she feels women have reached enough positions of power? Nordic Labour Journal has examined the past 40 years of female representation in governments, trade unions, employers organisations and other symbolically important positions. Are women taking over power? When Mari Kiviniemi visited the German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently, the debate over female boardroom quotas was raging. Norway has led the way with legislation.
Nordic women have been an inspiration for the fight for gender equality in other countries. Between them they have filled all but two of the positions of political power: no Nordic country has as yet had a female arch bishop or a female commander-in-chief. Meanwhile both the President and Prime Minister in Finland are women. Mari Kiviniemi recently visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel while the debate on quotas for women in boardrooms was raging. Norway was the first country to introduced quotas in 2008, but women there have also lost more positions of power than in any other country in recent years. Nordic Labour Journal takes a closer look at just how successful the fight for gender equality has been in the Nordic region.
Few countries have been so mentally prepared for a female prime minister as Denmark. The political TV drama Borgen has been a great success, also in neighbouring countries. It portrays a female prime minister and the power struggle at Christiansborg, the Copenhagen palace which houses parliament, the Prime Minister's office and the supreme court.
Finnish women top the Nordic Labour Journal power barometer with 15 out of a possible 40 points. Not least because both their president and prime minster are women.
The financial crisis hit Iceland harder than any other Nordic country, and it also led to a political earthquake. Wide-spread corruption and nepotism made voters look for new politicians. This has benefited women.
Norway has been the hottest country in the gender equality debate since quotas were made law there in 2008. Publicly listed firms, often major listed companies, must have at least 40 percent of each sex in their boardrooms. Yet at the same time women have lost more positions of power in Norway than in any other Nordic country.
Sweden is the only Nordic country which has never had a female prime minister or a female head of state in modern times. The Social Democrat Party leader Mona Sahlin could have become prime minister in the September 2010 elections, but her new red-green coalition lost.
Norway uses quotas and a men's panel to improve gender equality, but in Denmark there is disagreement on how to do it. Yet the Danes do agree there's a need for a gender equality debate which focuses on both sexes.
The high number of involuntary part-timers is a result of how we value women's work, says Annelie Nordström, chairwoman at Kommunal, the Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union. The union has been fighting for the right to full-time employment for 30 years. It's been an uphill battle, and since the economic crisis hit in 2009 it's been even harder.