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2024 Equality barometer: Three significant women have disappeared from power

2024 Equality barometer: Three significant women have disappeared from power

| Text: Björn Lindahl

Two years ago, it looked like the 24 positions of power in the NLJ’s gender equality barometer were just a few years away from being equally divided between men and women. Women had reached 92 points, and at 100 they would be on par with men. But in 2023, women’s points fell to 72 and this year sees a further fall down to 65 points.

What has happened? The biggest changes to the barometer in the past year are due to Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin leaving office on 20 June 2023 when a new coalition was formed after parliamentary elections, and two strong women in Denmark choosing to abdicate: Queen Margrethe of Denmark on 14 Januar 2024 and the head of Denmark’s Trade Union Confederation FH, Lizette Risgaard, on 30 April 2023.

Source: NLJ

The way the Barometer works means a prime minister gets 5 points, trade union confederation leaders get 4 and heads of state get 3 points. These three women alone represented 12 points. 

Photo: Stortinget

There are many ways to measure power. All the group leaders for the political parties in the Norwegian Parliament are now women. This has never happened before, the Storting pointed out in a press release on 8 March. Photo: Stortinget

Several government ministers in Jonas Gahr Støre’s Norwegian government were forced to step down after political scandals, and this hit more women than men. Another scandal led to certain changes in Icelandic politics.

Here is a country-by-country overview: 



Source: NLJ

The country is still run by a female Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, but for the first time since the Nordic cooperation was initiated in the 70s there is a male regent, Frederik X. Queen Margrethe ascended the throne on 14 January 1972, not long after the Nordic Council of Ministers had been established the year before. For 52 years, she has secured Denmark 3 points every year in the gender equality barometer.

How relevant is it to have a queen in a barometer that mainly focuses on political positions? The answer is that political decisions have decided who should be the heir to the throne in all of the three Scandinavian countries. 

 Photo: Stine Heilmann/

King Frederik X and Queen Mary in an official photo. For the first time in 52 years, Denmark has a male head of state. Photo: Stine Heilmann. 

The Danish constitution was changed to allow Margrethe, the oldest of Frederik IX’s three daughters, to ascend the throne. Sweden and Norway changed their constitutions too. Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria is the oldest of the siblings. Yet since the constitutional change took place after her younger brother Carl Philip was born, Sweden’s King Carl XIV Gustav has never reconciled with the fact that his son lost his status as Crown Prince and heir to the throne.

That did not happen in Norway, where Crown Prince Haakon is younger than his sister but politicians decided that female succession should not apply to the current generation. 

Lizette Risgaard stepped down as leader of the Danish Trade Union Confederation FH after being accused of sexually harassing male colleagues. FH came out of a merger between Danish LO and the Confederation of Professionals in Denmark FTF, and this has created a bit of a headache for the gender equality barometer.  

Since the LO's Lizette Risgaard and FTF’s former leader Bente Sorgenfrey both entered the leadership team at FH, the organisation was for a few years granted 6 points in the barometer – 4 and 2 points to the two women. Then, Bente Sorgenfrey quit in 2022 and was replaced by Morten Skov Christiansen, who one year later also took over the FH Presidency.

What happens next will determine how to apply points when FH once more get a female leader – whether it is justified to give 6 points to that person or whether the trade union landscape has changed. 



Source: NLJ


There is no problem figuring out how to divide points to the social partners in Finland. So far, no woman has been the leader of either trade union confederations or employers’ organisations. So as before – nil points. 

During her time as Prime Minister, Sanna Marin became the new face of Finland. She became the world’s youngest prime minister when she took over from Antti Rinne in 2019. The year after, she also became leader of the Social Democratic Party. She surrounded herself with many other young female government ministers but alienated some Finnish voters after a party video featuring her was spread online. She chose to do a test to prove she had not used cocaine.

The current Prime Minister, Petteri Orop, is from the National Coalition Party – Finland’s conservative party. The government coalition is made up of 19 ministers. Eight from the National Coalition Party, seven from the Finns Party, two from the Swedish People’s Party and one from the Christian Democrats. The government came to power on 20 June 2023. 

Despite the post of prime minister carrying significant weight with 5 points in the gender equality barometer, the loss of Sanna Marin has been partially compensated by women in other minister posts, leaving Finland 3 points down from last year.



Source: NLJ

Iceland and Sweden are the only countries to gain points this year. Iceland gets 14 points - up from 12 in 2023. The reason is that the Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson resigned on 10 October 2023, following the release of a report by the Ombudsman of Althing which heavily condemned his conduct relating to the sale of state-owned shares in the bank Íslandsbanki.

But since he is the party leader of Iceland’s conservative Independence Party, he plays a key role in keeping Katrín Jakobsdottír’s coalition together. So she wanted to keep him in the government and made him Minister for Foreign Affairs instead while Thórdís Kolbrún Gylfadóttir took over as Minister of Finance.

That gives Iceland one extra point in the barometer. There was also a change at the top of the Ministry of Justice, where Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir took over – but there was no political scandal behind this move.



Source: NLJ

The Norwegians have previously shown that the gender distribution in the 24 positions of power can be in favour of women. The 100 female points are distributed with 40 to each country, and under Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Norway received 22 points as early as 2014Ten years later, the country is down to 14 points.

Norway’s LO has been led by Peggy Hessen Følsvik since her predecessor Hans-Christian Gabrielsen died from a heart attack on 9 March 2021. That is one of the reasons why the barometer is based on measurements made at 8 am on 8 March. After taking the helm as caretaker, Følsvik was formally elected President at the LO annual conference in 2022. 

Norway’s political scene has been through turbulent times lately, and many government ministers have been caught in the crosswinds. Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt stepped down after her husband bought shares in a Norwegian state-controlled defence contractor. Other ministers were caught having cheated on their university master's degree theses and some had given well-paid boardroom positions to friends. Altogether, Norway lost 3 points due to this.



Sweden 8 March 2024

There have only been modest changes to positions of power in Sweden. On 1 December 2023, the country got its first-ever female national police chief. Her name is Petra Lundh and she has previously served as Prosecutor General and as President of the Svea Court of Appeal.

The Aftonbladet newspaper congratulated her on her position by writing she had been given “the most hopeless task in Sweden”. Due to an ongoing conflict between different criminal gangs, there have been more murders and bomb attacks in Sweden than in any other European country. 

Photo: Nadine Sohier/Regeringskansliet

Petra Lundh, the new national police chief in Sweden. Photo: Nadine Sohier/Regeringskansliet.

Swedish LO is facing changes at the top after Susanna Gideonsson announced she will be stepping down this spring. It is still not clear who will take over. Gideonsson is retiring for personal reasons.

“The simple reason is that 2023 was a shit year for me personally,” she told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. 

There are no changes to political posts, but when the Nordic Labour Journal interviewed the Minister of Equality Paulina Brandberg, we also asked her about how important it is to have gender equality at the top.

“It is incredibly important, but I have always been against gender quotas because I don’t believe that is the right way to achieve gender equality. We have to find other ways. Role models play a very important part if we want to get women into top positions. Women need to feel that it is possible. High-level executive positions are just as natural for women as they are for men. And this, of course, affects how many men and women are in top positions," said Paulina Brandberg.

Three kinds of powers

Lizette Risgaard resigned as leader for FH, Denmark's largest Trade Union Confederation, Queen Margrethe abdicated, while Sanna Marin stepped down after the election in Finland. Photos: Jesper Ludvigsen, Keld Navntoft and Laura Kotila.

How we calculated:

50% 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 equal 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, archbishops, 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 twelve government ministries, some ministers have been given an extra point, giving Iceland the same maximum of 40 points as the other Nordic countries. 

The gender equality barometer measures who is in power at 8am on 8 March each year. 


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