Norway’s progress on gender equality

Norway has been a game changer for increased participation of women and positive measures to promote equality in the business world. Which factors can explain this positive development, and which issues remain to be handled?

Women in business

In 2003 Norway adopted the law on a minimum of 40 per cent representation of both sexes in the boards of State-owned and private companies (public limited companies).  All the relevant companies now fulfill this requirement. Norway has set a standard that is met by increasing interest in other countries and is now on the agenda of the EU.

The quota law should be followed up by effective sanctions and state measures which help stimulate the action. That is the advise from Mari Teigen, research director at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo. Read more about the role of sanctions in Norwegian quota law.

Another key priority of the Norwegian Government is the women, peace and security agenda. This involves promoting women’s participation in peace processes and negotiations, and addressing gender aspects in the design and implementation of all Norwegian peace and security efforts.

Three women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. “This is an important recognition of the role they have played in ensuring women’s safety and right to participate in peace-building work. Women’s participation is crucial in promoting peace and preventing conflict.”  -Jens Stoltenberg. 
Photo: Scanpix/ photomontage MFA Norway.Three women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. “This is an important recognition of the role they have played in ensuring women’s safety and right to participate in peace-building work. Women’s participation is crucial in promoting peace and preventing conflict.” -Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Scanpix/ photomontage MFA Norway
 

See Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre's comments on the Nobel Peace Prize 2011 - recognizing women's efforts to promote peace and democracy.  

In 2011, the Strategic Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2011-2013 was launched. The Strategic Plan highlights some of the areas that are to be given particular priority over the next few years.

 

Working women is good economics

Women’s employment boosts the GDP and contributes greatly to Norway’s productivity, growth and level of development. The logic is simple: More women entering working life means a larger workforce and more tax income to be spent for the common good. It also means making good use of a highly qualified portion of the population. In Norway, women outnumber men in higher education by 6 to 10. A larger workforce (as many women and men as possible) is quite simply an investment in a country’s wealth and prosperity.

  

Combining work and family life for women and men

The government has a goal of providing universal availability of high-quality child care at affordable prices. With a stimulating daytime environment available to children, both parents have the option to work. Today, almost all children attend preschool or kinder garden,

PM Jens Stoltenberg was happy to see his two colleagues take out paternity leaves. 
Photo: Jens Stoltenberg at Facebook.PM Jens Stoltenberg was happy to see his two colleagues take out paternity leaves. Photo: Jens Stoltenberg at Facebook
 Maternity leave is reserved for the women, 3 weeks before and 6 weeks after giving birth. Fathers can take two weeks off immediately after the birth, in many cases with full remuneration. Altogether, parents are offered 46 weeks of fully paid leave or 56 weeks at 80% of their normal pay. Ten weeks are reserved for the father, and are lost to the family if he chooses not to take them. The remaining weeks can be freely shared between the parents. Many fathers take more for themselves as their wives head back to work.

The paternity leave was introduced in 1993 is seen as the single most successful gender equality policy measure to change attitudes and practice. It has succeeded in bringing fathers home to the family. Read more about the paternity leave.

 

Gender equality in Norway – a success story?

Norway is among the leading countries when gender equality is concerned with top scores, along with the other Nordic countries, in the annual equality rankings from the United Nations and the World Economic Forum. High levels of political participation, high work-force participation and a comparatively high birth rate go a long way to explaining the high scores. There is also broad political consensus on the importance of gender equality in Norway.

What lies behind this relative success of gender equality in Norway? We asked Anne Havnør, Deputy Head of the Embassy, who earlier worked many years with gender equality policies.

The Norwegian Embassy’s First Secretary, Ms. Anne Havnør.The Norwegian Embassy’s First Secretary, Ms. Anne Havnør.
 “The current level of gender equality did not come about automatically, but resulted from the efforts of the grassroots women’s movement and important individual pioneers “explains Anne. Further, grassroots demands were met with a positive response by the politicians. Women’s increased participation in politics helped this development."

Gro Harlem Brundtland became Norway’s first woman prime minister in 1981. In 1986, she appointed a government featuring a record number of women, 8 out of 19 Cabinet Ministers.

“This set a new standard for Norwegian politics” says Anne.

Since then, no Norwegian government has been formed with less than 40 per cent women. Today, the Norwegian Government has an equal number of men and women. Further, 5 of the major political parties have women leaders.

“Women’s leadership made an impact on the political agenda”, continues Anne. “The period from 1986 to 1993 saw an extension of the paid parental leave to one full year (80 per cent remuneration). The reform was carried through despite the financial crisis at the time. The increase in women's labor market participation, including among the mothers of young children, was met by political measures to enhance reconciliation of work and family life” The welfare state provided services needed to free women's time and allow both parents to work. At the same time it offered new work opportunities for women.

 

Norway still faces challenges

Key issues for today are particular focus on groups of women with low turnout and representation in politics such as the young and the immigrants.

Both men and women have experienced increased salaries the last 15 years, but the gender income gap has remained relatively stable. Women’s mean earnings are approximately 85% of men’s.

Violence against women is both a cause of gender inequality and a hindrance for genuine equality between the sexes. The current government is determined to increase their efforts against domestic violence.

 

New statistics

Women’s representation as board members of public limited companies lies at 40 %. In private limited companies however, female representation is 17 %. 

66% of Norwegian women between 15 and 74 years of age are gainfully employed, with only a slightly lower representation than men. However 40 % of women work part time, compared to men’s 14%.

Norwegian women give birth to an average of 1.95 children. This means that their fertility is among the highest in Europe.

Women representation in the parliament is at 40%.

More facts can be found at Statistics Norway

 

A few historical facts

Norway was relatively early in implementing the right to vote for women, and in 1913 women received the right to vote and stand for election on equal footing with men.

International Women’s Day was first celebrated in Norway in 1915. Even then, focus was on peace and development. The women’s association in the Labor Party held a public meeting on peace, at which they had invited the Russian Socialist, author and diplomat Alexandra Kollontai to speak. Now, International Women’s Day on 8 March is an annual event.

It was in connection with the campaign for women’s suffrage that the idea of an international women’s day was first launched in the US and Europe at the beginning of the 1900s. Once women gained the vote, the formal basis was in place for women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. A cause that owed its origins to the French Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment had been won.

Find more information on the history of Gender Equality in Norway


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