NIKK - RSS – news – NIKK http://www.nikk.no/en Tue, 21 Nov 2017 13:46:13 +0000 http://backend.userland.com/rss092 en-US Almost DKK 3 million to gender equality cooperation! http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nara-3-miljoner-danska-kronor-till-jamstalldhetssamarbeten/ In March, Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) will once again accept applications for funding of Nordic gender equality cooperation. As in previous years, for a grant application to be approved, the proposed project must involve actors from at least three Nordic countries.
The granted activities must begin in autumn 2018 and be completed within two years. The money may for example be used to develop shared methods and new knowledge or to organise conferences and networks.

Three prioritised themes have been identified for the Nordic Council of Ministers’ gender equality fund: the public space, sustainable development, and welfare and innovation.

The projects granted funding last year include:

 

A care-crisis in the women-friendly welfare states?

A project that explores the status of work in care occupations in the Nordic countries against the background of the neoliberal turn in politics and how it affects gender equality.

Gender equality in workplace-based learning in the Nordic countries

A Nordic exchange of ideas and experiences that identifies methods currently used in workplace-based learning, shares them via network meetings and documents experiences online. The goal is to provide a tool that can be used in gender equality work in vocational education.

Gender- equal parenthood – gender equality in the labour market

This project explores the parental insurance systems in the Nordic countries and how they affect women’s paid work and men’s claiming of parental benefit. The results will be compiled in a report that will also include suggestions regarding how the system can be improved to increase gender equality.

Important dates

Applications must be submitted using the special application form that will be made available at nikk.no as soon as the call opens.

  1. 1 March – Call opens
  2. 31 March – Call closes
  3. May – Funding decisions are communicated to the applicants
  4. June – Contracts are signed
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New website acknowledges female Nordic filmmakers http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-website-acknowledges-female-nordic-filmmakers/ The first version of the website, which focuses on the role and importance of women in the film industry, was originally launched by the Swedish Film Institute in April 2016. It raises awareness about Swedish female filmmakers and film workers through in-depth articles, portraits, interviews, news and film clips. Within the framework of a project titled Women in Nordic Film History, funded with a grant from the Nordic Council of Ministers’ gender equality fund, the website will now be expanded with information about Norwegian and Danish women’s contributions in the film industry.

’The website is needed in order to counteract the marginalisation of women’s contributions in Nordic film in both history books and today’s cultural debate,’ says Ingrid Stigsdotter, project leader and researcher at the Section for Cinema Studies, Stockholm University.

Ingrid Stigsdotter, project leader

Why have you chosen to focus on female film workers in Sweden, Denmark and Norway?

’We are hoping to eventually include Finland and Iceland as well so that the website will be a Nordic platform for research on women and film. We chose to initiate the cooperation in three languages, where the project participants and the online visitors can understand each other without a need for translation,’ says Ingrid Stigsdotter.

How is the website being built?

The project partners use their networks to contact freelance writers and researchers, who then contribute articles. The idea has been for the articles to feature photographers, screenwriters, directors, film editors and other film workers who have worked behind the camera. It’s all about acknowledging individuals who have made significant contributions without being very well known. Women have often found it easier to get jobs in areas with lower status, such as scenography and costume design. You can find many interesting names in those fields.’

Also within the framework of the project, public seminars are arranged in the three countries. The seminar in Oslo focused on the silent film era, and the one in Copenhagen on research about female screenwriters and actresses. In Stockholm on 20 November, the programme will include a presentation of a new gender equality report.

’The purpose of the seminars is to develop the cooperation among researchers in Sweden, Norway and Denmark so that they can contribute with material to the website about women in Nordic film history.’

Who is your target group?

’Anybody who is interested in film or gender equality issues. We also hope that researchers will use the website as a platform for dissemination of research findings.’

How gender equal is the Nordic film industry?

‘The industry is not gender equal. High-status domains such as film directing and photography remain male dominated. A very small share of female filmmakers work with productions that reach a larger audience.’

What are the key differences between the Nordic countries when it comes to women and film?

‘Historically, women became involved in the film industry later in Norway than in Denmark and Sweden, as the production of films started later in Norway. Today, there are more similarities than differences, but if you listen to the public debate in the three countries, you will hear a harder push for gender equality work in the form of government cultural policy in Sweden and Norway. In Denmark, there is a tradition of criticising targeted gender equality measures, such as gender quotas,’ says Ingrid Stigsdotter.

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Men break with the norms to help propel gender equality http://www.nikk.no/en/news/normbrytande-man-ska-ta-jamstalldheten-vidare/ Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson called the conference a training camp:

“At Barbershop, men get the insight they need to play an active role in the debate on gender equality. Otherwise we’re just playing with half a team, with no hope of winning the match,” he said as he opened the conference.

He continued by clarifying that winning one match does not mean that the Nordic countries will remain best in the world when it comes to gender equality.

“We know what respect for women’s rights and women’s participation in the labour market has done for our well-being. And we want to be even better. But the ultimate goal is that every country achieves gender equality,” said Thordarson.

Women leaving Volvo

The concept of providing a forum for men’s debate on gender equality has been developed in Iceland and tested around the world on several occasions.

The first Barbershop conference, organised by the Nordic Council of Ministers and UN Women, took place in Copenhagen on 12 October.

Senior business figures, including Peter Grönberg from Volvo and Sari Brody from Ikea, took to the stage to talk about their companies’ systematic efforts relating to gender equality. Volvo has had problems with women disliking its corporate culture and leaving the company. All male senior managers are now undergoing training to create awareness of masculinity norms.

“We have to be creative if we want to be the best problem-solving company in the industry. The predominance of men in management teams isn’t especially creative; it’s more about maintaining hierarchies. We only become creative through mixed management teams and when people dare to be themselves. Many men in Volvo’s management team have said that receiving training in gender norms has changed their lives,” said Grönberg.

Counting is only the first step

Ikea, which employs 150,000 people in 29 countries, has the goal of achieving gender-equal management teams and equal pay for equal work by 2020.

“Once you have equality in numbers, you have only started your work. Because your real work is an inclusive culture. Our starting point is that gender equality is a fundamental human right,” said Brody.

One way for Ikea to work on its corporate culture is to offer paid parental leave to new mothers and fathers in countries like India, Japan, and the US, and to encourage men in particular to make use of this entitlement.

Bjarni Bjarnason, CEO of Reykjavik Energy, described the company’s hard work in successfully abolishing unjustified pay differences between women and men in the company – a process which began after Iceland’s banking crisis.

Equal pay standard used

The company has gone from an inappropriate 8.4 percent pay gap between women and men to a 1.1 percent gap.

“By the end of the year, we’ll be hovering around zero. We’ve also worked a lot on our corporate culture, with the benefit of higher productivity, more open decision-making processes, and better decisions as a result. All the cards are on the table and no one has a hidden agenda,” said Bjarnason.

Reykjavik Energy has been involved in developing the volontary standard for equal pay that now can be used by every major company in Iceland to abolish unjustified pay gaps. Iceland have introduced legislation requiring employers to prove they are paying men and women equally.

“The senior management has a duty to enforce gender equality,” concluded Bjarnason.

Klas Hyllander, an engineer and consultant who trains business leaders in gender equality, confirmed that it is important to put pressure on senior management teams in the corporate world.

“The situation in the private business sector is worse than other sectors – CEOs are underperforming. They’re failing to utilise the potential that exists within their companies. Companies which exclude large segments of the population prove expensive for society as a whole,” Hyllander said.

Girls in STEM, boys in social care

To enable companies to utilise their full potential – such as the high level of educational attainment of women – men must be responsible for half of unpaid work in the home,” said Gary Barker, founder of the organisation Promundo.

“The most important reason why women throughout the world pursue a career to a lesser extent than men is that they are more responsible for looking after their children and homes,” he said.

The foremost political priority is two-fold, says Barker: Educate all young people, regardless of gender, in being breadwinners and caregivers. And “force” new fathers to stay at home with their children.

“We spend a lot of time convincing girls that they can embark on a variety of technical training programmes, but how much time do we spend convincing boys to be caregivers, both professionally and privately?” he asked.

“Dad months” are effective

“For as long as the wage gap between women and men exists, and for as long as gender roles govern people’s lives so heavily, women will assume the lion’s share of caring for their children,” he argued. Consequently, parental leave should be fully paid and shared equally between both parents.

“Countries that pursue this will achieve gender equality more quickly. And the politicians who make such decisions will usually be re-elected,” said Barker.

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New election may strengthen Iceland’s gender equality work http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nyval-kan-starka-islands-jamstalldhetsarbete/ The country’s feminist movement has participated in the election campaign with great intensity.

‘A lot of people are discussing gender equality issues at the moment, especially in relation to sexual harassment,’ says Rakel Adolphsdóttir.

However, the political parties have had an unexpectedly weak focus on gender equality, according to Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir, political science researcher at the University of Iceland.

‘Gender equality issues have not received the level of attention I expected, although I suppose the parties on the left have raised the issue of domestic violence at a fairly high level and those on the right are talking about the gender wage gap more now than in the past,’ she says.

The present government not very impressive

Neither Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir nor Rakel Adolphsdóttir is very impressed by the present government when it comes to gender equality policy.
‘It will be difficult for the new government to focus less on gender equality,’ says Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir.
The government has received a lot of attention in international media for the new law on equal pay, which was pushed through by the Reform Party. However, the law has been in the works for several years and is hardly something the current government alone can take credit for, says Rachel Adolphsdóttir. Moreover, maybe the new law, which goes into effect at the turn of the year, has also been attributed a bit too much significance, Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir believes.

‘The law prohibits employers from paying different salaries to women and men for the same job, but it won’t affect the overall gender gap since it doesn’t do anything to challenge the gender segregation in the labour market,’ she says.

In order to close the gender pay gap, it is not enough to legislate against differences in pay between women and men with the same type of job; it is also necessary to deal with the pay gap between male- and female-dominated sectors, according to Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir. She hopes that the next government will focus on improving the salaries of the lowest paid female-dominated occupational groups such as preschool teachers, nurses and teachers.

‘Another important issue for the new government to address is the launching of an action plan against sexual violence and violence in intimate relationships,’ she says.

Only a year since the last election

When the polls open next weekend, only a year will have passed since the last general election, which was also an early election caused by the so-called Panama papers scandal. Back up ten years to the global financial crisis, which led to the Icelandic bank crash. The austerity package put in place after the crash was met by major demonstrations, and the government was pointed out as irresponsible.

‘The frailness of the government is a situation we are not used to,’ says Rakel Adolphsdóttir in regard to the last decade’s political crises.

The current scandal erupted at the end of the summer, when it was revealed that Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson’s father had written a letter recommending that a convicted sex offender should have his ‘honour restored’, which would have his criminal record erased. Initially, this was kept secret by the prime minister’s Independence Party, and when the scandal finally surfaced, another party, Bright Future, chose to leave the government, making it collapse.

Rakel Adolphsdóttir feels that the political crises have strengthened rather than weakened the feminist movement and the gender equality in the country.

‘10–20 years ago, it was much harder to reach through. I think we have become increasingly vocal,’ she says.

She hopes that the next government will make major investments in the welfare sector.

‘There is a lack of resources, especially in health care and education,’ she says.

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Gender differences in health persist http://www.nikk.no/en/news/fortfarande-skillnader-i-halsa-beroende-pa-kon/ ‘Gender equality in health is a tricky subject because there are so many influencing factors. The amount of time you spend on leisure activities and on doing unpaid work at home will impact your health, and so will your work situation and economic conditions. So the question of how we should work to improve the gender equality in health is very complicated,’ says Zuzana Madarova from EIGE.

The statistics from the index showed that women outlive men on average, but that they spend more years dealing with health problems. The gender equality in health increased somewhat in Finland, Denmark and Sweden from 2005 to 2015, but some inequalities remain. One of those who has been involved in the work to reduce the gender differences, and who attended the conference in Brussels, is Sirpa Pietikäinen, Finnish member of the European Parliament.

‘First and foremost, everyone must have access to publicly funded health care. The right to abortion as well as information on reproductive health are other absolute necessities. We also need to ensure research on women’s diseases and that women are diagnosed correctly when seeing a doctor. For example, a woman who suffers a heart attack may experience symptoms that differ from those typically seen in males, and consequently she may end up being misdiagnosed,’ says Sirpa Pietikäinen.

The topics addressed during the panel discussion between Pietikäinen, Xavier Cabana-Monné, director general of the EU Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, and Vanessa Moore, researcher at the European Institute of Women’s Health, included the health of persons who do not identify themselves as a woman or a man.

‘There is a need for more knowledge about LGBT persons so that the current stigma can be avoided,’ says Sirpa Pietikäinen.

The panel was unanimous in its views of people with non-traditional gender identities, but as was the case for all speakers at the conference, this attitude was not reflected in the language used, as all discussions about gender only made reference to women and men.

‘There are no data, so they are never included in the statistics,’ Zuzana Madrova from EIGE explained.

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Fact sheet release: the public sphere http://www.nikk.no/en/news/fact-sheet-release-the-public-sphere/ How can the public sphere become a place for everyone? Despite progression in the Nordic countries, the public sphere is still not for everyone. Sexist advertising, the invisibility of certain groups in the media and online hate speech risk silencing many voices and limit the actions of certain individuals and groups.

For this reason, the theme of gender equality in the public sphere has been at the forefront of our assignment, and the Nordic Council of Ministers has subsequently decided to lift the topic in recent projects. The aim is to highlight particular areas in which inequality still prohibits individuals and groups and hinders gender equality in the Nordic region.

NIKK’s recently published fact sheet highlights three major obstacles to gender equality within the public sphere, based from reports published by actors within the Nordic cooperation.

Sexist advertising

Sexist advertising is one of the areas targeted in the fact sheet and is based from results originating in the original reported titled ‘Sexist Advertisement in the Nordic countries – An Evaluation of Regulations and Implementation’ published by The Swedish Women’s Lobby in 2016. One of the report findings show that Iceland takes the strongest lead of the Nordic countries in counteracting against sexist advertising, partly on the grounds of the ease of reporting violations. Individuals may highlight any form of sexist advertising by contacting the Centre for Gender Equality via telephone, email or online form submission.

Click here to read the entire report on sexist advertising.

Women in the media

Media representation is another area taken issue with in a following cooperative project titled ‘Women and men in the news: Report on gender representation in Nordic news content and the Nordic media industry’, published in 2017. The report’s findings show that women are generally unrepresented with the disparity between male to female coverage being heavily outweighed; women standing as just 24 percent of news subjects.

Click here to read the full report on women and men in the news.

Online hate speech and cyberbullying

The final highlighted report, ‘Online hate speech – review of the legal regulation in the Nordic countries from a gender equality perspective’, discusses limitations of freedom that exist for women in online environments. Online hate speech silences particular voices on the internet and therefore presents a threat to democracy and genuine freedom of expression for all in the public sphere.

Click here to read the full report on online hate speech.

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Nordic conference draws attention to young people’s gender equality work http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-conference-draws-attention-to-young-peoples-gender-equality-work/ The Youtheq conference is organised around five themes that are inspired by the goals set for Sweden’s national youth policy: education and learning, work and income, young people’s participation and representation, health and exposure, and recreation, culture and media.

Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz

‘There is a void when it comes to integrating a youth perspective into the ambitions associated with national gender equality policy. We tend to put a strong focus on gender equality during the adult period of life – as if gender inequality suddenly emerged in adulthood. By introducing gender equality issues early in life, young people can develop a gender equality awareness and bring it with them into adulthood,’ says Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz, municipal social sustainability strategist in Kalmar and member of Youtheq’s steering group and advisory council.

According to Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz, increased gender equality awareness in young people reduces the likelihood that they will choose educational paths and careers based on traditions.

‘Four of the 30 largest occupational groups in the Swedish labour market were quantitatively gender equal in 2014 – retail sales staff in specialty stores, cooks and cold-buffet managers, shop supervisors and upper-secondary teachers. Young people keep making the same choices as my generation did, and I’m middle aged. Gender continues to restrict people’s lives,’ she says.

Obvious participation

Over a hundred politicians, civil servants and representatives from municipalities, county councils, schools and non-profit organisations in the Nordic countries will attend the conference, which is funded by the municipality of Kalmar and the Nordic Council of Ministers’ gender equality fund.

‘The aim is for the participants to gain energy and new tools so that they can he

Alexandra Winberg

lp advance the gender equality among young people in the Nordic region,’ says Alexandra Winberg, project manager.

The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society sees it as obvious that its representatives should attend the conference.

‘The event is a good opportunity to learn from other speakers and gain insight into how the other Nordic countries work with gender equality among young people. The conference is a good way to network and get introduced to new ways of thinking,’ says Lisa Onsbacke from the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society.

Onsbacke and her colleagues will participate in several conference sessions and will for example talk about how the youth perspective can be integrated into various activities and policy decisions.

The municipality of Kalmar is project owner for the conference, and the municipalities of Kristiansand in Norway, Kolding in Denmark and Mariehamn in Åland Islands are cooperation partners.

Why is there a need for a Nordic gender equality conference focusing on young people?

‘The Nordic countries are leaders in gender equality. Together, we can become even better. We also have a big responsibility to inspire and help advance the work in other parts of the world where the gender equality is getting worse, such as in Poland, where the right to abortion is being questioned,’ says Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz.

Has the gender equality among young people in the Nordic countries worsened?

‘The picture is not entirely clear. When it comes to representation and influence, progress is being made in various fields. At the same time, however, an increasing number of young women are falling victim to sex crimes,’ says Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz.

‘Young women feel terribly unsafe. Many of them are too afraid to walk home alone. Their personal space is being restricted,’ Alexandra Winberg adds.

How do young people in the Nordic countries feel about gender equality?

A large number of young activists and feminists are strongly involved in the struggle for gender equality. But there are also large groups of adolescents who think that the gender equality work has been finished, that it doesn’t concern them and that it is an issue older people have a problem with,’ says Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz.

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Film releases: Three new films about Nordic cooperation http://www.nikk.no/en/news/filmrelease-tre-nya-filmer-om-nordisk-samarbete/ A key task of the media is to reflect the diversity in society. However, research shows that there are great imbalances among the people who produce and distribute the news we consume. Today’s news media are dominated by men – including in the Nordic countries.

In addition, the share of decision-makers in the media sector who are women is far smaller than 50%, and women are also underrepresented as consulted experts in the news.

For example, did you know that in some Nordic countries, only one-fifth of those who are involved in the news media are women? And the presence of women in the news media seems to actually be decreasing rather than increasing. This knowledge needs to be disseminated so that more newsrooms become aware of the imbalance and of who gets to speak their mind in the news. This topic is addressed in one of the three films.

Watch it here.

Online hate speech, consiting of threats, harassment and sexist remarks on the internet, may silence many voices and is another important issue in the public space. Female journalists are particularly vulnerable. In fact, every third female editorial writer, columnist, editor-in-chief and commentator is thinking about quitting their jobs due to threats, intimidation and other forms of harassment.

This is a threat to the public debate and thus to the entire democratic system. For the first time ever, the Nordic national discrimination ombudsmen are currently working together in a fund project to end the online hate speech problem. Tougher legislation is one of their proposed solutions.

Watch the film here.

The objective of a gender-equal society is also counteracted by gender-stereotyped representations of women and men in the public space. Sexist advertising creates unrealistically narrow media images of women and men and the increasing sexualisation of the public space is restricting the range of role models that are available to girls and boys.

Nevertheless, Nordic businesses can continue to engage in sexist marketing schemes practically without risking any legal consequences. Therefore, three Nordic organisations have decided to join forces and urge the public to act as a watchdog and report sexist advertising.

Watch the film here.

The Nordic gender equality cooperation has contributed to increased knowledge and intensified collaboration between the countries. Conferences, meetings, research and reports are making us more knowledgeable and thus are bringing us closer to the goal of a gender-equal Nordic region.

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Focus on work and the labour market in this year’s fund projects http://www.nikk.no/en/news/focus-on-work-and-the-labour-market-in-this-years-fund-projects/ StödordningThis year, seven projects have been granted funding from the Nordic gender equality Fund to collaborate on issues related to gender equality. The projects will result in new knowledge about the gender-segregated labour market, utilisation of the public parental insurance and harassment in the workplace.

All projects focus on gender equality in the workplace and the labour market – a theme also prioritised by the Norwegian Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

‘The Nordic countries have long worked actively to promote equal opportunities to participate in the labour market between women and men. We have come a long way, but several challenges remain. This year’s Fund projects focusing on work and labour market will hopefully inform future efforts in this area,’ says Elin Engström, head of operations at Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK).

This year’s projects span across a wide range of themes. The one titled Enhancing Labour Opportunities for Women in the Nordic Countries will carry out a comparative study of three medium-sized Nordic communities in order to identify and share experiences of improving the integration of women in the labour market.

‘The project will examine policies and practices in three communities in three Nordic countries, Finland, Sweden and Iceland. The goal is to identify policies and practices that affect migrant women’s employment,’ says Markus Meckl from the University of Akureyri.

The discrimination ombudsmen in Sweden, Denmark and Norway will carry out a study to learn more about how sexual harassment in the workplace is handled.

Another project focuses on the health and care sector and will investigate the status of work in this domain in light of the neoliberal turn in policy and explore its relevance for gender equality.

Every year, NIKK administers funding for initiatives and collaborations in the area of gender equality in the Nordic countries on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Nordic Gender Equality Fund was initiated by the Nordic gender equality ministers with an aim to stimulate Nordic cooperation.

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Nordic women’s organisations want to strengthen girls’ rights http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-womens-organisations-want-to-strengthen-girls-rights/ The Swedish women’s organisation WOCAD is very critical of the way girls are treated in the Nordic region.

‘Girls in the Nordic countries are being harassed, groped and sexually abused. Pictures of them are spread on the internet and they are called derogatory words. This can’t go on,’ says the organisation’s general manager Leena Haraké.

She believes the situation of girls has gone downhill in the last ten years.

‘One difference today compared with in the past is that it has become more common that whole gangs of people bully, harass and violate lone girls.

Leena Haraké, organisation’s general manager

The violations can have serious consequences for young women’s health.

‘The victims feel ashamed when they are told they have themselves to blame for the attacks, that their skirts were too short or they wore too much lipstick. This makes the girls lose their self-confidence and self-esteem,’ says Leena Haraké.

The increasingly harsh climate in society made WOCAD initiate the project Full Rights for Girls in the Nordic Countries. The one-year project, which started last autumn and is funded by the Nordic Gender Equality Fund, also involves three additional organisations that work to promote the rights of girls and women: Naistenkartano from Finland, Blatt Afram from Iceland and Retretten from Norway.

What is the purpose of the project? 

‘We want to increase the support for girls’ rights in the Nordic countries. It should go without saying that girls shouldn’t have to risk being violated, regardless of what they wear or what they look like.

If we can initiate a dialogue and a discussion, more people and organisations will get involved in the work to strengthen girls’ rights, says Leena Haraké, who is heading the project.

How do you strengthen girls’ rights in the project?

‘We have organised four one-day courses in Karlstad, Mellerud, Falun and Gothenburg. Two more will be held in Reykjavik and Helsinki. At the courses, which are attended by for example policy makers, public health planners and people from youth organisations, we inform the participants about the latest development in the area of girls’ rights. Then we hold a discussion about how the participants plan to support girls. And a drama teacher leads a forum play where the participants get to practise how to identify violations, harassment and derogatory language and actions at an early point, and how to act in response.’

‘We also organised a seminar during the Almedalen Week in early July to reach out to politicians who can do something about the problem.’

What is needed in order for girls in the Nordic countries to enjoy their full rights? 

‘There’s a need for a change in attitudes and values. Parents, sports coaches and adults in the school system have a big responsibility. They need to have knowledge about what harassment, molestation and rape entail and clearly take action every time a girl is violated.’

What are the Nordic countries doing to strengthen girls’ rights? 

‘Finland has a deeply ingrained equity perspective. Freedom from harassment is a civil right. The issue is discussed a lot and is therefore taken very seriously. This makes it easier for victims to speak up. In Iceland, there are national efforts to prevent violations of both boys and girls. Parents have received information about how to tell their children that they have the right to defend themselves if someone touches their body and that they should tell someone if they are violated. Norwegian schools are boosting girls by clearly telling them that no one has the right to violate them. Sweden is the Nordic country that has the furthest to go. For example, there’s a need for reminders from the political level that violations of girls are criminal acts,’ says Leena Haraké.

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New Online Hate Crime Legislation May End Up Ineffective http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-online-hate-crime-legislation-may-end-up-ineffective/ A legislative proposal that the Swedish government is currently working on aims to restore the protection of people’s integrity, which has become weaker over the years due to the increasing opportunities to disseminate pictures and information online. But the proposed legislation is also meant to safeguard the public debate by reinforcing the freedom of expression for those who feel constrained by the risk of falling victim to online hate speech.

Women who participate in the public debate make up a particularly vulnerable group. Karin Olsson, culture editor and deputy editor-in-chief of Swedish newspaper Expressen, is no exception.

‘I don’t belong to those who want to cite haters to show how awful they can be. I don’t want to give them that power,’ she says, and points out that there are those who experience much worse attacks anyway.

Karin Olsson, culture editor and deputy editor-in-chief of Swedish newspaper Expressen.

Despite the fact that online hate speech has become a natural part of everyday life in her profession, Karin Olsson is one of few critics of the celebrated proposal.

‘There is a huge lack of competence in the police force regarding how to investigate crimes in the digital world. The defamation legislation could be used a lot more. There are obviously cases that may fall between the cracks, and there may very well be a need for some revisions. But these suggestions are too far-reaching and may have a negative impact on the freedom of expression,’ she says.

Under the proposed new legislation, the legal concepts of harassment and defamation will more clearly include crimes committed online and will therefore cover a large share of the online hate speech targeting journalists and other participants in the public debate. Unlawful threats will be expanded to also include threats to a person’s privacy and integrity, in order to cover for example threats of harassment. The new crime, labelled “unlawful violation of privacy”, criminalises the dissemination of pictures and information that may harm a person’s privacy and integrity. Revenge porn is a prime example.

‘The legislation has to be precise and must hold up in difficult cases. Imagine a situation with the Sweden Democrats in power. If that ever happens, we don’t want a legislation that limits the freedom of expression too much. I think we should be extremely cautious,’ says Karin Olsson.

The Swedish government has already launched an action plan for threats targeting journalists, elected officials and artists. But some of the worst violations on the internet are targeted to ordinary people, and mostly women.

 

The Legislation May Affect Norms

Daniel Edsbagge, chief public prosecutor in Uddevalla municipality, is one of those who have managed to achieve a conviction for revenge porn.

‘It really wasn’t so difficult as far as the investigation goes. But it is obvious that the present law was written in a pre-internet era,’ he says.

Daniel Edsbagge, chief public prosecutor in Uddevalla .

This summer, he had a man convicted of grave defamation for having disseminated nude pictures of his ex-girlfriend. The man was sentenced to probation and a SEK 30 000 fine. The sentences imposed for this type of crime have varied greatly and have not been proportional to the suffering that the victims have had to endure, according to Daniel Edsbagge.

‘This violation affected her much more than if she for example would have been beaten. She felt that it totally ruined her life. She quit her job because her colleagues had seen pictures of her genitals. She cut all contact with her parents, didn’t leave her home for several months and needed to see a counsellor. These are enormous consequences that are not matched in the current legislation.’

With the new law on unlawful violation of a person’s privacy, perpetrators of this type of crime will be sentenced to anywhere from six months to four years in prison, depending on the severity of the offences. Daniel Edsbagge believes that the legislation may help change the prevailing norms as it brings clarity to what is considered criminal behaviour and prescribes quite severe penalties for perpetrators.

 

Online Hate Speech Targeting Women Is Often Linked to Gender

Online hate speech is considered a democracy problem in all Nordic countries. In June, Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) published a review of the national legislations from a gender equality perspective. Hate speech is criminalised in all Nordic countries and the laws protect certain groups. However, gender is not included in the legal framework in any of the countries, at the same time as research shows that online hate speech targeting women is largely related to gender.

The Danish adoption of a new law against sexual violations online earlier this year led not only to stiffer penalties but also to more resources being allocated to the police, instructions to schools to integrate the topic in their teaching and a large number of information and support measures. In Finland, the police have received funding to strengthen the work against online hate speech. In the Southwestern Finland Police Department alone, one of eleven regional police districts, this has led to the establishment of several new full-time positions in addition to the internet officers already specialising in online crimes.

In Sweden, the Police Authority writes in the documents underlying the legislative proposal that it will not need any additional resources. The Prosecution Authority estimates that it will need to fill one additional full-time position, but does not expect a rise in prosecutions large enough to necessitate increased funding for courts or public defence counsels. Due to the low expected number of convictions, the Prison and Probation Service does not believe it will need more resources. Despite the fact that more acts will be criminal, the lion’s share of the cost increase is expected to occur for what currently falls under grave defamation, meaning the most severe offences.

‘There may be reason to run special information campaigns regarding the new legislation, not least targeting young people,’ the commissioners write.

No such measures are planned, according to an email from Sofie Rudh, press secretary to Swedish Minister for Justice and Home Affairs Morgan Johansson.

 

‘Schools Need to Give More Attention to Online Hate Speech’

Unless the rest of society does its part, there is a risk that the new legislation ends up being ineffective, says Måns Svensson, sociologist of law and researcher at the Lund University Internet Institute.

Måns Svensson, sociologist of law and researcher.

‘Otherwise a situation may emerge where the law is only used in order to catch the most severe offenders, while teenagers continue their everyday harassment of each other as usual,’ he says.

People’s faith in the judicial system when it comes to this type of criminal activity is low, according to a research report on Swedish youth’s norms and behaviour in relation to online hate speech, which Måns Svensson co-authored and the legislative proposal makes reference to.

He believes that schools should give more attention to online hate speech.

‘I have heard school representatives say: “We make sure the kids behave while they’re at school”. This attitude is not sustainable, as the relations that schools create are not limited to the school environment. Bullied kids are victimised 24/7 – they are never left alone.’

Parents, too, should get more involved in how kids behave online, he says.

‘They need to get used to the thought that raising a kid in this day and age includes teaching them how to behave well online.’

 

Convinced That Adults Account for Half of All Online Hate Speech

Many parents are afraid their kids will do bad things online, and this fear sometimes leads to bad decisions that end up having the opposite effect, according to Elza Dunkels, educational science researcher and frequently consulted expert on young people’s online culture.

‘This hasn’t changed much in the 20 years I’ve been in the field. Every new generation of parents is just as worried as the previous one. When the children are so small their parents control their internet use, sometimes they don’t want to confide in their adults, and that’s serious from a safety point of view. It is important to keep calm,’ she says.

Elza Dunkels, educational science researcher.

Parents have an even greater fear of their kids becoming perpetrators of online hate speech than of them becoming victims.

‘It’s important to talk about the behaviour and not condemn the individual. Maybe tell them about own mistakes and allow for a dialogue around this difficult issue. And it’s also important to listen more than you talk. This is something adults often are bad at. When we talk to our children, it often becomes a monologue. And then adults often don’t know what to say. But they can say things like: “I heard about this. What do you think about it?” Almost all kids I have ever interviewed have been very excited to talk about these things.’

Elza Dunkels is often asked about how we can get young people to stop their online hate speech, but she is convinced that adults are responsible for at least half of all cases.

‘Nothing will ever change if all we do is take offenders to court, since it won’t change the hateful behaviour online per se.’

Elza Dunkels thinks that we all should ask ourselves: In what situations do I contribute to a hateful environment, even if I don’t do anything unlawful? What can I do to instead prevent it?

‘It’s all about how to think about other people. About not thinking in hateful ways.’

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Gender imbalance persists in Nordic news media http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-imbalance-persists-in-nordic-news-media/ What are the main weaknesses in the field of gender equality in the Nordic media industry?
‘Although the Nordic countries differ in many ways, the report shows that one thing they have in common is that men remain more visible than women in the media. The report also shows that the development in this area has been slow or stagnant in recent decades. Moreover, we found that gender stereotypes in the news are common. An uneven gender representation in the media is a gender equality and democracy issue. There should be a better awareness of the gender perspective in the media industry.’

Heidi Haggrén, coordinated the development of the report

‘The new digital media is a big challenge in all Nordic countries – how can gender equality be promoted and hate speech prevented? The technological development brings many opportunities for increased gender equality, but it has also opened up new channels for the expression of hatred and intimidation. This is something the Nordic gender equality ministers want to look closer at. For example, a report on the topic was published earlier this summer on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers [written in Swedish and titled “Hat och hot på nätet – en kartläggning av den rättsliga regleringen i Norden från ett jämställdhetsperspektiv”].

What changes are required?
‘There needs to be a willingness to deal with the issue of gender equality and to actively include it in the work of the media. There’s a need for active efforts, guidelines and follow-up. The journalism programmes at the universities play a key role. Gender equality issues should be given attention already at that level – all journalism students should be given a gender equality perspective.’

What can the Nordic countries learn from each other?
‘We can learn from various political and other measures implemented in the other countries. After all, we all have the same objective – a gender equal society – but we have chosen somewhat different approaches to get there. It is interesting to see how history has influenced each country’s media environment and for example how it is regulated.’

Can you share some examples of successful interventions?
‘The report brings attention to the lack of female experts featured in the media. According to the GMMP, about one-fifth of all experts who appear in the Nordic news media are women. The share of female experts is highest in Denmark, which is probably due to the fact that in 1997, Denmark introduced an expert database that highlights female experts and therefore makes it easier for journalists to identify and find them.’

‘Some media companies have been more attentive and have actively dealt with the underrepresentation issue. The most common measure is to monitor the gender distribution in the news. In a next step, there is of course a need to take action to actually achieve a gender balance. A good example in this regard is Swedish newspaper Västerbottens-Kuriren, which has managed to achieve a pretty good balance after setting a goal of attaining a 50/50 distribution of women and men. Also RUV, the Icelandic national broadcasting service, has made important progress (since 2014) in terms of gender awareness and gender distribution in the news content by means of bookkeeping and a deliberate strategy.’

 

Another recently published report, Regulation of Gender-Discriminatory Advertising in the Nordic Countries, shows that the Nordic countries also differ in terms of the paths chosen to regulate sexist advertising.  

 

‘The results in this report suggest that Sweden has the strictest attitudes to sexist advertising in the Nordic region. All Nordic countries generally allow the use of gender stereotypes in advertising provided they are not presented in a strongly biased or humiliating manner,’ says Heidi Haggrén.

Sexist advertising is legally regulated in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland, either via a general clause or an explicit provision in the marketing/consumer law or gender equality legislation. Sweden currently has no specific legislation against sexist advertising; instead the regulation relies on a self-regulatory body. Finland is the only Nordic country with both legislation (including a government agency tasked to review sexist advertising) and a self-regulatory body in place.

‘The report indicates that both legislation and self-regulation have both strengths and weaknesses. The self-regulatory bodies can administer a large number of complaints. Yet legislation enables executive bodies to impose penalty fees and other sanctions in addition to the mere suspension of advertising campaigns,’ says Heidi Haggrén.

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New Swedish gender equality agency opening next year http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-swedish-gender-equality-agency-opening-next-year/ In the fall of 2016, the Swedish government decided to establish a separate gender equality agency. The agency’s main tasks will be to support, coordinate and assess the gender equality work undertaken in various organisations and domains.

‘The establishment of the agency will make the management of the national gender equality policy more coherent and efficient. Central documents and other material can be developed at the same time as opportunities to evaluate the methods used in the area of gender equality will be created,’ says the Swedish government’s special investigator Kerstin Alnebratt, who is in charge of the development of the agency.

Kerstin Alnebratt, the Swedish government’s special investigator

The issue of establishing a special agency for gender equality policy has been discussed in Sweden since the early 2000s. Already in 2005, a commission appointed by the Social Democrat government proposed that an agency be formed. However, the agency never opened as a decision was made to instead invest vast resources in various gender equality projects. Ten years later, a new commission, now appointed by the centre-right Alliance government, again reached the conclusion that a special agency for gender equality policy would be beneficial.

‘Because a central organisation has been lacking, the gender equality work has in many cases lacked continuity and therefore has not had the desired effects. Projects with high ambitions are being launched, but when the project funding runs out, it’s hard to see any lasting effects. A few years later a new government will start a new project, but at that point the knowledge from the previous project is long gone,’ says Kerstin Alnebratt.

Sweden – a Nordic pioneer

The agency will be placed in the Gothenburg suburb of Angered and have a staff of about 75 with various backgrounds.

‘Since Swedish government agencies are highly concentrated to the Stockholm region, the government has said that new agencies should be placed elsewhere. Gothenburg, which is Sweden’s second largest city, hosts only two government agencies at the moment,’ says Kerstin Alnebratt.

Sweden will become the first Nordic country to establish a special national gender equality agency. Due to the lack of a central gender equality agency in the past, the Swedish government has traditionally commissioned universities, county administrative boards and other agencies to carry out projects related to for example gender mainstreaming, gender-related violence and human trafficking.

‘That structure makes the national gender equality work difficult to manage. It’s like one hand doesn’t always know what the other hand is doing,’ says Kerstin Alnebratt.

Focus on labour market policy

The Nordic countries have organised their national gender equality work in a variety of ways. In Finland, the gender equality unit at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for developing and implementing the government’s gender equality policy and following up on reforms of the national legislation.

The Danish Institute for Human Rights is an independent body tasked to ensure compliance with the country’s anti-discrimination and equal treatment legislation.

In Iceland, the Centre for Gender Equality is placed under the Minister of Social Affairs and Housing and is tasked to review the gender equality legislation and develop methods for implementing the government’s gender equality policy. In Norway, Bufdir, an agency under the Ministry of Children and Equality, works to promote equality and prevent gender-related discrimination.

One common feature of national gender equality work in the Nordic countries is the historically strong focus on labour market policy, says Kerstin Alnebratt.

‘Labour market issues are an important part of the Nordic model, which is based on a dual-breadwinner system and assumes that both men and women work. The organisation of childcare has been important in enabling both women and men to work outside the home while raising children.’

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See you in August! http://www.nikk.no/en/news/see-you-in-august/ NIKK will go on summer hiatus now – but we’ll be back with new energy on 14th of August.

Have a nice summer!

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New report sheds light on online hate speech legislation http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-report-sheds-light-on-online-hate-speech-legislation/ The rampant online posting of aggressive and sexist remarks poses a serious democracy problem as it may cause actors in the public space to remain silent. But it is difficult to hold the perpetrators accountable, partly because the legislation in the field has not been updated. Moa Bladini, author of the report, therefore calls for a revision of the hate crime legislation.

‘The current uncertainty in the Nordic countries regarding what is illegal and what is not and how different types of violations should be dealt with can be seen not only among the victims but also in the entire law enforcement sector. This is a dilemma with a negative impact on people’s legal security,’ says Moa Bladini, author of the report and senior lecturer in criminal law at the University of Gothenburg.

The study of legal regulation of online hate speech in the Nordic countries was carried out by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) at the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The report, written in Swedish and titled Hat och hot på nätet – en kartläggning av den rättsliga regleringen i Norden från ett jämställdhetsperspektiv, shows that online hate speech targets women and men to similar extents. However, there are important differences in the types of violations women and men experience. Men are more likely to fall victim to attacks involving threats of violence and references to their profession and competence, whereas women are more likely to experience sexist and sexually charged offences that are of more personal than occupational nature.

The study shows that the hate crime legislation is similar across the Nordic region. Hate speech targeting certain defined groups is illegal in all Nordic countries. However, gender falls outside the realm of legal protection in all Nordic countries, although the Finnish legislation theoretically allows for its inclusion. There is troubling uncertainty in the Nordic countries regarding how the hate crimes legislation should be applied and where to draw the line between hate speech and freedom of expression, and consequently the legal provisions are not used nearly as often as theoretically possible. Consequently, the legal protection that the groups covered by the legislation can count on in real life is very limited, and for victims of gender-based hate speech, it is non-existent. This finding should be considered in relation to the research showing that online hate speech targeting women is largely gender based.

Moa Bladini, author of the report.

Thus, according to Moa Bladini, there is good reason to include victims of gender-based offences in the hate crime legislation.
‘In view of the fact that women are particularly affected by gender-based online hate speech and that the Nordic countries see gender equality as important, it is surprising that no Nordic country offers people legal protection against such violations.’

The report will be presented at a conference titled Countering Hate: Nordic Conference on Hate Speech on 21 June in Stavanger, Norway.

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‘The talk about marginalisation gives a skewed picture’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/the-talk-about-marginalisation-gives-a-skewed-picture/ One important challenge for the gender equality ministers in the Nordic countries is to help migrant women enter the labour market. The employment rate, as well as the importance of having as many immigrants as possible enter the labour market, are recurring topics in the public debate. Paulina de los Reyes has carried out studies dealing with gender and ethnicity in the labour market. She says that we are seeing a trend where the conditions in the labour market are becoming increasingly fragmented. Those who suffer the most from this development are the people who are considered not to belong to the ‘ideal’ workforce.

Paulina de los Reyes

‘The fragmentation in the labour market has been increasing since the 1990s. Today’s young people barely know that paid holiday is a right. There is something called text message employment, which is based on the idea that you must be available around the clock and show up for work whenever you receive a text message. And if we look at the people who have these jobs, we see a clear pattern in terms of age, gender and immigrant background.’

Paulina de los Reyes argues that the working conditions and the work environment can vary significantly even within one and the same workplace. She mentions her own employer, Stockholm University, as an example of this. Although a fairly large proportion of the teaching staff at Stockholm University hold permanent, salaried positions, quite a few instead have temporary contracts, work on project basis and/or are paid hourly. And some occupational groups at the University, such as the cleaning staff, work under entirely different conditions as they are technically employed by an external company that the University has contracted for cleaning services.

Migrants receive the least attractive jobs

‘That firm has its own rules. Although the cleaners work at the University, how many of them are covered by a collective agreement? Your formal employment conditions affect the degree to which you can voice your opinion and work to achieve change. They also affect your life outside of work, like whether you will be able to get a housing contract, have children, go on holiday or have a decent pension when you get old,’ says Paulina de los Reyes.

The fact that migrants receive the least attractive jobs in the Nordic labour markets is no coincidence. Rather, there is a long tradition of this division, according to the professor. The labour immigration began earlier in Sweden than in the other Nordic countries. Sweden was the only country that did not participate in wars, which kept the infrastructure intact and allowed Swedish companies to expand rapidly. However, few people know that, until 1955, the labour migration to Sweden consisted primarily of women from other Nordic countries.

‘At that time, there were more female migrants than Swedish women in the Swedish labour market. This can probably be attributed to Swedish women having important tasks to manage at home, for example at family farms,’ says Paulina de los Reyes.

When Swedish women eventually entered the labour market, they found work mainly in the public sector, where part-time work was common. Initially, there was a big difference in employment rate between migrant women who worked in manufacturing and Swedish women who worked in the public sector.

‘In the 1970s, this gap vanished. A series of reforms improved the ability of Swedish women to work outside the home. For example, joint taxation was eliminated and childcare services became widely available,’ says Paulina de los Reyes.

Working part time

The 1970s also saw important changes in the labour market, which made a great deal of Swedish manufacturing disappear abroad. According to Paulina de los Reyes, people with immigrant background served as a lubricant in the industrial transition. Immigrants have often been employed in industrial sectors that ended up leaving the country. The textile industry is one example.

‘The Swedish model has been based on women working part time and migrants acting as a lubricant. Agreements between capital and labour have favoured some groups but weakened others. The decisions have been made by employer organisations and trade unions, where a white male elite has owned the power,’ she says.

According to Paulina de los Reyes, it has been important to Swedish trade unions ever since the 1950s to avoid having a first- and a second-class team in the labour market. Unlike other European countries, Sweden has until now not had formal rules that give different rights to natives and foreign-born people, for example in the form of a guest worker system (as in Germany). Informally, however, it has happened anyway: today the Swedish labour market is both gender segregated and ethnically divided.

‘The talk about marginalisation gives a skewed picture. The truth is that the labour market has been organised in a way that differentiates between groups of people. This sorting of people also provides an opportunity to demand subordination of groups that are considered to deviate from the norm. If you’re a young woman or an immigrant and get a job, you’re supposed to be grateful. This makes it possible to exploit these people more, to demand gratitude, and silence in case of dissatisfaction,’ she says.

A new order is required

So how do we achieve a labour market that is fair to all people? According to Paulina de los Reyes, the instability and lack of security leads to an acceptance of poor conditions. She believes that a new order is required in order to change this. An intersectional perspective is key to understanding that the problem does not lie with the ‘outsiders’, but can rather be attributed to the inequality that is generated by the way the labour market is organised and that stem from changing power relations between employees and employers.

‘What I can see has worked historically is to get organised. The rights contained in labour agreements are not given but rather the products of fierce struggle. There is also a need to denormalise the subordination currently seen in the Swedish labour market.’

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NIKK to contribute to global sustainability goals http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nikk-to-contribute-to-global-sustainability-goals/ Gender equality has been on the Nordic agenda for over 40 years. Several progressive gender equality reforms have been implemented, including individual taxation and gender-neutral parental insurance, making the Nordic countries pioneers in the field. The intention is for the new prime minister initiative to contribute to the international cooperation around the UN’s 17 global sustainable development goals, of which gender equality is one. The three main themes of the initiative have been named Nordic Green, Nordic Gender Effect and Nordic Food and Welfare.

Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) is a partner of the Nordic Council of Ministers within the framework of the Nordic Gender Effect, a flagship project under the prime minister initiative. The aim of the project is to gather Nordic research and knowledge in order to contribute to more effective international efforts in the areas of gender equality (Sustainable Development Goal 5) and decent work (Sustainable Development Goal 8). A number of focus areas where the Nordic experiences are considered valuable have been identified, including parental leave systems, childcare and gender-equal organisation and leadership.

‘NIKK is the only organisation with a good overview of the developments in the field of gender equality in all Nordic countries. We can’t think of a better partner. By taking advantage of NIKK’s expertise, we hope to be able to invite other organisations, regions and countries to collaborations,’ says Julia Fäldt Wahengo from the Nordic Council of Ministers.

The intention is for the knowledge material to meet the rapidly growing demand and increase the curiosity regarding the Nordic knowledge and practical experience of gender equality work, but also to invite to dialogue and cooperation around the challenges that remain in both the Nordic region and globally.

‘We have an important role in contributing to the analysis and contextualising the gender equality and work-related issues, from both a Nordic and a global perspective. We hope our participation in the Nordic Gender Effect project will draw attention to the need for critical perspectives and gender research in the work for global sustainable development,’ says Ulrika Jansson, analyst at Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research.

The first year of the three-year Nordic Gender Effect project will be spent gathering and packaging material. In the second and third years, there will be a focus on presenting and disseminating the material and its message.

‘The Nordic countries are in a unique position. Considering our positive experiences in the field, we see it as our responsibility to stand up and take the lead in the area of gender equality. Together with NIKK, we hope to be able to contribute to more organisations and countries around the world giving priority to gender equality,’ says Julia Fäldt Wahengo.

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‘The media’s legal responsibilities need to be clarified’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/the-medias-legal-responsibilities-need-to-be-clarified/ The ability to discuss things on social media is often regarded as favourable to a democratic society. But the tone can be harsh and offensive. Thus, a Nordic network against online sexism and hate speech was formed in September 2016 at the initiative of the Danish Institute for Human Rights. The network has received funding from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

‘The knowledge about this relatively new phenomenon needs to be strengthened. We need to keep updated about the latest research, legal situations and trends in all Nordic countries to get inspired to create change in our own countries,’ said Lumi Zuleta, project manager from the Institute. 

The network also includes the Norwegian Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and the Icelandic Human Rights Centre.

Each of the three network members is in charge of arranging a seminar, and the seminars are also attended by representatives from Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman and the Finnish Equality ombudsman. On May 19, a seminar focusing on how the Nordic media moderate online comments to articles they publish on social media will be arranged in Oslo.

‘A large part of the public debate has moved to social media. The media of course have a responsibility for the debate, but what exactly does the responsibility consist of? At the seminar, we will discuss the media’s experience of moderating online debates, what the challenges are and the relationship between moderation and freedom of expression,’ says Lumi Zuleta.

What changes are needed in order to improve the handling of online sexism and hate speech?

‘The legislation in the Nordic countries needs to be reviewed and the media’s legal responsibilities need to be clarified. Right now, it is not clear what their responsibility is in relation to online comments. But the hate speech must be addressed at several levels in society. For example, it is important that children and young people learn social media etiquette in school.’

Why is it important to work against online hate speech?

‘The public debate is a cornerstone of democracy in the Nordic countries. But half of Denmark’s population choose not to participate in the online debate because of the environment. The fact that such a large number of people don’t want to take advantage of their freedom of speech is a democracy problem and a serious concern.’

What are all the hateful comments about and what groups are the most vulnerable?

‘The comments are about political views, race, religion and gender. Women are more frequently than men attacked with gender-related comments. It is also more common that private photos of women are spread online without consent than private photos of men.’

What can the Nordic countries learn from each other when it comes to the online climate?

‘Norway and Sweden have national strategies to combat online hate crimes. It is important that the issue has been addressed at the political level, it improves the potential for change. Norway also has a nuanced discussion about hate speech, in which both the freedom of expression and the individual’s responsibility for remarks made are addressed. In Denmark, we recently conducted a study of online hate speech,’ says Lumi Zuleta.

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With the aime to engage men in gender equality http://www.nikk.no/en/news/with-the-aime-to-engage-men-in-gender-equality/ The event in Reykjavik is a so-called barbershop conference, which is an Icelandic concept aimed to engage boys and men in the gender equality work. María Mjöll Jónsdóttir, UN director at Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is co-organising the conference. She argues that men’s engagement is essential in order to break away from norms of violence and manifestations such as human trafficking. The conference will begin with a panel discussion at which, among others, Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir, Reykjavík chief of police, and Per Anders Sunesson, Swedish ambassador against trafficking in persons, will talk about their work with boys and men to combat human trafficking.

María Mjöll Jónsdóttir

Tell us about the conference. What else are you going to do?
‘We will have a workshop dealing with gender stereotypes in society and how they affect us, and another workshop will focus on gender-based violence. There will also be an expert panel discussing causes and effects of human trafficking in the region. The participants include representatives from various sectors of society, including law enforcement, international organisations, universities and policy makers.’

Why have you chosen to focus on human trafficking?  
‘The event is hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Council of the Baltic Sea States, both of which have worked hard against human trafficking for a long time. We know that trafficking in persons is a widespread problem in the region, although we don’t know the exact extent of it. The main victims are women who are exploited for sex, but there are also men who become victims of forced labour. To stop the trafficking, we need to focus on norms and attitudes, among other things. The participants we want to reach include those who work in the school systems and young professionals who can benefit from a gender perspective on issues in their work.’

What can the Nordic and Baltic countries learn from each other?
‘We have a lot to learn from each other, not least in terms of best practice, or how the countries involved have solved various problems. I’m looking forward to a fruitful discussion on how we can take this work further.’

Finally, where did the concept of Barbershop conferences come from?
The idea dates back to our former president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who was the world’s first democratically elected female president. When she went to the women’s conference in Beijing, she was struck by the low male attendance. The intention with barbershop conferences is to involve more men in the gender equality work, since they are needed in order to solve the problem. It has attracted a lot of interest internationally.’

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How to break the cycle of violence? New report maps the situation in the Nordic region http://www.nikk.no/en/news/how-to-break-the-cycle-of-violence-new-report-maps-the-situation-in-the-nordic-region/ During the Finnish presidency in 2016, the Nordic Council of Ministers initiated a project to map out the different services available in the Nordic countries and the autonomous regions for perpetrators. The project was titled ”Nu Räcker Det”! Nordiska modeller för att få slut på våld i nära relationer (meaning [It’s] Enough Now! Nordic models to end violence in close relationships).

The new report  ”Nordic Countries Overview of Work with Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence” includes everything from which treatments perpetrators are offered to challenges and results.

Regarding the main results obtained most of the service providers are allocated in an urban area. Moreover, long-term funding is not very common in the Nordic Countries. One third of the staff works part-time, and it is mostly composed by psychologists.

Some of the recommendations in the report: Long-term commitment in terms of financial resources is required. Different referral routes or paths of entry should be accommodated. Staff should be specialized and programmes should focus recognizing the gendered dynamics, impacts, and consequences of violence. Partner should be included in the treatment process in different forms.

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‘We must create a society where women’s attire doesn’t matter’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/we-must-create-a-society-where-womens-attire-doesnt-matter/ In France, Belgium and the Netherlands, there are laws prohibiting the wearing of face-covering veils in public. The veil issue is on the political agenda in the Nordic countries as well. In both Denmark and Norway, there are discussions of a possible veil ban in schools. In Sweden, the National Agency for Education has decided that schools can ban students from wearing face-covering veils in certain situations.

At the same time, an increasing number of veiled women can be seen in the media and popular culture. The fourth and final season of the celebrated Norwegian TV series Skam is focused around a character named Sana, who wears a hijab. At New York Fashion Week, Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan presented her collection of hijab outfits, and in Sweden a play titled Swedish Hijabs addresses stereotypes against Swedish women and has toured the country. What are the consequences of the ongoing debate in the Nordic countries? In NIKK’s survey, one person from each country has answered three questions:

1. What is the attitude to veiled women in your country?
2. Has the attitude changed over time?
3. How does society need to change in order for women to wear veils as they wish?

Natasha Al-Hariri, community organizer, Denmark 
1.
It’s difficult to give a general description of the attitudes towards hijabis, because it is a piece of clothing that everyone have an opinion about. Our politicians, and especially the government, are very harsh when it comes to hijabi women. I remember a politician that represented the Liberal Party Venstre in Denmark on a tv-show, saying that he understands totally if a company don’t want to hire hijabi women – and thereby more or less promoting discrimination. Really awful, because we do have issues with discrimination, hate crimes and racism. It often get worse right after an attack of any sort in the West, carried out by people who swear allegiance to ISIS. As a hijabi I am extremely aware of myself in public spaces, and even more in times after attacks.  On the other hand, it just makes me so happy to see hijabi women used in mainstream media and advertising. It shows a development that starts to see a hijabi women as a human and woman first.

2. Both yes and no. I’ve been challenging the narrative on hijabis for 10+ years, and at times it feels like we have not moved the least. Obviously it is still questionably whether hijabis should be allowed the same jobs as everyone else! Ten years ago hijabis were described as oppressed, dependent, not educated and barely even able of speaking Danish. There were no nuances whatsoever of women wearing the hijab. Today we see that muslim women in general are being portrayed more varied and not only in relation to their hijab. At times it feels like we’ve moved so much, and other times it feels like we haven’t moved at all.

3. The same social change that is needed to stop all sorts of hate crimes against all minorities. That we are all human beings, and that we all have equal rights to be here – and therefore to be treated equally. That is my dream scenario of how the world should be.

 

Derya Ozdilek, teacher engaging in multicultural work, Iceland
1.
I’m from Denmark and have lived in Iceland for four years. Only about 30 women wear a veil here on a daily basis. I would say Icelanders generally don’t think negatively about veils. Rather, they are interested in why we wear it. Sure, a lot of bad things are happening in the world right now, and there is widespread Islamophobia. But we don’t really notice it in everyday life here in Iceland. If people ask me about the veil or what it’s like to be a Muslim woman, I offer them coffee and tell them my story. This helps them understand the difference between the image conveyed in the media and what it’s like in real life. I’m very open and happy to share things, and people know that. This is also my answer to the second and third question.

 

Bilan Osman, journalist and debater, Sweden 
1.
There is a historical continuity in viewing the veil as something foreign and oppressive. That attitude is also present in Sweden and affects the way veiled women are treated. The women have to endure a lot of name-calling, and physical violence is also common. This stuff happens frequently in places like buses and trains. For example, some guy might grab a veil and try to rip it off the women’s head. It doesn’t help that we have a debate where the veil is lifted as a symbol of Muslim men’s oppression of women. The whole debate is characterised by ignorance and simplifications. In Sweden, some political parties at the local level are arguing for a veil ban based on the view that the wearing of veils is linked to honour-related oppression. This is not true. The debate is very populist.

2. I believe the way veils are discussed in the public debate has affected the situation in Sweden. In the Sweden Democrat’s election campaign in 2010, women in burkas were used as a symbol of everything that’s bad about immigration. Those types of campaigns and narrow-minded contributions to the debate are making the situation worse. People can use it to confirm their prejudices and to justify attacks on Muslims.

3. I think, above all, that we need to get a basic attitude change. The general approach to the head scarfes is connected to several things. Among other things, people do not know why women wear veil. But actually, there is no excuse for that in today´s information society: google it and learn! Just like working on all forms of racism, you need to start with value-based work at schools and workplaces. I think can also attitudes can change the more women in head scarfes are allowed to appear in all parts of our society. It is in the meeting with others prejudices get challenged. There is also a need of more veiled women in public, as news anchors in television. It normalizes and changes hopefully people’s attitudes.

 

Sumaya Jirde Ali, debater, Norway 
1.
I see two different worlds when it comes to people’s reactions. I’m very active on Facebook. The attitude can be very intense and vicious in the comment fields. People bring up my religion and the veil, no matter what the debate is about. If I write “I like carrots”, I get a response like, “You can’t like carrots until you take that stupid bandage off your head”. They want a ban and call me brainwashed, indoctrinated and naive. Then there’s the off-line reality, which is different. I am a very friendly person and have no problem reaching out to people. Only once have I been confronted by a hateful person. The vast majority of Norwegians are good people who treat you respectfully when they soon realise you are not all that different. They don’t care what’s on my head, but what’s in my head. The big differences between the attitudes online and in real life can be difficult to handle.

2. I think it has become more socially acceptable to simply want to ban things you don’t like. It is very unfortunate. Last year, two women were told they couldn’t wear their hijabs at the nursing home where they worked. None of the residents had any objections to it, instead the decision was made because the residents’ home environment must be “safe”. What does that even mean? The hijab debate will go on forever, like so many other debates, but when for example the European Convention on Human Rights legitimises bans and discrimination by giving employers the right to refuse staff requests to wear a hijab, we can’t pretend that everything is like it used to be.

I would not say that my life has become more difficult. I am an outspoken person who won’t take any crap. I’m fully aware of my rights and if anyone denies me or violates any of them, I will let them know. But I’m thinking of all my Muslim friends who are pressured not to wear hijabs anymore because of the social control that exists in society when it comes to this type of clothing. It’s no longer enough to be integrated, you have to be assimilated, which means you need to take off your hijab. It irritates me to no end.

I have Muslim friends who don’t want to wear hijab anymore because the harassment they knew it would generate became too much to handle. I know girls who have been openly attacked, girls who have been threatened, because they wore hijabs. There are a lot of horror stories, and we hear new ones every day.

3. Knowledge is the key to most things. And openness. You can’t ban everything you don’t like. You can’t avoid everything that’s different. If you isolate yourself with like-minded people, you will never achieve the intellectual development your mind is longing for. I believe that it is in the encounters with contrasts that you develop into a better version of yourself, so you need to talk and ask questions. Be critical but objective. And to girls who wear hijabs, I want to say: When people display openness, curiosity and a willingness to learn about the veil/the religion – don’t be offended when they express themselves awkwardly or ask things everyone should know. Instead, be open-minded and courteous. Crush the prejudices instead of confirming them.

 

Maryan Abdulkarim, freelance journalist and debater, Finland 
1.
Like other European countries, Finland has problems with Islamophobia. One expression of this is the veil debate. I think it’s interesting with people who argue that the veil is a symbol of Muslim men’s oppression and in so doing claim to stand up for veiled women’s equal rights. The thing is that the same people would never defend these women’s human rights in any other context. But since the veil is something that deviates from Western culture, that’s what they choose to focus on. I believe the veil debate directs attention away from other, more important issues. In Finland, I sometimes get a lot of criticism when I as a feminist wear a veil in a public context. The critics often don’t want to understand my perspective.

2. In the early 90s, the big Finnish newspapers could publish racist cartoons with veiled women without being criticised. Today, that’s not possible. The Finnish anti-racist feminist movement is stronger than ever, and it’s very assertive. In the last election, our feminist party won a seat in the Helsinki City Council for the first time ever, while the right-wing populist the Finns Party lost several seats. I believe the success of these sentiments has passed its peak.

3. We need to create a society where it doesn’t matter how women dress. The first step is to crush the patriarchy. The present debate is very contradictory. People talk about banning the veil to protect the freedom of women. But what’s freedom if not being able to choose what clothes to wear? I think we should stop talking about the veil. The more attention we give to this garment, the more fuel it adds to the distorted debate. Instead, we should raise the question: Why is it at all acceptable to regulate how people should dress? And why is the focus always on the bodies of women?

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Important Progress Made at CSW – But the Nordic Countries Are Aiming Higher http://www.nikk.no/en/news/important-progress-made-at-csw-but-the-nordic-countries-are-aiming-higher/ ‘I’m glad we now have a document that guides countries on how to strengthen women in working life, when it comes to salary differences, unpaid domestic work, violence and discrimination. But Norway had higher aspirations for women’s rights than reflected in the final document,’ writes Solveig Horne, Norwegian minister of children, equality and social inclusion, in a commentary.

After two weeks of intense discussions in New York in March, the countries ended the United Nations women’s summit by declaring a series of commitments to promote women’s economic empowerment.

Important progress was made. Among other things, the countries agreed to pursue an equal pay policy by means of for example collective agreements, work evaluations and salary reviews.

‘We are very pleased in particular with the increased recognition of the role of the private sector in acheiving gender equality, in particular when it comes to ensuring equal pay for work of equal value,’ says Þorsteinn Víglundsson, Iceland’s Minister of social affairs and equality.

Express disappointment

The member states must ensure women’s full and equal participation in the economy, their right to work and their rights in the workplace. All commitments are expressed in the final document as important steps in order to achieve sustainable development.

The Nordic countries and a large group of ‘like-minded’ states made active efforts in the negotiations to acknowledge more strongly that women’s sexual and reproductive rights are of key importance to women’s economic empowerment. The link between these rights and women’s economic independence is indeed included in the conclusions, but many of the like-minded countries would have preferred a much stronger statement.

In a press release, Denmark’s Minister for Equality Karen Ellemann expresses her disappointment that the final document does not emphasise the connection between women’s economic independence and their sexual and reproductive rights.

‘The final document from the United Nations women’s summit shows that the struggle for women’s rights has lost not only its financial but also its political support,’ she writes, with reference to the fact that CSW61 was held in New York after US President Donald Trump’s cutbacks on US financial aid to organisations that promote women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Sweden will be a strong voice

Sweden’s Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality Åsa Régner writes in a commentary that ‘parts of the conclusions reflect neither the EU’s nor Sweden’s approach to gender equality and the rights of women and girls.’

She adds that ‘Sweden will continue to be a strong voice on these issues.’

Pirkko Mattila, Finnish Minister of Social Affairs and Health in Finland comments:
‘The Agreed Conclusions bring us forward in increasing women´s labour market participation, which is crucial for women´s economic independence. This is a step in the right direction. The CSW, however, failed to address the issue of SRHR properly; a stronger position on SRHR would have been much needed. These rights are also vital from the point of view of women´s and girls´ ability to complete their education and for future participation in working life.’

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Feminist Parties Moving Forward in the Nordic Countries http://www.nikk.no/en/news/feministiska-partier-pa-frammarsch-i-norden/ Finland’s Feminist Party started last summer. It will participate in nine of Sunday’s municipal elections and has its highest number of eligible candidates in Helsinki. One important issue in the election campaign in the capital has been the handling of newly arrived immigrants and refugees.

‘We see that fundamental human rights are not respected when it comes to refugees. It is an inhumane process where many are sent back, despite the fact that they will not be safe in their home countries,’ says Katju Aro, leader of the party.

According to Aro, refugees who have had their asylum applications rejected and been kicked out from their asylum housing have set up tents in the centre of Helsinki. They lack housing, food and water and are at risk of freezing to death.

Katju Aro, leader of Finland´s Feminist Party. Photo: Kaisa Sojakkala

‘Our government wants to convey the message that they must fend for themselves if they don’t leave the country. The government thinks that their responsibility ends when the asylum process is over. But we believe that this treatment violates both human rights and Finnish legislation.’

The Feminist Party’s engagement in the refugee issue is not surprising, says Katju Aro. The party started as a reaction to right-wing populism and growing xenophobia. When the nationalist Finns Party won a landslide victory in the recent parliamentary election, she felt that something needed to be done.

‘Two friends and I have been active in non-profit organisations and pushed feminist issues there, but we felt that it didn’t lead to any changes that were big enough. It was time to take the next step and go into party politics,’ she says.

Inspired by Feminist Initiative

Finland’s Feminist Party has drawn a lot of inspiration from Feminist Initiative in Sweden. Katju Aro says that they studied carefully the Swedish party’s policies, and today the two parties share a similar ideological foundation, where antiracism and an intersectional perspective are of key importance.

‘I think it reflects the issues that are important to Finnish feminists. Or maybe we are a little more progressive than the feminist movement as a whole,’ says Katju Aro.

She continues to say that the interest in the party has been strong since its inception, from both the media and people in general.

‘We have also noticed a change in the established parties since we came into the picture. Now all parties have feminist issues on their agenda. It didn’t use to be that way,’ she says

Katju Aro does not want to speculate about the election results, but hopes to get at least one person into the Helsinki City Council.

‘There is a small chance and it would be a big deal to us,’ she says.

The Women in Iceland Created World History

 Feminist parties are not a new phenomenon in the Nordic countries. The first women’s party in Iceland was founded already in 1908. When it participated in the municipal election in Reykjavik, it received 21.8% of the votes and became the largest party in the city council. In 1983, the Icelandic women once again created world history. The newly formed party, the Women’s List, gained three seats in the Icelandic parliament. No other women’s party in the world had ever been able to enter a national parliament.

Ragnhildur Vigfúsdóttir, was active in the Women’s List in Iceland.

Ragnhildur Vigfúsdóttir was active in the party and remembers how they put new issues on the political agenda.

‘At that time, only unmarried mothers were entitled to day care for their children. We took on the issue at city level and pushed the right to day care for all children,’ she says.

The Women’s List also focused on the environmental issue and brought attention to men’s violence against women.

After 15 active years, the party was dissolved. It made a significant difference in Icelandic politics, according to Vigfúsdóttir.

‘I’m convinced our work paved the way for Iceland’s current tripartite parental insurance.’

An Intersectional Approach

Swedish political party Feminist Initiative was formed in 2005. The idea was to bring together feminists from different grass-root movements in a single party, thus gathering issues related to antiracism, LGBT and gender equality under the same umbrella.

‘We had an intersectional perspective from the outset. If you are a feminist and want to fight for equality among all people, you can’t just fight for the rights of women. You have to fight for the rights of all discriminated groups,’ says Lotten Sunna, co-founder of the party and currently its spokesperson on issues related to social security.

Lotten Sunna, co-founder of the Swedish political party Feminist Initiative and currently its spokesperson on issues related to social security. Photo: Oscar Stenberg

The other Nordic countries have shown great interest in the party. Its leader Gudrun Schyman have visited them many times to talk about the party’s work. Today, both Finland and Norway have similar parties, and a Danish feminist party is in the pipeline.

‘I think it’s because the political development is similar across the Nordic region. Some parties want to close the borders, and we offer an alternative in that view,’ says Lotten Sunna.

She argues that similar trends can be seen outside the Nordic region. England has a feminist party, just as Poland and Germany.

‘It would be wonderful if there were feminist parties in so many countries that we could form a feminist group in the European Parliament that could push the issues. That would be a dream come true,’ says Lotten Sunna.

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Transgender people given a clean bill of health in Sweden and Denmark http://www.nikk.no/en/news/transgender-people-given-a-clean-bill-of-health-in-sweden-and-denmark/ According to Lukas Romson, the change is symbolically important and will influence the view of transgender people in both healthcare and the rest of society.

‘There are those who think we are nuts and that we can’t be taken seriously, and they often base their arguments on the psychiatric diagnoses,’ he says.

Lukas Romson, , gender equality consultant and trans expert Photo: Carolina Hawranek

Earlier this year, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare published a press release stating that health care providers should no longer consider transgendered people mentally ill. Exactly how the change will be implemented remains unclear, but the decision is well in line with the ongoing international work within World Health Organization, WHO. In the draft of the next edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) manual, the transgender diagnoses (transsexualism and other gender identity disorders) have been moved from the psychiatric diagnoses to a new chapter.

The updated manual, ICD-11, will be adopted by WHO next year, but Danish policymakers seem to have considered the issue more urgent than that. The Danish parliament decided unanimously already last year that the psychiatric transsexuality diagnosis should be removed. The change went into effect in January this year and Denmark thereby became the first country in the world to declare transgender people healthy.

‘The removal of the diagnosis was an important step, but it is mainly a symbolic measure,’ says trans activist Charlie Hedman.

He is involved in the Trans Political Forum, which has worked hard together with for example Amnesty International Denmark to have the diagnosis removed. Despite the fact that transgender people in Denmark are no longer classified as mentally ill, access to gender-affirming medical treatment still requires a psychiatric evaluation, something Charlie Hedman is critical of.

‘We still have to undergo IQ and personality tests, and we still have to answer strange questions, like whether we think about our parents when we masturbate and whether we enjoy setting things on fire,’ he says.

Reduced quality of transgender medical care

Danish transgender care has received sharp criticism, including from Amnesty International Denmark. The Danish Health Authority is currently developing new guidelines for healthcare providers. Charlie Hedman wants the transgender care to be based on informed consent so that the patients can have the final say about their treatment. In practice, he says, Denmark had such a system until just a few years ago. Back then, trans persons could receive care from their local doctors, but in 2014 the care was centralised to Sexologisk Klinik in Copenhagen. He claims that this led to marked deterioration of Danish transgender care: the evaluation periods have become longer, it has become harder to get treatment and many people feel they are not treated well.

‘Those with money get their surgeries done in other countries. That’s what I did. I went to Germany.’

Foreseeing concrete effects

Lukas Romson foresees concrete effects of Sweden’s initiative not to consider transgender people mentally ill.

‘It may make it easier to get a job in for example law enforcement and the military, occupations where people with a psychiatric diagnosis risk being disqualified,’ he says.

For the same reason, it may become easier to be approved for international adoptions, since many countries do not allow people with psychiatric diagnoses to adopt their children, he adds.

‘There’s a lot happening in the Nordic countries right now. And it’s happening very fast,’ he says and mentions for example Norway’s new gender identity law, which went into effect last year.

The law has made it easier for people to change their legal gender and the fact that it includes both children and adolescents makes it stand out both in the Nordic region and internationally. In the other Nordic countries, people under age 18 have no possibility to change the legal gender.

Other Nordic countries staying passive

There are no indications that Norway, Finland and Iceland are about to remove the transgender diagnoses anytime soon. In Norway, the transgender movement is hoping this will change with the publishing of ICD-11.

Charlie Hedman, trans activist

‘We won’t push the issue until then, since we want to be sure that a change won’t lead to a degradation of the transgender care,’ says Luca Dalen Espseth, adviser at the Norwegian Organization for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

Charlie Hedman is disappointed that the development in Denmark has not led to any changes in Danish healthcare, although he is still hopeful. The abolition of the psychiatric diagnosis requires a change, he says.
‘We are not mentally ill and now that this is confirmed, we must be seen as people with agency and the right to decide over our own bodies.’

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Gender power structure and women’s situation in the labour market http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-power-structure-womens-situation-labour-market/ The report, titled “Sjukskrivningar och genus i Norden – vad vi vet och inte vet” [sick leave and gender in the Nordic countries – what we know and do not know] was produced by the Nordic Welfare Centre at the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers, with an aim to give an overview of the psychological health in the Nordic region from a gender perspective. The statistics show that women’s sick leave rates are higher in all Nordic countries. The biggest gender differences are found in Norway and Sweden, while the gaps are smaller in Finland and Iceland. Three common explanations for the gender differences are women’s ‘double work’ burden, their health and the work environment. But the research in the area is insufficient and has so far been able to explain only a fraction of the gender gap.

Sara Hultqvist, author of the report

‘What’s most striking is that we still know very little. Few studies have proven the link between women’s double work and sick leave. One explanation may be that the tools used to measure these things are too dull,’ says Sara Hultqvist.

She believes the issue should be seen through several layers and with an understanding of how the gender power order affects women’s situation in the labour market. A woman who works double shifts, in the sense that she not only works in the labour market and but also is in charge of family life and household work, may also be single and employed in a low-paid occupation

‘I think a big reason for women’s high sick leave rates is the gender-segregated labour market, where female-dominated sectors are assigned less value,’ she says.

The report from the Nordic Welfare Centre calls for a plethora of studies exploring the issue from new angles. The need for categories other than ‘man’ and ‘woman’ is emphasised. In the current discourse, the healthy man is considered a norm that women should strive to comply with.

‘By instead looking at categories such as class, education or age, we might discover other patterns and models,’ says Sara Hultqvist.

She also thinks it is important to look at the organisation of the work. According to a recently published report from the Swedish Work Environment Authority, sectors dominated by women are characterised by problems in the work environment, a higher risk of health problems and a higher probability that employees quit due to illness or dissatisfaction. Sara Hultqvist calls for more case studies of occupational groups such as preschool teachers, healthcare personnel and social workers.

‘At present, there are mainly register-based studies of the inequality. But there is a need for more specific case studies in which workers are interviewed about the causes of the health problems. They probably know best why they’re not doing well.

A major problem in the development of the report was the lack of compatible data for the Nordic countries. For example, there are no comparative statistics on short spells of sick leave as occasional days and weeks off are only reported to the employer, which makes some types of health problems invisible.

‘I’m for example thinking of men’s violence against women, which can lead to brief sick leaves, or menstruation-related issues that keep women from going to work,’ says Sara Hultqvist.

Are there any differences among the Nordic countries in terms of how they address the sick leave problem?
‘There are differences in the type of research being done. In Norway, there are several studies on biological differences between male and female bodies. And in Sweden, there is a focus on gender rather than biological sex,’ says Sara Hultqvist.

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‘One problem is the salaries’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/one-problem-salaries/ The sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which is the principal global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, is currently underway. The event gathers thousands of participants every year, and the Nordic governments attend with delegations that include both experts and NGOs. This year the Nordic Council of Ministers will arrange a panel debate titled “Gender Equality the Nordic Way: What Can We Learn from It?”. Lynn Roseberry, associate professor at Copenhagen Business School, will participate in the debate.

Lynn Roseberry, associate professor at Copenhagen Business School.

What’s the present status of gender equality in the Nordic region?
‘Overall, the Nordic countries are international forerunners in the area of gender equality work, but this doesn’t mean there’s nothing more to do. We still have big problems with men’s violence against women in the Nordic countries, and with online sexism and hate speech. We are also trailing many other countries when it comes to for example the gender distribution in politics. And large differences can be found among the Nordic countries.’

What are the biggest challenges when it comes to the labour market?
‘One problem is the salaries, which are not fair. In for example Denmark, the unexplained salary gap between women and men is eight per cent. One explanation for this is that the women work more part time and go on parental leave more than men. There are laws regulating the equal pay issue, but the problem is that they don’t work. The same is true for the gender equality plans that each workplace is supposed to establish. They don’t change norms and attitudes. The gender quota laws are not making much of a difference either. They just change the gender balance at the top level of companies.’

What are the solutions to these problems?
‘We need new methods. The gender segregation in the labour market is one big problem. It starts early – already when kids choose which educational paths to pursue – and then there are a whole bunch of factors that reinforce the gender inequality. One example is the recruitment process. Many job advertisements are gender coded. For example, a male-coded advertisement reading ”We are looking for a strong person who will work in a highly competitive environment” will attract more male than female applicants. Today there is computer software that can identify this practice. I also advocate gender-blind recruitment, meaning that factors such as gender, age, ethnicity and marital status are removed from the assessment of job applications.’

‘Voluntary training on gender equality issues for management staff is also important. I advocate the establishment of formal mentoring networks, especially in male-dominated workplaces. Men often benefit from informal mentors, while women become invisible in these environments. One solution to this is to pair women with men in a formal structure. However, it is important that there is a person in charge of the mentoring network and that the initiative is approved at the management level.’

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Joint feminist struggle changed society in the Nordic region http://www.nikk.no/en/news/joint-feminist-struggle-changed-society-nordic-region/ Which reforms in Nordic gender equality history have had the greatest effect on gender equality? According to Kirsti Niskanen, professor in history at Stockholm University, the issue of women’s economic independence runs as a common thread through the entire 20th century.

‘The liberation in the family sphere has been a gradual process. Throughout history, women’s economic independence have been tied to the home and household in a completely different way than men’s.’

Kirsti Niskanen, professor in history at Stockholm University

Kirsti Niskanen says that these issues, to be able to earn an income and create a life for themselves, are essential components of the feminist struggle. Today we are witnessing how other rights, such as the right to abortion, are under attack.

‘But to be able to choose whether you want to have children or not, economic independence is of central importance. The same is true for violence in intimate relationships. It is difficult to leave a destructive relationship if you can’t make enough money,’ she says.

Still to this day, women have a weaker position in the labour market than men do. According to Kirsti Niskanen, the parental insurance has been a step in the right direction, as it has enabled women to take a job outside the home. At present, the right to paternal leave differs across the Nordic countries. But they have one thing in common: Men continue to stay home with young children much less than women.

‘The unequal use of the parental insurance affects the position of women in the labour market, their wages and lifelong income. So I believe individualised parental insurance and the right to full-time work are important issues for today’s feminist movement.’

Inspiring feminist struggle

The society we live in today is a result of legislative changes, which in turn are the results of an intense struggle. The women’s movements in the different countries have sometimes joined forces, collaborating across national borders and gaining inspiration from each other.

A first key reform was the new marriage law that Sweden adopted in 1920, Norway in 1927, Denmark in 1925 and Finland and Iceland in 1929. In Sweden, the new legislation removed men’s guardianship of their wives and gave women full rights to their own property. This issue, in combination with women’s suffrage, which was introduced in the Nordic region 1906–1921, was one of the most important to the women’s movement.

‘The vulnerability of married women was a hot topic throughout the late 19th century in Europe. Prior to the reform, married women could own property in Sweden, for example real estate and land, but only the husband was allowed to sell it,’ says Kirsti Niskanen.

Because of previous laws in Norway and Denmark, the new marriage law did not imply the same dramatic change in these countries as it did in Sweden. For example, Danish women had been able to own whatever property they brought into their marriages since 1899. Nevertheless, the last fragments of men’s legal advantage in the family sphere disappeared with the new legislation also in these countries.

Hilde Sandvik, history researcher at the University of Oslo

‘In Norway, the new law provided that family finances should be managed jointly by the two spouses,’ says Hilde Sandvik, history researcher at the University of Oslo.

The issue engaged the women’s movements across the Nordic borders.

‘At the political level, a special Scandinavian family law commission was established. In 1915, female representatives from Norway, Denmark and Sweden were appointed to the commission, and their inquiry paved the way for the new legislation,’ says Bente Rosenbeck, professor at the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, University of Copenhagen.

‘There weren’t many jobs’

In 1939, Sweden adopted another law of key importance. It prohibited employers from firing women on the grounds of engagement or marriage. Until then, it was common that women were forced to quit a job when they got married. Back then, many people thought that married women should not be working outside the home, since there was a risk they would push men out of the labour market. In Norway, which was in the midst of a recession, the Confederation of Trade Unions argued that married women should stay out of the men’s way in the labour market.
‘There weren’t many jobs, so it was a commonly held belief that only one person in the family should work. Consequently, married women stayed home,’ says Hilde Sandvik.
In Sweden, a commission was formed and asked to look closer at the position of women in the labour market. Karin Kock, Sweden’s first female professor of economics, carried out the first study of the gender distribution in the Swedish labour market. The commission found that women did not compete with men at all. Instead, they found that the Swedish labour market was highly segregated – men and women worked in different sectors. And if women had similar jobs as men, they had lower valued tasks and wages.

‘The results led to a change in direction, and Sweden became the first European country to prohibit employers from firing women on the grounds of engagement or marriage. This was a very important reform that had a tremendous effect on married women’s opportunities to participate in the labour market,’ says Kirsti Niskanen.

Debate on joint and individual taxation

The taxation issue was the next big challenge for the Nordic women’s movement. At the time, spouses paid taxes on their combined income, so-called joint taxation. This could make the tax liability so high it was hardly worth it for married women to work. Moreover, if both spouses worked outside the home, they often had to pay for childcare and a maid. Individual taxation changed this, there were no longer any financial argument for the old model of family providing.

‘There was an intense debate on joint and individual taxes in the 1960s. The housewives’ association and a successful action group called “Rädda familjen” fought for joint taxation, just as parts of the national Social Democratic women’s group,’ says Kirsti Niskanen.

Bente Rosenbeck, Bente Rosenbeck, professor at the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, University of Copenhagen

´The individual taxation meant a change of system. It put an end to the house wife era. Women’s professional work became a rational choice, both from the family’s and the woman’s point of view, she continues.

The issue received attention in Denmark and Norway as well. In Norway, spouses gained the right to individual taxation in 1959. In Sweden and Denmark, laws regarding individual taxation were adopted in 1971. ‘As a result, married women’s finances were no longer tied to those of their husbands,’ says Bente Rosenbeck.
Since the issue was discussed across the Nordic region, each country could refer to what was going on in the other countries when making their points. This increased the opportunities to push for changes that in turn helped increase the gender equality.

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Male dominance at Nordic cinemas http://www.nikk.no/en/news/male-dominance-nordic-cinemas/ A vast majority of films shown at cinemas and on television in the Nordic countries are made by men. In Iceland, 94 per cent of all films shown at cinemas last year were directed by men. In 2015, this figure was 87 per cent for Denmark and 86 per cent for Sweden. The same pattern is found for screenwriters. In Sweden, the share of male screenwriters was 74 per cent in 2016. In Iceland and Denmark, the figure was 84 per cent.

Both the review and the Stockholm Feminist Film Festival are part of a project titled Increase the Gender Equality in Nordic Film. The project has received funding from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund, which is administered by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK). Stephanie Thögersen is director of the film festival and contact person for the Nordic fund project.

Stephanie Thögersen. Press photo

Stephanie Thögersen. Press photo

Tell us a little bit about the review. How did you carry it out?
‘We looked at all films that premiered at cinemas in Sweden, Denmark and Iceland in 2015 and 2016 and kept track of whether they had male or female directors, screenwriters, producers and protagonists. We also analysed the gender equality in the films shown at the major film festivals in the three countries, and in Sweden we even included the films available via the online streaming service Netflix.’

What differences between the countries did you find?
‘We found gender inequality across the board. The fact that Iceland had a whopping 94 per cent male directors, which is higher than the other studied countries, may be due to their own film output being lower. This makes them more vulnerable to the film production in other countries.
In Denmark, domestic films make up almost one-third of all films shown at cinemas, compared with 17 per cent in Sweden. This means that Denmark could achieve a higher level of gender equality in the films shown in the country by dealing with their own production. And the film institutes in both the Denmark and Iceland are starting to do just that. Maybe we have helped push them in the right direction.’

How good are we at gender equality in film in the Nordic region?
‘Sweden has come a long way in its work to make the film industry more gender equal. The funding from the Swedish Film Institute is divided almost equally between women and men. The film institutes in the Nordic countries can hopefully join forces in their efforts to increase the gender equality in the production and showing of films. If all Nordic countries decided to increase the share of woman-made films at cinemas, it could have a noticeable effect. Not just here, but also on the European and international film market. ‘

What can the Nordic countries learn from each other in this area?
‘A lot of interesting work has been done in the Nordic countries to increase the gender equality in film. The Swedish Film Institute was a pioneer with analyses and clear gender equality objectives, and now Denmark and Iceland are gaining momentum. It would be great if all countries kept statistics like the ones we created and then followed the development and worked actively to change things. The Nordic countries should promote this model in the EU.’

What would you like the review to lead to?
‘We want the film industry to take a greater responsibility, not only for which stories are told by Nordic films but also for which stories the Nordic film audience has access to. As for what we will do next, we will continue to monitor the development and work for increased gender equality in the film offerings for example by arranging a yearly film festival to show that there is an abundance of fantastic films made by women out there.’

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Iceland intent on eliminating the gender pay gap http://www.nikk.no/en/news/iceland-intended-eliminate-gender-pay-gap/


Part 3: The labour market

The pay gap between men and women is a problem that all Nordic countries are struggling with. Despite several initiatives in the area, limited progress has been made in recent years. Now Iceland wants to lead the way. The country adopted an equal-pay-for-equal-work law for the labour market in the early 1960s. It was determined that the gender pay gap should be eliminated by 1967 at the latest. This goal was never achieved, however, as today the gap is a full 15 per cent. Yet the problem is far from forgotten.

Maríanna Traustadóttir, from the Icelandic Confederation of Labour.

In the fall of 2008 the Ministry of Welfare, together with ASI – the Icelandic Confederation of Labour and SA – Business Iceland, began the work of developing the Equal Pay Standard. Icelandic Standards agreed to supervise the project. It was decided to use the international standard similar to the ISO standard for environmental management systems as a model. Maríanna Traustadóttir from the Icelandic Confederation of Labour has been involved in the work from the start.

‘The creation of the Equal-Pay Standard was a long process. We met at least 100 times over a period of four years. We both considered the nature of the Icelandic labour market and developed guidelines for the valuation of work. What’s unique with the standard is that all labour market parties have agreed on all decisions made,’ she says.

Salary must be based on the position

In 2012 the Standard was ready, but did it work? An Action Group on Equal Pay was appointed in December 2012 by the government and Social Partners to work on gender equality and to conduct a pilot project to implement the Equal Pay Standard. In brief, the equal-pay standard described the process that companies and public institutions can follow in order to ensure equal pay within the workplace. In order to achieve this, the employer must determine which work tasks each position entails and then assign a value. The salary must be decided based on the position and not the person carrying out the work. The idea is that this will eliminate salary discrimination.
‘The standard makes employers pay a fixed salary for a certain type of work. However, there is some room for an upward adjustment for example if a worker adds extra value to the work, but such exceptions must be decided in accordance with the standard and justified in writing,’ says Maríanna Traustadóttir.

She points out that the standard makes the setting of salaries more clear and transparent, which benefits both the employers and the employee. Several private and public Icelandic employers have participated in the pilot project supervised by the Action Group on Equal Pay. The participants stress that the implementation is a big commitment that must be supported at the highest level of management.

‘Yet everybody also thinks it’s well worth the work. They feel that the whole workplace benefits from a fair and transparent salary system. Several employers also describe how they had to adjust some salaries that they realised were discriminatory,’ says Maríanna Traustadóttir.

 The infrastructure is in place

Iceland’s new minister of social affairs and equality Þorsteinn Víglundsson wants to require all Icelandic employers with more than 25 employees to implement the standard. The infrastructure is already in place. The employer organisations give courses on how to use the standard and in 2015 the University of Iceland offered a special course on equal-pay certification.

Guðbjörg Andrea Jónsdóttir is a researcher and director at the University of Iceland’s Social Science Research Institute. She does not think the standard will eliminate the entire gender pay gap in Iceland but is confident it will increase the awareness of the reasons for it.
‘During the implementation process, the awareness is raised about how differently women’s and men’s work is valued among both employers and employees. This may be the most important step to get the debate going and close the gender pay gap,’ she says.

So what are the main reasons behind the salary differences between women and men in the Nordic countries? International comparisons show that the Nordic countries place far from the top when it comes to gender-equal salaries. For example, the data for Italy and Luxembourg look much better. Anita Nyberg, gender scholar and professor at Stockholm University in Sweden, says that the statistics have to do with women’s employment rate. Countries in which fewer women work outside the home have smaller gender pay gaps.

Anita Nyberg, gender scholar and professor at Stockholm University.

‘The reason is that the women who work in those countries are well-educated,’ she says and compares with for example Sweden, where many women have low-paying jobs in the public sector.

According to Anita Nyberg, the salary differences are generally growing in Sweden, regardless of gender. This affects women as a group, since they are at the bottom of the scale. At the same time, women are more likely than men to pursue post-secondary education, which makes the development multifaceted.
‘The primary reason for the pay gap is that women and men tend to have different occupations. Right now, we’re witnessing a change in this regard, though. Jobs that used to be male dominated, such as psychologists, have been taken over by women,’ says Anita Nyberg.

The level of motivation is missing

The gender pay gap will not disappear without sufficient motivation among policymakers and employers. At present, this level of motivation is missing in several Nordic countries, says Paula Määttä, Finnish researcher and expert on equal pay.

‘The pay gap is a serious violation of human rights. I’d like to say it is one of the most serious violations, since it affects half of all people in the Nordic region.
She continues by saying that Finland’s political focus is on economic growth rather than discriminatory structures and practices of the labour markets. This affects the country’s priorities.

‘Dealing with the salary differences also has to do with money. Right now, there is no willingness in Finland to significantly increase the salaries in sectors dominated by women in order to narrow the pay gap,’ she says.

Paula Määttä, Finnish researcher and expert on equal pay.

According to Paula Määttä, one reason behind the slow progress is that people in Finland, as in other Nordic countries, are so used to the structures they can’t see the discrimination. The setting of salaries is not openly discussed in the workplaces. When the negotiations take place behind closed doors, the differences are destined to be maintained, says Paula Määttä.
‘In order to achieve equal pay, it is important that salaries and how they are set are discussed in the public debate. Then employees will be able to understand why they are paid a certain salary and compare it with how much other people make,’ says Paula Määttä.

It has not yet been decided exactly when Iceland’s gender equality minister will mandate the equal-pay certification. Maríanna Traustadóttir from the Icelandic Confederation of Labour hopes that the solution will spread to other Nordic countries.
‘The standard is international. It is developed so that it can be used outside the Icelandic context. However, it does need to be adapted to each country’s specific labour market and labour laws,’ she says.

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Nordic networks initiate a discussion about gender norms http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-networks-initiate-discussion-gender-norms/ There is a growing global movement focusing on men and gender equality. The conference titled Making the Invisible Visible: Transforming Social Norms among Boys & Men for Gender Justice in Practice is arranged by the Nordic member in MenEngage associations and aims to disseminate the network’s knowledge to more people. The conference is funded by the Nordic Gender Equality Fund, which is administered by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK).

Ole Nordfjell

‘At this point in time, there is no obvious arena for dialogues about masculinity norms. We have invited a variety of actors to the conference, such as organisations that work with boys and young men, in order to expand the discussion,’ says Ole Nordfjell from the Norwegian organisation REFORM.

The about 100 conference participants range from municipal workers and gender researchers to activists and politicians. The programme includes workshops on how to engage boys and young men in the anti-violence work and how to deal with negative gender ideals for men. A panel discussion will focus on how to involve more men with migrant backgrounds in the struggle for gender equality.

‘We think this is an important issue in the wake of the Cologne debate, where men with migrant backgrounds were pointed out as perpetrators. It’s important that we share knowledge about integration in the gender equality work,’ says Ole Nordfjell.

Problematic norm of violence

Alexander Blum Bertelsen will participate in a panel discussion titled The Voices of Young Male Activists. He is a young Danish feminist with a background in the political youth movement. At present, he is completing a programme in peace and conflict studies at Lund University in Sweden.
‘My studies have made me think a lot about the norm of violence that we men have to deal with. Being a man means that you’re constantly expected to use violence,’ he says.

Alexander Blum Bertelsen

According to Alexander Blum Bertelsen, the image of the strong man who is eager to resort to violence is a central element not least in pop culture. He believes that this norm is a strong reinforcer of the gender power structure, and also that it affects international relations.
‘Mostly men are in charge of foreign policy and military operations.’

He thinks that white, heterosexual men should use their privilege to change the male norm. Alexander Blum Bertelsen is calling for a communication climate where instead of rejecting people who say the ‘wrong’ things, we see a potential for a constructive discussion.
‘Instead of labelling a person ”anti-women” or ”racist”, it’s important to see the context. It’s not the individual that’s wrong, it’s the structure. What I mean is, it’s important to turn wrong into right!’

Recommendations will be submitted to the Norwegian government

A greater aim of the MenEngage conference is to reduce gender-related violence in society. This is an issue the Norwegian organisation REFORM has focused on for a long time. In 2015, they managed a Nordic project that focused on how to combat violence among young couples in the Nordic region. During the MenEngage conference, the recommendations from the previous project will be handed over to a representative from the Norwegian government.
‘It’s a good thing. We hope that the Norwegian government will take the recommendations seriously,’ says Ole Nordfjell.
He sees obvious advantages of Nordic cooperation in the area of men and gender equality.
‘We are sufficiently similar but the differences in methods and practices are exciting, and can be imitated.’

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‘Seriously, nothing is happening’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/seriously-nothing-happening/


Part 2: The labour market

The 2-day conference included discussions on the challenges related to the gender-segregated labour market, the importance of a gender-equal use of parental insurance, discrimination of migrants and prevention of gendered educational choices. The conference gathered participants from business, academia, unions, politics, research and civil society. In a panel discussion on diversity recruitment, Petter Stordalen, owner and chair of Nordic Choice Hotel, expressed frustration over the ultraslow transition to gender equality in the labour market.
‘Seriously, nothing is happening. The universities are full of competent women. What happens to them after they graduate? I’m afraid that men in top positions don’t care about diversity and gender equality. But they should, as several studies show that diversity-oriented businesses tend to be very profitable. Many people think that Nordic Choice actively promotes diversity just to be nice, but we don’t. We do it for the wellbeing of the company,’ he said.

Women more likely to work part time 

Gerd Kristiansen

Gerd Kristiansen, president of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, also participated in the panel discussion. She referred to the systematic gender segregation in the labour market as a big problem on the path to gender equality.
‘Women work part time to a much greater extent than men and also make less money. Women’s pensions are lower than men’s, and they also take more responsibility for ill family members. We need to deal with all these inequalities in order to achieve gender equality in the labour market.’

Lynn Roseberry, PhD, author and former senior lecturer at Copenhagen Business School, stressed the importance of gender equality in parents’ use of the parental insurance.
A comparison shows that Nordic dads take more paternal leave than the world average. Still, big differences can be seen among the Nordic countries, and despite the progress made in gender equality, mothers continue to spend more time caring for children.

According to Gerd Kristiansen, in a European perspective, the Nordic countries have come relatively far when it comes to gender equality in the labour market. However, we still have a long way to go.
‘We therefore need an active gender equality policy that ensures a good balance between work, family and leisure, for both men and women,’ she says.

What concretely needs to be done in order to achieve gender equality in the labour market and the workplace?
‘First of all, we need to agree that gender equality in the labour market is the ultimate goal. In order to reach this goal, we need to promote gender equality in the family domain, with a gender-equal distribution of work and care responsibilities. We need a family policy that promotes gender equality at home. In addition, businesses need to integrate a gender equality perspective in their recruitment and career development work. And they need to expand their thinking when assessing competence in a recruitment process,’ she says.

Hanne Bjurstøm

Hanne Bjurstøm, Norway’s ombudsperson for discrimination and gender equality, agrees that the importance of the recruitment process cannot be overestimated on the path to gender equality in the labour market.

How can recruitment work contribute to gender equality?
‘A good recruitment process helps the employer hire the most qualified applicants, regardless of gender, functional variations and ethnicity. The most qualified person gets the job and vulnerable groups don’t risk being discriminated against. The employer must ensure a professional recruitment process that is based on non-biased assessments,’ says Hanne Bjurstøm.

As the national ombudsperson for discrimination and gender equality, which challenges do you see?
‘Research shows that people with a foreign-sounding name have a 25 per cent lower chance of being invited to a job interview in Norway. We know that not all people are treated equally in recruitment processes. When recruitments to a large extent depend on the gut feeling of those in charge of shortlisting job applicants, there is a great risk that irrelevant personal traits are given more attention than relevant qualifications. Good recruitment practices are blind to gender.

Focus on work

Paulina de los Reyes

The importance of including an intersectional perspective on the labour market was another topic discussed at the conference. Paulina de los Reyes, professor of economic history at Stockholm University told the audience about her research during a session titled “Where in the Labour Market are the Immigrant Women?”
She stressed that we need to look beyond employment statistics when we discuss the labour market.
‘Sweden sees it as incredibly important that immigrants find employment. It’s seen as the key to integration.’

According to Paulina de los Reyes, this ambition makes us neglect what happens once a person is working. Like salary differences, what the work environment and the person’s opportunities to combine work and family life look like, and whether there is discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
‘By focusing solely on the number of people who have a job, we risk missing these important aspects. We may not see that the Swedish labour market is segregated.’

Paulina de los Reyes points out that although two persons might work under the same roof, they often face entirely different conditions. An intersectional perspective enables us to identify how factors such as class, age, ethnicity and gender may imply different challenges for different people.

‘There are preconceptions that push racialised women into roles they are expected to accept. These roles often come with worse conditions than those enjoyed by the majority. An intersectional perspective helps us see how this categorisation affects workplace hierarchies and the opportunity for staff to develop their full potential. In order to achieve equality in the workplace and the labour market, we need to be able to see the entire person,’ says Paulina de los Reyes.

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A gender quota law is not a quick fix http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-quota-law-not-quick-fix/ ill_bard_Norge_846

Part 1: The labour market

The red-green Swedish government has been threatening to pass a gender quota law since 2014. The intention was for such a law to go into effect this year. However, a few weeks ago, the opposition parties in the government’s Committee on Civil Affairs made an agreement to say no to a gender quota law, which made the cabinet withdraw its plans.

‘The cabinet’s legislative proposal didn’t even make it to the parliament. At this point, a law seems unlikely. It’s a tricky situation for the cabinet, since this means they can be accused for not delivering on the promise they made during the election campaign,’ says Lenita Freidenvall, associate professor of political science at Stockholm University.

It is not the first time the issue of a gender quota law has come up in Sweden. The strategy to put pressure on the business sector by threatening them with a law was implemented already in 1999 by then gender equality minister Margareta Winberg. At that time, companies were told they had five years to increase the share of women on their boards to 25 %. No gender quota law was ever passed, but the threat made a difference. According to Lenita Freidenvall, the share of women on corporate boards increased from 6 % to 18 %.

‘Margareta Winberg’s threat really worked. Considering the multiply threat on introducing a gender quota law it is likely that the present government thought the businesses would solve this on their own,’ she says.

“Sweden is different”

Mari Teigen is director of CORE – Centre for Research on Gender Equality

Mari Teigen is director of CORE – Centre for Research on Gender Equality

The Norwegian gender quota law was approved by a centre-right government in 2003. Minister of Trade and Industry Ansgar Gabrielsen pushed the development of the law forward, and finally in 2008 it went into effect. Mari Teigen is director of CORE – Centre for Research on Gender Equality and editor of the book Virkningen av kjønnskvotering i norsk næringsliv (the effects of the quota rule in the Norwegian business sector). She thinks it is interesting that the issue has re-surfaced in Sweden.

‘This is an issue that obviously is having a problem making it all the way in Sweden, but that at the same time never completely disappears from the agenda.’

Mari Teigen believes that the differences between the Norwegian and Swedish business sectors can have an impact on the developments in the two countries. In Norway, the state is a central owner of enterprises. This makes it hard to argue against the idea of the state getting involved in the governance of businesses.’

‘Sweden is different, as it more strongly characterised by large private companies like Volvo and Ericsson.’

She also points out another important difference. When Norway passed its gender quota law, the corporate boards had only 6 % women. The present share in Sweden is 32 %.

According to Mari Teigen, the Norwegian gender quota law has had several effects. One is that the corporate boards affected by the law now have about 40 % women. Other benefits are increased transparency and clearer routines for the selection of board members.

‘Instead of appointing board members informally, the businesses use nomination committees. This is an effect not only of the quota law but also of other interventions to improve the processes,’ she says.

The Norwegian law has also helped spark a European debate about the male dominance, both generally in business and industry and more specifically in corporate boards. Several countries have been inspired by the Norwegian model.

‘It has become somewhat of an export,’ says Mari Teigen.

It should be remembered, however, that a lot remains to be done when it comes to gender equality effects of the gender quota law. Studies show that the gender distribution effects have not spread to the top management level in Norwegian business. The fact that the corporate boards have become gender balanced does not mean that these companies are more likely to have a female CEO.

‘So a gender quota law is not a quick fix to solve structural gender equality problems in the business sector. I believe the law would have been more powerful if it had been connected to other gender equality measures,’ says Mari Teigen.

She thinks that issues such as what work experience is required for promotion to higher positions should be addressed.

‘What education is required? Do you have to work 60 hours a week to qualify? There is a need for a more critical discussion of these types of issues,’ she says.

The gool has been achieved

Thorgerdur Einarsdóttir, professor of gender studies at the University of Iceland

Thorgerdur Einarsdóttir, professor of gender studies at the University of Iceland

Iceland approved a quota law in 2009. The law went into effect in 2013 and covers all larger companies, with 50 or more employees, as well as all pension fund companies. Evaluations show that the goal of 40 % female board members has been achieved in the companies affected by the law. According to Gudbjörg Linda Rafnsdóttir, professor of sociology, and Thorgerdur Einarsdóttir, professor of gender studies at the University of Iceland, has the gender equality distribution effect of the law not been noticeable in Iceland – but it has led to increased diversity in the boards. They have studied the difference between male and female board members, when it comes to background and characteristics.

‘On average, female board members have more and another type of education than their male colleagues. They are also younger,’ they say.

Gudbjörg Linda Rafnsdóttir, professor of sociology studies at the University of Iceland.

Gudbjörg Linda Rafnsdóttir, professor of sociology studies at the University of Iceland.

Gudbjörg Linda Rafnsdóttir and Thorgerdur Einarsdóttir have carried out several studies related to the gender quota law. One review, based on interviews with male and female board members, shows that the women rate the quality of their own board work higher than men in the same positions do.

‘The questions concerned for example whether the board members were prepared for the board meetings and how good they were at taking initiatives or being critical. These results indicate that the claim that women don’t have enough self-confidence for these positions is not true,’ says Gudbjörg Linda Rafnsdóttir.

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Gender equality in the labour market – a Norwegian focus http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-equality-labour-market-norwegian-focus/ Norge-EN-2017-330x300On 1 January, Norway took over the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The programme for the Nordic gender equality cooperation includes initiatives against gender-related violence and online hate speech, work already initiated by previous countries holding the presidency. In addition to these themes, Norway will give special attention to gender equality in the workplace and the labour market. On 7–8 February, Norway will host a Nordic conference in Oslo on the topic. The discussions will address issues such as how the position of migrant women in the labour market can be strengthened, what it means to be a father in 2017 and how gender equality in corporate leadership can be achieved. The event targets researchers, business leaders, policymakers and representatives from the labour market parties.

‘Participation in the labour market and the ability to earn an income are prerequisites for gender equality,’ says Norway’s Minister of Children and Equality Solveig Horne.
Yet this seems to be easier said than done.

Solveig Horne. Photo: Ilja C. Hendel

Solveig Horne. Photo: Ilja C. Hendel

‘Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in the private sector, and women and men still tend to choose jobs along traditional gender lines. We need more female engineers and more male preschool teachers.’

Gender equality in the labour market is also the main theme of the UN women’s commission in New York this year and the issue will therefore be discussed in a public panel debate with the Nordic gender equality ministers.

Implementation of the Istanbul Convention

Last year, the Finnish Presidency focused on practices and solutions to combat violence in close relationships. A conference centred on the role of the perpetrators of this type of violence was arranged. Norway will continue this work with a project dealing with the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. The project will be presented at a Nordic conference on violence arranged by Norway 29–30 November.

‘Violence is a societal problem, a public health problem and not least a gender equality problem. Victims of violence must be offered protection through support measures and the legal system. Measures targeting the perpetrators are also important in order to prevent the violence,’ says Solveig Horne.

The project will also look into how the Nordic countries are implementing some of the commitments laid down in the Istanbul Convention. The commitments in question concern the work to prevent gender-related violence and the provision of protection and support to victims.

Information package to young people about online hate speech

How to stop online hate speech is another hot topic in the Nordic countries. The epidemic of threats and sexist remarks in website comment fields is a serious democracy problem, as it may silence voices in the public space. The issue received attention during both Denmark’s and Finland’s presidency. One problem is that the legislations in the Nordic countries have not been updated in the area. This spring, Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) will present a review of the legal regulation of online hate speech at the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers. On 21–22 June, Norway will arrange a Nordic conference on the topic.

‘We will continue Finland’s and Denmark’s work against hate speech, and we look forward to NIKK’s review and recommendations about what can be done about the problem. Norway will also develop an information package for children and young people in all Nordic countries,’ says Solveig Horne.

The issue of men and gender equality is also on Norway’s agenda. More specifically, the discussion will concern men and health, men and education and men and men’s roles.
‘We can’t achieve gender equality unless we have the men on board. The participation and involvement of men and boys have been important elements of Nordic gender equality policy in the last 10 years,’ says Solveig Horne.

As a gender equality minister, what do you feel are the main benefits of Nordic cooperation in the area of gender equality?
‘The Nordic countries have worked together to deal with gender equality challenges for over 40 years. Equality between women and men is an important feature of the Nordic countries. It is a prerequisite both for people’s opportunity to create a good life and for the creation of solid welfare states. I feel strongly that the Nordic cooperation helps us improve each other,’ says Solveig Horne.

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A conference about gender equality in research environments http://www.nikk.no/en/news/how-can-the-field-of-physics-become-more-gender-equal/ Gender in Physics Day is the title of a series of conferences. This particular one-day conference will be organised by CERN, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and NordForsk. The intention is to make visible and analyse the lack of gender equality in research environments within the field of physics. The conference on 27 January will focus on what international organisations do and can do to improve the situations, but also the situation in the Nordic countries. Reports show that Nordic academia is far from gender equal. Almost 80 per cent of all professors are men, with the natural sciences and engineering showing the greatest imbalances. Lotta Strandberg works as senior adviser at NordForsk:

Lotta Strandberg

Lotta Strandberg. Photo: NordForsk

‘The situation is particularly problematic in physics. We hope that the conference will give us at NordForsk some ideas about what we can do to improve things,’ she says.

Science organisations from Sweden, Norway and Denmark will present descriptive gender statistics at the conference. There will also be a presentation on the situation in developing countries.

The decision to host the event at CERN may seem like a strategic move. CERN employs particle physicists and R&D engineers from across the world, but less than 15%of them are women. According to Geneviève Guinot, CERN’s Diversity Programme Leader, the reason for this is that CERN receives few job applications from female scientists:

‘We seem to have stagnated at a certain level. We need to talk about what we, who employ scientists and host international physics collaborations for cutting-edge experiments, can do about it.’

Geneviève Guinot

Geneviève Guinot

Geneviève Guinot sees several reasons for the lack of gender equality in physics. Research shows that gendered choices of educational paths tend to begin early in life.

‘The stereotype about what a typical particle physicist is like is one problem. People immediately think of a male scientist. Another problem is that many students don’t know what jobs a physics degree can lead to,’ says Geneviève Guinot.

She also mentions other obstacles women face when planning their careers. Due to norms and unconscious gender blindness, women do not enjoy the same opportunities as men. Concrete cases from CERN will be discussed at the conference.

Lotta Strandberg from NordForsk says that physics in particular is a field with many discouraging stories about how women have been treated.

‘I once heard of a professor who was denied working in a research environment because the place lacked a ladies’ room. Her entire postdoc went down the tubes because of it. In another case, a woman realised after her parental leave that her department had given both her doctoral studentship and her research project to somebody else,’ she says.

According to Geneviève Guinot, CERN is addressing the gender equality problem in several ways. For example, they organise special theme days to which they invite girls from compulsory school to spend a day with leading scientists. CERN also offers a programme for physics teachers, which includes a course in gender-inclusive teaching. In this course, the participants discuss for example how gender stereotypes related to physics can be avoided in the classroom.

‘I hope GiPD will contribute to noticeable change when it comes to gender equality and opportunities for female physicists,’ says Geneviève Guinot.

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Thanks for this year – we will be back in 2017 http://www.nikk.no/en/news/thanks-year-will-back-2017/ ill-710x414-ensam-tomtefagel-blabakgrund-snoNIKK will take a hiatus for the holidays between December 22 and January 15. Our web and social media channels will not be updated during this time, but you can, as always, visit us online at nikk.no! We’ll see you again in 2017!

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Glædelig jul og e Godt Nytår!
Hyvää Joulua or Hauskaa Joulua – Onnellista uutta vuotta!
Gleðileg Jól og Farsælt Komandi ár!
God jul og Godt Nyttår!
God jul och ett gott nytt år!

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Busy Finnish Presidency about to End http://www.nikk.no/en/news/busy-finnish-presidency-end/ Finlands ordförandeskap 2016The leadership of the Nordic gender equality cooperation changes annually. In 2016, it was Finland’s turn to hold the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The focus of the Presidency has been on gender equality in the media and the work against violence. Gender equality in health and welfare and the area of men and gender equality have also received special attention. Annamari Asikainen and Heidi Haggrén at the gender equality unit of the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health have coordinated the efforts.
‘It has been a very interesting year, with a lot of work. The planning began already in 2014, and this year we have definitely had plenty of balls in the air,’ says Annamari Asikainen.

Last year, the Danish Presidency started to work against online sexism and hate speech. This was followed up in February at the UN women’s commission meeting in New York when an expert panel discussed solutions to the problem in front of an audience. The panel included Emma Holten from Denmark, who became a feminist activist after falling victim to revenge pornography, and Finnish politician Nasima Razmyar, who has been subject to organised hate campaigns due to her engagement in refugee issues.

Annamari Asikainen and Heidi Haggrén feel that this event was particularly successful.
‘An experienced CSW participant said it was the best joint Nordic event ever at the UN women’s conference,’ says Annamari Asikainen.

The work will be followed up during Norway’s Presidency with for example an assessment of the legal regulation of online threats and hate speech in the Nordic countries, which is carried out by NIKK at the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

 

Gender equality in the media

On the theme of gender equality in the media, the Finnish Presidency also arranged a side event on gender equality and freedom of the press during UNESCO World Press Freedom Day in Helsinki in May. The goal was to address the issue of the skewed gender representation in the news media as a threat to democracy and freedom of the press. The list of participants in Helsinki also included representatives from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund project Gender Equality in Nordic Media. They presented the latest Nordic results from the Global Media Monitoring Project, which revealed that the share of women present in Nordic news media has decreased from 2010. The study shows that the Nordic countries have been surpassed by for example USA, Romania, Peru and Pakistan.

‘Even if Nordic press enjoys a lot of freedom in an international perspective, the report points to significant weaknesses in terms of gender equality. It was a good idea to include the gender equality issue in this UNESCO context,’ says Heidi Haggrén. She appreciates the discussion on the roles of men and women in the media content and how they are linked to democracy.

 

Gender-related violence

Heidi Haggrén, Annamari Asikainen. Photo: private

Heidi Haggrén, Annamari Asikainen. Photo: private

The Finnish Presidency has addressed the issue of gender-related violence from several perspectives. It has arranged three large conferences with a focus on perpetrators, genital mutilation and human trafficking. The conference titled Confronting Gendered Violence: Focus on Perpetrators, arranged in collaboration with a project funded by the Nordic Gender Equality Fund, dealt with how the perpetrators’ violence can be stopped. It targeted researchers and practitioners in the Nordic countries. The conference included a presentation of results from the Presidency project Enough, Now! Nordic Models to End Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence.

‘The conference turned out great, maybe because it targeted a specific group. One important insight we gained is that it is important to define a clear target group early in the planning process. It’s difficult to reach out to everybody with a conference. For example, you can’t target both practitioners and policymakers at the same time,’ says Annamari Asikainen.

She also stresses the importance of collaborating with other actors. The conference Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting – a Matter of Human Rights and Gender Equality was arranged together with the Finnish League for Human Rights, and the conference The Nordic Countries – a Common Market for Human Trafficking was hosted in cooperation with the Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, among others.
‘It has worked well, because they have access to other networks than we do at the Ministry. They are able to reach other organisations and groups of people,’ says Heidi Haggrén.

 

Challenges and lessons learned

Besides the main themes of media and anti-violence work, Finland’s Presidency has also addressed the gender equality perspective in health policy and the theme of men and gender equality.

What has been the biggest challenge this year?
‘The short time period! One year is not a long time and it’s quite demanding to work on so many things simultaneously. Also, we should develop better structures for collaboration in the Nordic cooperation, for example between different sectors. Today those types of structures are more established at the EU level,’ says Annamari Asikainen.

In 2017, Norway will take over the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. They will continue to focus on themes such as violence and hate speech.

What advice do you want to give Norway?
‘It has been valuable to make room for voices from all Nordic countries at the events and in the overall work. It’s not always easy to do, but that’s how you generate Nordic value. Collection of comparable information and creation of discussion forums can help facilitate effective gender equality policy in the different countries,’ says Heidi Haggrén.

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Gender Equality Fund Highlights Nordic Cooperation Against Violence http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-equality-fund-highlights-nordic-cooperation-violence/ NIKK spade symbol

‘The organizations involved in our project have worked hard to reach out to young people through social media, festivals and schools. We have for example arranged workshops for adolescents about what dating violence is and how it is expressed: psychological violence, digital violence, stalking. We were surprised to find out how few adults the adolescents have to talk to about their thoughts and questions about for example sexuality,’ says Hedda Hakvåg.

Hedda Hakvåg from Reform – Resource Centre for Men in Norway presented the project “Ungdoms kjærestevold i Norden. Nordisk ekspertkonferanse om vold i ungdommers parforhold”  together with Rikke Kann from Danish Dialogue against Violence at the network meeting.

Nordic cooperation in practice

The meeting gathered 10 organisations from six Nordic projects that work in various ways to prevent gender-related violence for two days in Helsinki. Representatives from for example universities, the police, women’s shelters and resource centres for men from Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Norway and Sweden came together to share knowledge and experiences regarding the prevention of violence. The discussed projects focused on everything from online violence, violence among adolescents to the involvement of boys and men in the work against violence.

In addition to the project presentations, the meeting participants attended workshops in which they discussed the responsibilities of various actors and the needs that can be identified at the Nordic level when it comes to for example networks, knowledge and policy changes. One of the challenges addressed was how the legislation and law enforcement seem to always be one step behind in the Nordic countries when it comes to online violence, which causes many victims to experience a sense of poor legal security. The agenda also included discussions about the benefits of Nordic cooperation.

‘I see almost only advantages with Nordic cooperation. Every time I attend a Nordic meeting, I realise how much we have in common and how much we can learn from each other,’ says Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir from the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association.

However, the Nordic context also implies a risk, as the need to discuss the countries’ shared traits may have an excluding effect.
‘We have to pay attention to the intersectional perspective, such as the LGBT perspective, violence against people with functional variations and ethnic minorities. It is important to hear also their voices when we develop the work agains violence in Nordic co-operation,’ says Sari Laaksonen from The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and shelters, Finland.

Network meetings a new yearly tradition

This is the first time NIKK arranges a network meeting for fund projects, but from now on the plan is to arrange a meeting every year on various themes. The Finnish Presidency has identified violence as a prioritised area in 2016, which explains the focus of this year’s meeting. Moreover, the meeting was held in connection with the fund-supported conference “Confronting Gendered Violence – Focus on Perpetrators, which took place 30 November – 2 December in Helsinki, Finland.

‘NIKK has administered the Nordic Council of Ministers’ gender equality fund since 2013. So this week we have met both projects that have ended and projects that have just started. There is a lot to learn from the projects, not only for us at NIKK but also for the projects themselves in terms of how to make a project sustainable. It is also an opportunity for sharing knowledge with other organisations than those that are involved in the projects. There is clearly a strong interest in finding new networks and models of collaboration,’ says Louise Grip, project coordinator at NIKK.

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Focus on the perpetrators of violence http://www.nikk.no/en/news/focus-perpetrators-violence/ Finlands ordförandeskap 2016The conference, titled Confronting Gendered Violence: Focus on Perpetrators, held in Helsinki at the House of the Estates, gathers Nordic researchers and experts in the field. The ambition with the event is to generate knowledge and explore ways to stop the spiral of violence.

‘So far, the debate has largely focused on the survivors. But it is important to also bring attention to the perpetrators, since they are central in any attempt to end the violence. There is a lot going on in this field of expertise at the moment,’ says Kristín Pálsdóttir.

Pálsdóttir serves as contact person for the Nordic fund project within which the conference is arranged by the participating organisations in collaboration with the Finish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The need for a discussion focusing on the perpetrators has been voiced repeatedly. Gender-related violence is one of the focus areas both in the Nordic gender-equality ministers’ present co-operation programme and in connection with the Finnish Presidency. The conference is a collaboration between organisations, exports, researchers, public officials and policymakers. Kristín Pálsdóttir says that the conference has attracted a lot of attention, not only in but also outside the Nordic region.

Kristín Pálsdóttir. Photo: private

Kristín Pálsdóttir. Photo: Dagur Gunnarsson

‘People from Nepal, Pakistan, Greece and Palestine have contacted us about attending the conference. This shows that there’s a strong and widespread desire for knowledge in this area,’ she says.

According to Kristín Pálsdóttir, the intention with the 3-day conference is to enable various actors to meet and discuss how the issue is handled in the different Nordic countries. What treatments and solutions are available? What does the research say? Another objective is to create a Nordic network.
‘We are hoping that such a network can help develop the practices used in the Nordic region. It’s an important step in the work to solve the problem,’ she says.

 

Young perpetrators fell between the cracks

Kristín Pálsdóttir works at the University of Iceland’s Institute for Gender, Equality and Difference. She got the idea for the project when the staff at the Institute evaluated a pilot project that had been carried out in select Icelandic communities. The pilot project was based on the Istanbul Convention and aimed to combat gender-related violence through improved follow-up of reported violence and tougher sanctions for the perpetrators. When evaluating it, Kristín Pálsdóttir noticed that treatment options for the perpetrator were largely ignored.

‘Iceland offers only one type of treatment for perpetrators, and all perpetrators with children are required to undergo it. But this means that young men, without children, are neglected and don’t receive any treatment at all.’

 

New report maps the situation in the Nordic region

A new report shedding light on the situation in the Nordic countries will be presented at the conference. The report was ordered by the Finnish Presidency aiming to map out the different models used in the Nordic countries (including the autonomous regions of Åland Islands, Greenland and Faroe Islands) to help the perpetrators of intimate partner violence to break the cycle of violence.

Berta Vall. Photo: private

Berta Vall. Photo: private

The questions concern everything from which treatments perpetrators are offered to challenges and results. Berta Vall, researcher at the University of Jyväskylä’s Department of Psychology in Finland, is in the process of adding the final touches to the report. She says that the results show that the access to treatment options varies both across countries and between urban and rural areas.

“Most treatment options are offered in the larger cities. This means that it is more difficult for perpetrators outside the cities to get help. One exception is Sweden, where treatments are offered in the countryside as well.”

“Also long-term funding is one of the main challenges that the service providers in Nordic Countries are faced with, which might provoke difficulties on long-term planning.”

 

Norway first European country to offer treatment

According to Berta Vall, most treatments available today are voluntary. They are largely based on the model developed by the Norwegian NGO Alternative to Violence (ATV), a professional research and treatment centre against partner violence. Founded in 1987, ATV was a European pioneer in offering perpetrators of partner violence psychological treatment.

‘The purpose of these treatments is to stop the violence by recognizing the gender aspect of Intimate Partner Violence and by helping perpetrators acquiring responsibility and increasing empathy for the victim. The treatments consist mainly of one-on-one and group counselling’, says Berta Vall.

One thing that is characteristic of the Nordic countries is that several service providers have a gender perspective in their treatments as stated in the Istanbul Convention. They raise up the gender aspects that are behind the Intimate Partner Violence.
‘This is unusual in a European context. The Nordic countries definitely stand out,’ says Berta Vall.

 

Demands in the Istanbul Convention

Gender-based violence is one of the prioritised areas within the 4-year framework of the Nordic gender equality co-operation. Päivi Yli-Pietilä works for the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Social and is a member of the Nordic Committee of Senior Officials for Gender Equality.

‘Gender-based violence is a problem in all Nordic countries that we still have not solved – despite the fact that the Nordic countries always do very well in international comparisons of gender equality in society,’ she says.

The Istanbul Convention was adopted by the Council of Europe in 2011 and includes demands for measures to deal with perpetrators.

‘Most discussions have concerned only the victims. We need both perspectives and are very happy to see that Norway (the next country to hold the Presidency) will continue the work to implement the Istanbul Convention in the Nordic co-operation,’ says Päivi Yli-Pietilä.

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Gender research journals explore contemporary trends http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-research-journals-explore-contemporary-trends/ Ulf Mellström, editor-in-chief and professor of gender studies at Karlstad University, leads off the current issue of NORMA with an editorial titled In the Time of Masculinist Political Revival. According to Mellström, present-day politics is characterised by a revival of traditional masculinity ideals in many parts of the world. And this trend is combined with the advancement of openly sexist and male chauvinistic agendas, with a prime example being Donald Trump in the US. Media portrays the primary supporters of the next US president as white working-class men – a group that has seen its status dwindle over the years and that is full of nostalgic dreams of a return to how things used to be back when the world supposedly was a better place. Ulf Mellström draws parallels to aggressive homophobia, anti-feminism and a reinvigorated masculinism in Russia, Turkey, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. One example is Turkey’s President Erdogan, who last summer talked about the importance of re-establishing the ‘gender order’ in his country, without any influence from ‘Western’ feminism. Ulf Mellström concludes that masculinity research plays a central role in these disturbing times. It is needed not least in order to understand, explain and resist reactionary political trends around the world.

 

Important with contributions from the global south

Lucas Gottzén. Photo: Niklas Björling

Lucas Gottzén. Photo: Niklas Björling

NORMA was founded in 2006 with financial support from Nordic Information on Gender, which at that time was a Nordic research institute located at the University of Oslo. The research field called masculinity studies was relatively new and the idea with the journal was to contribute to dialogue and sharing concerning research practices in the Nordic region. Today, NORMA has a more international profile. The intention is to bring masculinity researchers around the words together in one place. According to the journal’s other editor-in-chief Lucas Gottzén, associate professor and senior lecturer in child and youth studies at Stockholm University, it is particularly important to start a dialogue with the global south.

‘If we want to understand central issues related to men and masculinities, we can’t rely solely on knowledge in a Western context,’ he says.

Lucas Gottzén believes that countries such as USA, Great Britain and Australia hold a dominant position with respect to masculinity research. Widening the perspective is not least a matter of working against colonialist views. The editors-in-chief are actively searching for other contributions to the journal. For example, the current issue features an article by Ceylonese researcher Andi Schubert, which deals with representations of political leaders in the first general election after Sri Lanka’s civil war.

‘Andi Schubert’s research shows that the candidates were portrayed as either father figures or war heroes. Although these types differ in many ways, both are based on patriarchal values characteristic of the post-war situation in the country,’ he says.

 

Next theme: transmasculinity

As editor-in-chief, Lucas Gottzén feels it is important to keep masculinity research from becoming an enclave disconnected from the broader field of gender research. He talks about the importance of intersectional perspectives and of creating dialogue between different fields. The theme of the upcoming issue of NORMA is transmasculinity, which is an attempt to bring trans research and masculinity research together under one roof.

‘What can trans research contribute to masculinity research and vice versa? People, including those with trans experience, “make” masculinity in many different ways, and this needs to be explored and understood,’ says Lucas Gottzén.

At present, most research journals are published in the US. According to Lucas Gottzén, the fact that NORMA is based in the Nordic region makes a difference.

‘We are acting in the semi-periphery, which gives us a special perspective. It gives us a sensitivity to cultural differences in how masculinity is made,’ he says.

 

Research journals with a focus on gender research in the Nordic region

NORMA (International Journal for Masculinity Studies)

NORA (Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research). A multi-disciplinary scholarly journal focusing on Nordic gender research. The journal, which is published in English, emphasises the Nordic perspective on feminist research, with respect to both content and theoretical and methodological approaches.

LAMBDA NORDICA. A scholarly journal that presents research in the humanities and social sciences in relation to LGBT and queer studies. The journal, which features research from the entire Nordic region, strives to support the dialogue between established and younger scholars and to encourage new research.

Tidskrift för genusvetenskap (TGV). A Swedish journal focusing on current interdisciplinary gender research. A central ambition is to reflect the multitude of voices in the field of gender studies. It was founded in Lund in 1980 and was originally titled Kvinnovetenskaplig tidskrift (Journal of Women’s Studies). The journal is written in Swedish but includes English summaries.

Kvinder, Køn & Forskning (Denmark). An interdisciplinary journal with articles reflecting the diversity in Danish gender research. The journal targets a wide range of readers and not just scholars. Most articles are written by Danish researchers, yet material from other countries is published as well.

Tidsskrift for kjønnsforskning (Norway). Founded in 1977 as “Nytt om kvinneforskning” and changed to its current title in 2005. The interdisciplinary journal aims to reflect the diversity in Norwegian gender research and present new knowledge from the field. The articles are mainly written by Norwegian researchers, but contributions in Swedish, Danish and English are also accepted.

Sukupuolentutkimus – Genusforskning (Finland). Published by the Association for Gender Studies in Finland. The journal is bilingual (Finnish and Swedish) and publishes primarily articles about research in Finland. It was founded in 1988 as Naistutkimus – Kvinnoforskning and changed to its current title in 2005. The editorial office rotates between different higher education institutions.

 

FOOTNOTE: All mentioned journals are peer reviewed.

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Apply for funding from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund! http://www.nikk.no/en/news/apply-funding-nordic-gender-equality-fund/ NIKK spade symbolThe Nordic Gender Equality Fund was established by the Nordic gender equality ministers and is administered by NIKK, Nordic Information on Gender. The fund supports projects in which at least three organisations from at least three Nordic countries collaborate to promote gender equality. The funding can be used to arrange conferences, meetings, knowledge projects, networks etc.

Since 2013, around 40 projects have been granted funding from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund. The projects have resulted in everything from study material to policy proposals and new Nordic networks. In 2016, the total sum granted was DKK 2.7 million.

The purpose of the fund is to stimulate Nordic gender equality cooperation within the framework of the gender equality ministers’ co-operation programme. For the period 2015–2018, the co-operation programme gives special attention to gender equality in the public space and welfare and innovation. There are two cross-cutting themes for the entire co-operation programme: sustainable development with a focus on diversity and men’s and boys’ active participation in the gender equality work.

Gender equality in working life given priority

Gender equality in working life is a prioritised theme in the 2017 call for applications. This means that projects related to this theme will be given priority in the assessment of applications. Examples of such projects include projects focusing on gendered educational choices or discrimination in the labour market. Projects related to the co-operation programme will also be given priority. However, projects unrelated to these prioritised areas may also be granted funding.

Important dates

Applications must be submitted using the special application form that will be made available at nikk.no as soon as the call opens. The projects must begin in autumn 2017 and end in 2018.

  1. 1 March – Call opens
  2. 31 March – Call closes
  3. May – Funding decisions are communicated to the applicants
  4. June – Contracts are signed
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Funding for research on gender equality in academia http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nok-41-8-million-research-gender-equality-academia/ One of the two projects that have been granted funding is Nordic Centre for Research on Gender Equality in Research and Innovation (Nordicore). Mari Teigen and Liza Reizel are managing the research group at the Norwegian Institute for Social Research in Oslo that has received NOK 21.8 million. One focal point is similarities and differences between the academic sector and the rest of the labour market.

Mari Teigen. Press photo

Mari Teigen. Press photo

‘One of the topics we are studying is how the interrelation between working life and family life leads to differing career patterns for women and men. Studies have shown that women do not leave the academic sector to a higher extent than men, as previously assumed, but that their career development is slower. Why is this?’ says Mari Teigen.

Several of the researchers in the project have previously studied the labour market in general. The project is grounded in their studies, which among other things show that Nordic countries stand out by displaying a more gender-segregated labour market than other countries as well as relatively long parental leaves, which are mainly taken by women. This affects their career opportunities.

Contribution to sustainable change

The researchers will also explore gender equality measures that have been implemented in academia, for example which ones have led to progress and which ones have not. Two of the project’s five key objectives are to involve research policy actors in the project to ensure that the results can contribute to sustainable change and to facilitate knowledge exchange between for example researchers, students, decision makers and gender equality practitioners.

‘The plan is to be able to say something about what the main barriers to gender equality in academia are, and whether they differ from those seen in the rest of the labour market. It will be interesting to learn more about the differences and similarities between the countries,’ says Mari Teigen.

Gabriele Griffin from Uppsala University in Sweden is in charge of the other research group, which has been granted NOK 20 million for the project titled Beyond the Gender Paradox: Women’s Careers in Technology-Driven Research and Innovation in and outside of Academe.. Two of the project’s focus areas are the healthcare sector and the gaming industry. The researchers believe the gendered structures in these fields have effects on the academic sector.

Gabrielle Griffin. Press photo

Gabrielle Griffin. Press photo

‘We are seeing increasing digitalisation in healthcare, which is a very female-dominated sector. It has been assumed that this development is leading to reduced job security, but we’re not so sure that is the case. What we do know, however, is that the technological development is changing the patters in the labour market and how gender inequality is expressed,’ says Gabriele Griffin.

Two of the project’s four pillars are e-health and digital humanities. The use of digital tools to improve people’s access to healthcare is of interest not least in the sparsely populated Nordic regions.

Humanities meets digitalisation

The gaming industry is another important field besides the female-dominated healthcare sector. The Nordic countries are at the forefront of game development, and even if it is a male-dominated sector, Nordic gaming companies have a larger share of female workers than their counterparts in other countries. Digital humanities, or humanities research in the intersection with digital technology, is of particular relevance for the gaming industry.

‘Similar to healthcare, humanities research is dominated by women, whereas technology is an area traditionally dominated by men. But healthcare and humanities are becoming increasingly intertwined with technology, which is changing the labour market. How are women’s career opportunities affected in this process?’ says Gabriele Griffin.

The other two pillars of the project are research and innovation in urban and rural areas, respectively. The research project includes, besides the researchers at Uppsala University, researchers from the University of Tampere in Finland and Bergen University and Vestlandsforskning in Norway.

The research projects are funded by Nordforsk, an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers, together with the Swedish research council Forte, the Academy of Finland, Rannís – the Icelandic Centre for Research and the Research Council of Norway. Gabriele Griffin and Mari Teigen presented their projects at the Gender Summit in Brussels 8–9 November 2016. The projects will start in January 2017.

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Different paths to gender equality in Nordic academia http://www.nikk.no/en/news/different-paths-gender-equality-nordic-academia/ It takes a long time to become a professor. But this fact alone cannot explain the remarkably slow development towards gender equality in academia, according to Curt Rice, chair of the Norwegian Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (KIF), a government initiative aimed to promote diversity and gender equality in the academic community.

‘Other important factors are structures and hiring procedures. It is in the very last step of the ladder, the move from being a senior lecturer to becoming a professor, that most women disappear,’ says Curt Rice.

At PhD level, the distribution of men and women is fairly equal both in the Nordic region and in several EU countries. However, if we look at professors, research directors and high-ranking research officials, the balance vanishes entirely.

In Norway and Sweden, only 25% of all professors are women. In Denmark, the share is 20% with a downward trend. In fact, 90% of all professors appointed at the University of Copenhagen from 2011 to 2013 were men.

‘It looks terrible, regardless of from which angle you look at it,’ says Tine Jess, adjunct professor at Aalborg University and head of the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Denmark.

Main causes of gender inequality

Photo Tine Jess

Tine Jess. (Photo: © Claus Boesen/ Media Press)

Tine Jess is also a member of a group of experts that the Danish government last year commissioned to develop measures to increase the gender equality in academia. She sees three main causes of the gender inequality. The first has to do with the unequal gender distribution of parents’ time spent taking care of children. Danish women are much more likely than Danish men to take parental leave, and a woman’s parental leave often coincides with the years in her life when researchers typically begin applying for major research grants and their careers take off.

‘It’s like a snowball effect. Once you get into the swing of things and get a grant, you soon get another and another and another. But if you miss the beginning, you risk missing the whole thing,’ says Tine Jess.

Moreover, the fact that the parental benefit in Denmark is taken directly from the research grants also means that an absence for a year or so can have detrimental effects on a scholar’s research budget. This can in turn lead to discrimination of women in the recruitment process.

Tine Jess calls the second main cause of gender inequality in academia unconscious gender bias. This bias makes recruitment officers and HR units demand better CVs from women than men, a view that Curt Rice from the Norwegian KIF confirms.

However, female academics meet the strongest resistance in the actual appointment procedures. In Denmark, 25% of all appointments to academic posts are ‘peer recruitments’ and therefore are never advertised, and a large share of the remaining 75% are strictly specified positions that in practice target only one predetermined candidate.

‘People tend to hire those who are similar to them, which conserves the system. The Danish higher education sector is totally old school,’ says Tine Jess.

Thus, Tine Jess says it is not a coincidence that 70% of the board of the Danish National Research Foundation, which is a major Danish research funder, are men.

Different paths to gender equality

The expert group that Tine Jess was part of has proposed a review of all academic appointments, a so-called talent barometer. The proposition was presented by Danish Minister of Education and Research Ulla Tørnæsden on 11 October this year. According to the minister the central idea of the initiative is to ensure that the best researchers are appointed.

‘Denmark has an ambition to compete with other countries through innovative ideas, and to be able to do that we need to involve all of our very best researchers. What we are doing now is an important step in the mission to put all of the most talented minds to work and make Danish research even stronger,’ says Ulla Tørnæs in a press release.

The talent barometer will enable anybody to follow the development of the gender distribution in various staff categories at both university and faculty level. All hiring decisions, including the qualifications of those hired, will be made transparent. This will help prevent peer recruitments and thereby ensure that female academics are not treated unfairly. In addition, the minister will contact the university managements once a year to discuss the results.

‘The expert group thinks it is a good thing to do. We don’t believe in quotas,’ says Tine Jess.

Photo Curt Rice

Curt Rice. (Photo: Benjamin A. Ward / HiOA)

In Norway, the KIF committee has been active for 12 years. Their work consists of for example guidance, dissemination of research and political advocacy work. At present, Norway does not allow the use of gender quotas, but Curt Rice would like this to change.

‘We tried to formulate a professorship so that it would target female applicants. But the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg stopped the attempt,’ says Curt Rice.

Even if gender quotas are not possible, there are other ways to increase the share of female professors, Curt Rice believes. One is to ensure that female senior lecturers get the research time they need to gain the qualifications required for a professorship.

‘That’s one of the tools we’re using. Although the first few years are of course important, the largest numbers of women are lost in the transition from senior lectureships to professorships,’ says Curt Rice.

It is hard to say how successful the KIF committee has been in its efforts to change the prevailing attitudes and structures. However, the number of female professors in Norway has doubled since the KIF committee was formed in 2004. Curt Rice hopes that the committee will be able to continue its work for another few years.

Swedish focus on gender mainstreaming

Photo Fredrik Bondestam

Fredrik Bondestam

Also Sweden has measures in place to increase the gender equality in academia. Fredrik Bondestam from the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research at the University of Gothenburg is in charge of a support function for a government project titled Gender Mainstreaming in Academia (GMA).

‘There are many challenges. Recruitment processes, career paths and the study environment are some areas in which gender often plays a key role. We need to work against the existing inequalities between men and women, but also against other types of inequalities, since gender and other power structures are always connected,’ says Fredrik Bondestam.

Compared with prior initiatives, the GMA project signals a rise in ambition and a more long-term approach to the gender equality problem in academia. The project started at the beginning of this year and will end in 2019. Its overarching aim is to change the present structures in the sector.

‘The share of female professors will not change dramatically between now and the end of the project, but what the academic institutions can do is organise their work to change the underlying structures for appointments of professors,’ says Fredrik Bondestam.

According to Fredrik Bondestam, gender equality work must reach beyond the mere counting of women and men. What is more important, he says, is what knowledge is produced, what the study programmes look like and how resources are allocated.

‘Gender inequalities in research and education don’t automatically go away just because of equal representation of males and females,’ he points out.

The Secretariat supports the higher education institutions involved in the project for example by providing guidance and information, creating meeting places for cooperation, and disseminating results and best practice. The responsibility to ensure progress lies solely with the respective institutions.

This autumn, the Secretariat will visit the management teams of all institutions involved in the project to discuss their specific challenges. This is a first step in the work to define the problems in the field and to set the priorities for the coming development work. The higher education institutions have been asked to present plans for their gender mainstreaming work by May 2017. All other work must also be reported to the government.

According to Fredrik Bondestam, the ambitions are set higher than for several previous Nordic initiatives. The GMA project aims to change the existing formal and informal power structures in the academic culture.

‘We need the support of teachers and researchers and of the technical-administrative staff. And it’s very important to have the students on board. They make up a big majority and comprise tomorrow’s professors and senior lecturers,’ says Fredrik Bondestam.

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Human Trafficking Calls for International Collaboration http://www.nikk.no/en/news/human-trafficking-calls-international-collaboration/ Finland's Presidency 2016‘We need to get better at solving these crimes,’ says Norwegian prosecutor Rudolf Christoffersen.
He is one of the keynote speakers at The Nordic Region – a Single Market for Human Trafficking, a conference that will be held in Helsinki on Wednesday. The gender- and gender equality-themed event targets experts in for example social services, healthcare and law enforcement. Women and men suffer partly differing consequences of human trafficking. For example, women are more commonly exploited for sexual purposes, while men are forced to carry out crimes and provide free labour.

New forms of trafficking calls for new strategies

Rudolf Christoffersen has been involved in the work against human trafficking for many years. At present, he works for Eurojust, an EU agency for international cooperation against cross-border crime. From his office in Hague, he sees new forms of human trafficking emerging in Europe. It has for example become increasingly common that children are sexually exploited online, which implies new demands on prosecutors and the police. In just a few weeks, legal proceedings against a person in Norway accused of making children in the Philippines perform sexual acts and assaults on other children while he watched them over the internet are scheduled to begin. The man supposedly paid a poor family and instructed the children to carry out his wishes.
‘We have seen these types of cases in several Nordic countries, and they are difficult to solve,’ says Rudolf Christoffersen.
In many cases, the police do not even know in which country the violations have occurred, and it is often difficult to find out, he says.
‘The streaming traffic can go through countries that we traditionally don’t collaborate with, and that can make it hard to obtain the evidence we need.’

Another example of a new form of human trafficking that Rudolf Christoffersen points out is linked to the refugee crisis. Children fleeing their home countries are forced to engage in criminal activities such as drug smuggling and sex trade. Many of the victims are facing extremely vulnerable situations, and Christoffersen believes that the police and prosecutors have a lot to learn in that area.
‘We need to become better at dealing with victims who don’t want to collaborate with us. Their fear of reprisal keeps them from contacting us,’ he says.

Maybe their trust in law enforcement would increase if more crimes were solved, he speculates.
‘We need to become better at getting people convicted. Otherwise we risk signalling to the victims that we don’t care,’ he says.

Rudolf Christoffersen thinks that policy makers should be more active as well. He believes that the consequences for perpetrators are too mild and would like to see harsher punishments.
‘That is true for the entire Nordic region. The penalties are far too soft,’ he says.

International collaboration necessary

Rudolf Christoffersen. Photo: private

Rudolf Christoffersen. Photo: private

Effective management of the new forms of human trafficking requires international collaborations not only in the Nordic region but also all over Europe. Moreover, there is a need for expert competence in the legal sector, says Rudolf Christoffersen. As an example, he mentions the Norwegian introduction of expert teams. The teams are available in the five largest cities and consist of police officers and prosecutors specialising in combating human trafficking.
‘There are similar examples in other countries. We need to become better at sharing our methods and experiences so that we can learn from each other,’ says Rudolf Christoffersen.

The conference on Wednesday may fill a void in that respect, he believes. Researchers and experts in various fields and from several countries will participate in the conference. For example, Lisa Green, county coordinator against human trafficking in Malmö, Sweden, will give a presentation on the city’s work to support refugee children. Maija Koskenoja, senior officer at the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman in Finland, will talk about the methods perpetrators use and the psychological consequences of human trafficking from a gender equality perspective. Prosecutor Jette Malberg and police officer Anders Morville will talk about the Danish investigation Operation Hvepsebo, which revealed a case where people were being exploited by being forced to carry out criminal acts.

The conference is arranged by the Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman in cooperation with the Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman will open the event, and Minister of the Interior will also be there.

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Nordic Laws Against Online Threats And Hate Speech Analysed http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-laws-online-threats-hate-speech-analysed/ Moa Bladini. Photo: private

Moa Bladini. Photo: private

How can the online violence and harassment be stopped? This is a hot topic in all Nordic countries. The widespread posting of threats and sexist remarks in online forums and comment fields is not least a democracy problem, as it risks silencing voices in the public space. But it is notably difficult to bust the perpetrators. One problem is that the legislation in the area is outdated. Another is that the research on how the online violence can be combated is limited. To tackle a few of these problems the Nordic Council of Ministers has commissioned NIKK start a project that will review the applicable legislations in the Nordic countries. The purpose of the project is to contribute to knowledge-based work against online hate speech, threats and other violations that are linked to gender.

‘My focus is on the national legislations, which I analyse from an intersectional gender perspective. I want to explore what situations are covered by the present laws and which ones are not,’ says Moa Bladini, senior lecturer in criminal law and analyst in the project.

What does the current situation look like when it comes to gender-related online violence in the Nordic region?
‘Threats and hate speech online is a relatively new phenomenon. It is a consequence of the rapid technological progress. The wheels in the legislative mills turn rather slowly and don’t respond quickly to sudden changes, like the ones we have seen in the area of online violence. Young women are particularly vulnerable, and some of the violations they experience fall outside the current legislative frameworks. I’m for example thinking of distribution of nude pictures without consent, which is a violation that remains unregulated in Swedish law.’

What have you found so far?
‘The Nordic legislations show many similarities, but there are also some differences. Dissemination of material that may violate a person’s integrity, such as nude photos spread without the person’s consent, is a criminal act in Norway and Finland. In Sweden, the two criminal offences defamation and insult clash with the country’s law of freedom of expression, which takes precedence. As a result, the police cannot always pursue a case. Instead, the victim’s only option is to file a lawsuit for damages. Finland looks at it differently and gives priority to the protection of a person’s honour over the freedom of expression. However, following criticism from the European Court of Human Rights, they have been forced to make some adjustments.’

How can NIKK’s project benefit other Nordic actors?
‘This is important knowledge that can help bring attention to legislative weaknesses in the Nordic countries, but also to best practice. If we for example see that Norway has found a good solution to something, the other countries can be made aware of it and learn from their example. It can also imply coordination gains.’

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Genital Mutilation in Focus at Nordic Conference http://www.nikk.no/en/news/genital-mutilation-in-focus-at-nordic-conference/ Finland's Presidency 2016According to WHO, over 200 million women and girls in the world have had their genitals mutilated. The procedure is a violation of the basic human rights and the rights of children. Efforts to end the practice are underway in many parts of the world. The resistance offered by women, health workers and civil society organisations in countries where the practice is common has made a difference. Several countries, including Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, have adopted laws prohibiting the procedure. The possibility of eliminating the most harmful elements of traditional rites of passage is gaining increasing acceptance in many places.

Several initiatives have been taken at the international level. One example is the umbrella organisation IAC (The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children) formed in 1984 by women from a number of African countries. IAC works actively to end genital mutilation and is a consultative body to the UN. The organisation has adopted action plans that are supported by several other organisations, including UNICEF and WHO.

Scope unknown

All Nordic countries have some sort of laws against the practice of genital mutilation. However, the number of court cases where a perpetrator has been convicted is very limited, and so is the knowledge about the scope of the problem.

Foto på Saido Mohamed

Saido Mohamed

– I’ve worked with Somalis in Finland since the 1990s and I have never heard of any parents mutilating their children’s genitals here. Since it’s illegal in Finland, some parents instead do it before they get here, says Saido Mohamed from the Finnish League for Human Rights.

The Finnish League for Human Rights is an expert NGO that has worked against genital mutilation for 15 years. The organisation’s work is based on respect for different cultures, with the addition that violence can never be accepted regardless of culture or tradition. There is a focus on preventive work by for example discussing the issue with Finns originating from cultures where genital mutilation is common. The target groups include Finns from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria and Kenya.

– We meet with religious leaders, visit youth activities, talk to organisations and attend women’s celebrations and other events. My colleague, who is from Ethiopia, and I meet people in their natural environments, she says.

An increasing number of young people seeking medical attention

According to Saido Mohamed, who was born in Somalia, the attitudes to female genital mutilation have changed over the years. In the 1990s, the issue was a taboo subject in Finland. Today it is discussed more openly and an increasing number of young people are seeking medical attention. She believes that the organisation’s outreach work has made a difference.

– The preventive work is very important when it comes to genital mutilation. It has to be carried out continuously, since there is a steady inflow of new migrants from the areas in question.

Jamila Said Musse has worked against genital mutilation for over 20 years both in Somalia and in Sweden. Recently, for example on behalf of the County Administrative Board of Västra Götaland. She, too, thinks that the attitudes have changed in the right direction and that preventive work is of central importance.

– Sweden adopted its law against genital mutilation in 1982. But the law alone can’t put an end to the phenomenon. There’s also a need for education and prevention.

Mutilated genitals more common among older people

The exact extent of the genital mutilation problem in the Nordic region is hard to know. The existing studies on the topic rely on estimations that are merely based on the number of girls and women originating from countries where the practice is common. In an effort to produce more precise data, the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland has conducted a large interview study involving Finnish women from Somalia and Kurdistan. According to researcher Reija Klemetti, the purpose of the study was to explore the prevalence of the procedure, the health effects women experience and how the practice is connected to socioeconomic factors.

Reija Klemetti

Reija Klemetti

– An increasing number of genitally mutilated women are moving to Finland, but very little research has been done on the issue, such as on the health effects and treatments.

The questions in the study were included in a larger health questionnaire, and the responses show that genital mutilation is more common among women who are older and lack education. Married Finnish women from Somalia had higher rates of genital mutilation than their unmarried counterparts. Among Finnish-Kurdish women, the procedure was more common among those who described themselves as religious. The study also found that Finnish-Somali women with mutilated genitals were less likely to seek medical attention. The results of the study will inform the work against genital mutilation in Finland and help for example healthcare workers discuss the issue with affected women. Genital mutilation remains a sensitive issue that many professional groups are hesitant to address.

– We need to educate Finnish healthcare workers about the practice and how it can be prevented. It’s also important that teachers and other school workers become knowledgeable about the problem.

Swedish municipality found guilty of discrimination

It is of key importance that the issue of genital mutilation is dealt with in the right way. In 2010, Uppsala Municipality in Sweden was convicted of ethnic discrimination of a girl and her parents after a district nurse reported a possible case of genital mutilation to the social welfare board. The whole thing started when the girl and her father made a routine visit to the local child health centre. During the visit, the father said that the girl was going to travel abroad with her aunt in the summer to visit relatives. The nurse suspected that the girl would get genitally mutilated while abroad and filed a report to Uppsala’s social welfare board. The social welfare board in turn notified the police, who without prior warning picked up the girl from her school and took her to a hospital where she was given a gynaecological examination without her consent. The examination showed that the girl had not been genitally mutilated, which made the police close the case. The parents reported the municipality to the Swedish Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination, which took the case to the district court. The district court found that the municipality had acted solely based on the family’s ethnicity and therefore ordered it to pay SEK 60 000 in restitution to the family.

More resources for education needed

Jamila Said Musse

Jamila Said Musse

Both the Finnish League for Human Rights and Jamila Said Musse from Sweden are working to educate professional groups such as social workers, police officers and healthcare workers about genital mutilation. They say there is a great need for knowledge, but that it is difficult to provide all the support that is needed. According to Saido Mohamed, there is a great need for more resources, for both preventive measures and education. She thinks that Finnish policy makers should give more attention to the issue.

– Finland has had an action plan with an end date in 2016. When it expires, we don’t know what’s going to happen. But the issue needs to be given higher priority. Our organisation alone can’t be expected to do all the work that’s needed in Finland, says Saido Mohamed.

Jamila Said Musse has similar experiences.

– The authorities need to take this issue seriously, and it needs to be made clear who has the main responsibility. The policy makers also need to work on the issue globally, she says.

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The design of parental insurance influences men’s use of it http://www.nikk.no/en/news/design-parental-insurance-influences-mens-use/ The ability for both parents to combine parenthood with participation in the labour market has long been a prioritised gender equality issue in the Nordic region. In a global perspective, the Nordic countries are pioneers in promoting parental leave for both parents. Policy interventions aimed to encourage men to take parental leave have been an important factor in this context.

Research shows that men’s share of the total parental leave taken by couples has increased in all Nordic countries since the turn of the millennium. But the change is slow and mothers continue to spend more time than fathers caring for their children. The most gender-equal use of the parental insurance is found in countries that stipulate that a certain portion of the total parental leave granted for a child can only be taken by the father.

A good example of this is Iceland, which in the year 2000 split the parental insurance into three parts. Of the total nine months of parental leave granted for a child, the reform reserved three months for each parent and allowed the parents to split the remaining three months any way they wish. The effect was dramatic. Before the reform, only 0.2−0.4 per cent of Icelandic fathers took parental leave. After the reform, the share climbed to 87 per cent.

Systems not for everybody

Researchers hold that the Nordic parental insurance systems are based on a heterosexual twoness norm. This can make it difficult for families with fewer or additional parents. For example, Finnish fathers can only take parental leave if they live with the child, making the system poorly suited for parents living apart. In Sweden, the rules are based on the assumption that the parents cooperate with each other, which can be problematic if they for example do not get along.

At present, there is only a limited amount of research on how the Nordic parental insurances work for people outside norm, such as rainbow families. The studies that do exist in the area deal mainly with general patterns.

Read more and download the fact sheet in PDF here

Men’s proportion of parental leave days taken, 2014: Denmark 8.6%; Finland 8.3%; Iceland 29.4%; Norway 22.5%; Sweden 25.8%

Men’s proportion of parental leave days taken, 2014

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‘Some bodies are obviously undesirable’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/bodies-obviously-undesirable/ According to Kitty Anderson, the decisions doctors make can never be anything more than guesses.
‘The ”right” sex is whatever sex corresponds to the child’s gender identity, and we can’t know anything about that until the child grows older,’ she says.
The way she sees it, almost all surgeries and other interventions performed on children with intersex variations are carried out for cosmetic reasons or to make the child fit the standard for what men and women are supposed to look like.
‘People should be able to decide what is done to their bodies. Since the surgeries are rarely necessary from a health perspective, they shouldn’t be done at such an early age,’ she says.

Maarit Huuska. Press photo

Maarit Huuska. Press photo

Only one hospital in the whole Nordic region, Oulu University Hospital in Finland, has clearly declared it will not perform surgeries on children with intersex variations for cosmetic or social reasons. Maarit Huuska from Seta – LGBTI Rights in Finland, believes the hospital’s resistance has been very important.
‘It shows there are alternatives. It has also sparked a discussion about what is ethically right.’
According to Maarit Huuska, not all medical experts in Finland are on the same page. The types of surgery that Oulu University Hospital refuses to perform are still available at the hospital in Helsinki. In May last year, however, new ethical guidelines for healthcare in Finland were presented, and they discourage doctors from performing surgery on children with intersex variations for cosmetic or social reasons.
‘We don’t know what the effects of it will be,’ says Maarit Huuska.

Selective abortion and silence important issues

The final decision on what medical procedures should be carried out on children with intersex variations is often made by the parents, yet the responsibility never lies with them, according to Ellie Nordfelt, intersex activist in Sweden. She says that the core of the problem is how doctors and other experts present the situation to the parents.
‘They are told that their child is not normal but that the doctors can fix it. It’s a shock to them,’ she says.
She also mentions selective abortions as an issue important to the intersex movement. In most cases when an intersex variation is discovered in a foetus, the pregnancy is terminated.
‘Some bodies are obviously undesirable. What does that do to those of us who actually end up being born? We really shouldn’t be born at all, and if we are born anyway we need to be surgically normalised as soon as possible,’ says Ellie Nordfelt.

Both Ellie Nordfelt and Kitty Anderson believe that intersex persons will not gain the right to healthcare based on informed consent without political intervention.
‘The surgeries will continue until we get a law that prohibits them. The medical experts will not implement the necessary changes on their own,’ says Kitty Anderson.

Kitty Andersson. Press photo

Kitty Andersson. Press photo

Her own story shows that society also has a past to deal with. Not long ago, children were often not told that they had an intersex variation. Kitty Anderson did not find out she was intersex until she was a teenager.
‘At that point, when I finally found out, I was feeling miserable. I totally lost faith in the adult world. I just couldn’t trust grown-ups anymore. I thought that everybody had lied to me,’ she says.
In today’s age she believes it is unusual that the information is kept from the child in that way.
‘Now we understand better that it causes problems. Children have the right to know things like that about themselves. It’s super important,’ she says.

Nordic countries not role models

The Nordic countries tend to see themselves as pioneers and role models when it comes to LGBIT issues, but that is a false self-image, according to Kitty Anderson.
‘If there is a role model, it’s Malta,’ she says.
That’s the only country in Europe that has outlawed surgeries on children with intersex variations for cosmetic or social reasons. No Nordic county is considering a similar law at present, but both Kitty Anderson and Ellie Nordfelt are noticing a growing interest in the situation of intersex persons at the political level. For example, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare has been commissioned to investigate the health care that intersex persons receive in the country, and in Iceland, the Ministry of Welfare has appointed a queer council in which the intersex movement is represented.

Ellie Nordfelt believes that the increased visibility is important. She describes how the actual diagnosis system may isolate and alienate people.
‘We are divided into a bunch of different diagnoses and are told there are very few of us. That makes it hard for us to meet each other and talk about our experiences,’ she says.
‘In my dream society, there’s no need to diagnose and correct. Instead we celebrate differences and think of physical variations as something positive.

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Online Hate Speech and Perpetrators Scrutinised in this Year’s Fund Projects http://www.nikk.no/en/news/online-hate-speech-perpetrators-scrutinised-years-fund-projects/ NIKK spade symbolEach year, NIKK administers funding for measures and collaborations in the area of gender equality in the Nordic countries on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Gender Equality Fund was initiated by the Nordic gender equality ministers to stimulate Nordic cooperation within the framework of the priorities laid down in the joint programme.

The list of this year’s approved projects has great breadth. The Danish Institute for Human Rights has gathered a number of Nordic ombudsman institutions to explore effective ways to end hate speech and sexism online. The network will arrange three expert seminars and develop concrete recommendations for what can be done to combat online hate speech.

Another fund project focuses on breaking perpetrators’ patterns of violence. The coordinators of this project will arrange a conference in Helsinki in order to facilitate sharing of knowledge and the establishment of a Nordic professional network that will focus on the perpetrator perspective.

Two other fund projects shed light on women in Nordic film. One of them will analyse the output of films from a gender perspective and arrange a feminist film festival. The other, coordinated by Stockholm University, will draw attention to the women in film history. In 2016, the Swedish Film Institute launched a website for the rewriting of film history from a feminist perspective. At present, the website focuses solely on Sweden. The aim of the project is to complement the site with Norwegian and Danish film history.

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Demand for Legislation Against Discriminating Advertising http://www.nikk.no/en/news/demand-legislation-discriminating-advertising/ Stephanie Thögersen. Press photo

Stephanie Thögersen. Press photo

The review, published in Swedish and titled “Sexism på köpet – lagstiftning, praxis och förslag till åtgärder mot könsdiskriminerande reklam i Norden”, is presented by the Swedish Women’s Lobby and its Norwegian and Danish partner organisations in the so-called Ad Watch project, which started in 2013. In the project, the involved organisations have gathered information about present laws and how they are applied. According to Stéphanie Thögersen, programme coordinator at the Swedish Women’s Lobby, the issue of sexist advertising is of utmost importance. The growing advertising space in society implies a growing space also for sexist advertising, increasing the risk of ‘normalisation’ of the practice.

‘Hopefully, our report will lead to concrete measures, to improved legislation in the Nordic countries. The review includes recommendations for each country.’

 

What does the situation look like in the Nordic countries?
‘Denmark stands out. The advertising reported to authorities in Denmark is so sexist it wouldn’t see the light of day in Sweden. Unfortunately, Danish advertisers get away with a lot. Their consumer ombudsman is relatively lenient. For example, we had a case where a company ran the same ad campaign in Malmö (Sweden) and Copenhagen (Denmark). While the company was forced to remove the advertisements in Sweden, they were deemed acceptable in Denmark.’

 

What do the Nordic legislations against sexist advertising look like?
‘All Nordic countries have laws in place except Sweden. In Iceland, sexist advertising is regulated under the gender equality act. In the other countries it is considered a consumer legislation issue, which means that the respective consumer ombudsmen are in charge of monitoring compliance. However, we have found that these agencies are not giving much priority to the problem. The follow-up of violations works best in Iceland, where the responsibility lies with the Centre for Gender Equality – a government agency with a lot of competence in the area. The law imposes a fine on companies that do not voluntarily remove advertisements after being instructed to do so. So far, no company has been fined, but the law seems to have a deterring effect.’

 

If Sweden doesn’t have a law, what happens when somebody reports sexist advertising?
‘Sweden has the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman, which is a self-regulatory organisation founded by the industry. That’s who you contact if you spot sexist advertising, but then not much happens. The Ombudsman does not impose a penalty, like a fine, or ask companies to remove their advertisements. In practice, this means that businesses caught engaging in sexist advertising can safely continue their practices.’

 

What can the Nordic countries learn from each other in this area?
‘We conclude that there is a need for not only laws against sexist advertising but also effective monitoring and public engagement. In Sweden there is a strong public interest in reporting sexist advertising, yet the country needs legislation in order for the submitted reports to lead to tangible consequences. Norway, Finland and Denmark have laws, but the problem in these countries is that few people are familiar with the legislation and report violations. This means there’s a need for information campaigns. What’s most important is that politicians and policymakers start giving higher priority to the issue so that everybody will understand that sexist advertising is not compatible with a gender-equal society.

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund

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Where gender equality fits into the ILO’s future of work http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-equality-fits-ilos-future-work/ Katarina Murto from the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees STTK, and Markus Äimälä, the Director Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, summed up after the Future of Work conference

Katarina Murto from the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees STTK, and Markus Äimälä, the Director Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, summed up after the Future of Work conference

Iceland can become the first country in the world to get a certified standard for measuring and developing equal pay. A company practicing equal pay for equal work can have this certified and made visible. The aim is to create a system which secures men and women equal pay for equal work, and equal working conditions for jobs of a similar nature. The measure is also designed to reduce discrimination in general.

Shauna Olney, Chief of the Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch of the ILOI, is excited about seing the result.

“The Icelandic tripartite Equal Pay Standard is an innovative solution which we would like to promote,” she says. She heads the dialogue Women at Work which will run until the ILO’s centenary in 2019.

What do you want to achieve by then?
“That is when the action starts. This is the time for reflection and debate. We will establish a high level commission in 2017. The debate about women in work will then become part of the major Future debate and perhaps sit at its very core.”

The commission will be working independently from the ILO. It has not yet been decided whether the commission’s work will result in a new declaration.

“We have not had a declaration as part of the ILO’s constitution since the 1944 Philadelphia declaration.”

The constitution was signed in 1919 as part of the post WW1 peace process. In 1946 the ILO became the UN’s first special organisation for labour market issues. Its aim is decent work for all.

“If we now can achieve a declaration about the future of work in 2019, gender equality must play an important part,” says Shauna Olney.

 

Equal pay in the Nordic region

“Gender equality is a question of justice and morals and of economy and growth. The Nordic countries would not have been able to achieve the growth they have seen without the high participation of women in working life. Nor would they have been able to build the same universal welfare rights or achieve the same level of gender equality between all citizens in all of the countries without the participation of women,” said Lisbeth Pedersen, head of research at the Danish National Centre for Social Science, SFI,as she addressed the seminar on the future of work on 6 September.

The Nordic countries are way ahead when it comes to gender equality, and according to the OECD they have a remarkably high proportion of women in the labour market. While many countries have a great potential for growth if more women were included into the labour market, the Nordic countries have already enjoyed the benefits from this.

The ILO has carried out a major survey together with Gallup taking in 178 countries. It shows that the employment gap between women and men has only shrunk by 0.6 percent over the past 20 years, despite the fact that far more women have got an education.

“This is quite a shocking result,” thinks Shauna Olney.

 

Steady wage gap

Yet although there are many women in the labour market in the Nordic countries, the study shows a permanent structural inequality

“In Denmark we have had a steady pay gap since the early 1970s, from back when we began talking about gender equality,” says Lisbeth Pedersen.

The education level among women has steadily increased, but it has not had an impact on the pay gap.

Why is this? Is it because of education or work experience?
No, the researcher says.
“But it does have something to do with a segregated labour market, the fact that women and men have different jobs and that there is different pay for similar jobs. There has been almost no changes to the segregated labour market over time. Men still work in what is considered to be typical male jobs and the other way around.

“The difference is that when studies have looked at five different educations which are popular with both genders, it turns out that there are more men working in the private sector, and this goes for all kinds of educations. The tendency is also that differences have been growing rather than shrinking.”

Her conclusion is therefore that if we are to overcome inequality in the labour market, both the private and public sectors must be made equally attractive for both genders.

“The fact that this is not already the case could have something to do with culture, or that there are better welfare benefits included in the collective agreements where women dominate. It could also be that the wage system structures were negotiated during the 60s and that the wage structure has been pretty stable since then.”

 

The partners’ responsibility

The development in the labour market could mean that wages are pushed down, especially in jobs where you do not need a higher education. The need for highly educated labour will rise.

“This means that in order to include everyone in the labour market you have to concentrate on education for all levels. We need a more flexible labour market with equal conditions in the private and public sectors, and there is also a need to reduce the pay gap for work of a similar nature.

“In the Nordic region the social partners are responsible for negotiating wages and working conditions. So we need to ask them to do something about it. If this is something we need to do in the future, it is something we need to do today,” said  Lisbeth Pedersen.

 

Iceland is an inspiration

The ILO’s Shauna Olney also underlined the need to create a comprehensive agreement on the changes.

“The tripartite cooperation then becomes important. That is why the Icelandic initiative is so interesting, because it has been developed through tripartite cooperation. We have already talked with UN Women about how to implement the ILO convention about equal pay. When it comes to different countries it is not natural to say that we here have a model which is ready for implementation.“

The tripartite agreement on equal pay is based on the same model as the ISO certifications, and can be translated into other languages. The work is nearing its final phase. This autumn the parties will present the work which covers the terminology for a definition of work of a similar character, the terms for management systems and appendixes with a guide for job classifications and a guide for wage analysis.

“This is important as a process and can perhaps inspire others. It is important to have good models,” says the ILO’s  Shauna Olney.

What do you consider to be the greatest challenge to gender equality right now?
“How to challenge the stereotypes: That women are the ones who should stay at home, that women’s work is of less worth. Here too the Nordic model is so important, for instance when it comes to getting men to take parental leave.”

 

The debate about the future of work

The parties in Finland have decided that this year’s collective negotiations will be the last of their kind. From next year wage negotiations will happen on a local level. It is difficult to say what that will mean for the development of equal pay.

Markus Äimälä, Director Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, is focusing on protecting jobs.

“It is important for our industry to make sure that businesses remain competitive. If technology changes, businesses must change fast. For this you need flexible legislation, we need basic rights but on top of that we need to be able to negotiate on a local level as much as possible.

“In Finland we have a tradition of collective agreements covering all trades. But employers feel that this does not offer sufficient flexibility. Therefore we do not want this any longer. We are now moving to trade-specific negotiations like Sweden has had for many years. This is not enough. We need to be able to agree on working hours and conditions on a local level.”

Katarina Murto from the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees STTK, underlines that Finland is also in a difficult economic situation.

“Finland has been in a recession for many years now, and we still have a problem with how to solve the question of employment. We have signed the Competition Act. This is an historic agreement because we have for the first time signed an agreement to reduce the rights of workers. We now hope this means employers will have the courage to hire more people and increase investments.

“As for collective agreements, the trade union movement wants as much as possible to be settled through collective agreements and regulations, even though the trend is going in the opposite direction with much negotiation on a workplace level.

“I believe an important question on a Nordic and international level is to work for gender equality in the labour market. Gender equality, anti discrimination and human rights are important issues. Of course we can have a minimum legislation, but I think that if we want to raise these issues, we need to make sure they work in all workplaces.”

 

This article was originally published at Arbeidsliv i Norden

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Wage discrimination on the agenda in Nordic gender equality policy http://www.nikk.no/en/news/wage-discrimination-agenda-nordic-gender-equality-policy/ Eygló Harðardóttir. Press photo

Eygló Harðardóttir. Press photo

 

The Icelandic government recently presented a 4-year action plan for gender equality. One focus area is the labour market and the gender wage gap. Other prioritised issues include political representation, men and gender equality and gender-based violence.

‘The purpose of the action plan is to bring attention to the remaining challenges in the area of gender equality. It addresses the need to close the gender wage gap, to ensure equal political and economic power between women and men and to end all forms of gender-based violence. We need to attack these challenges with clear policies and structural changes,’ says Eygló Harðardóttir, Iceland’s gender equality minister.

She points out that although Iceland can be proud of its accomplishments in an international perspective, the country still has a long way to go.

Gender segregation enforces the wage gap

The gender-segregated labour market and differences in pay are issues that Iceland has worked actively with in recent years. In 2012, an action group for equal pay was formed, consisting of representatives from the ministry and the labour market parties. The group has carried out extensive studies of gender wage differences and has also introduced a trial project for the implementation of a standard to promote equal pay for equal work. The standard enables companies to earn a certification proving that their wage structures are free from gender discrimination. The certification process must be carried out by a qualified auditor and consists of a detailed review of factors such as the staff salaries and occupational classifications. The certification will be promoted more widely in the next few years to encourage more employers to implement it. The committee will also present an action plan for the elimination of gender segregation in the labour market.

‘These issues are closely linked to each other. Research shows that the wage gap persists mainly due to the strong gender segregation in the labour market,’ says Rósa Guðrún Erlingsdóttir, senior advisor to the gender equality minister.

Education key to gender equality

Mari Teigen. Press photo

Mari Teigen. Press photo

The Norwegian government also considers the labour market a prioritised area. Their policy document for gender equality stresses that the gender-segregated labour market has to be dealt with, for example by encouraging children and young people to avoid choosing educational and occupational paths based on gender. The document also points to the importance of increasing the knowledge about gender equality in preschools so that girls and boys will enjoy the same opportunities from an early age. Mari Teigen, assistant director at the Centre for Research on Gender Equality (CORE), agrees with many parts of the document. She says that the real challenge lies at the implementation level.

‘When the schools and preschools try to actually make gender equality happen, then how are they supposed to do it? Where do they turn for support? How do you make employers reduce sick leave among women? Right now I don’t think there is a clear plan for all of this, yet there is pressure on the policymakers to do something about it, and that’s good,’ she says.

The reformation of Norwegian gender equality policy began years ago. Former Prime Minister Stoltenberg and his green-left coalition commissioned two gender equality inquiries. A policy document was also presented – only to be abolished when Prime Minister Solberg’s and her conservative cabinet were voted into power in 2013. Since then, Solberg’s government has presented its own draft document, which was considered in the parliament last spring. During the negotiations, a large number of suggestions by the opposition were added to the document. One item that was added was to look into the possibility of giving preferential treatment to girls and boys who apply to courses and study programmes in which at least 80% of the students are of the opposite sex. Another was for the government to put pressure on the labour market parties and demand a time plan for the elimination of the gender wage gap. The government was also tasked to formulate requirements aimed to reduce the use of part-time employment in the public sector.

‘I think we ended up with several good suggestions,’ says Teigen, who was part of the gender equality committee that was behind the inquiries reported in 2011 and 2012.

 

Gender equality agency to aid in gender mainstreaming

In Sweden, an inquiry report on gender equality policy was submitted to the national government last autumn. One of its focus areas is how the national gender mainstreaming efforts should be organised. Both Sweden and the other Nordic countries have used gender mainstreaming as a strategy to achieve national gender equality objectives since 1997. The inquiry report finds that the implementation of Swedish gender equality policy suffers from poor governance, sustainability and follow-up measures. It also proposes the establishment of a new agency specialising in coordinating, supporting and analysing national gender equality policy. The agency will also support the government with expert advice. According to Teigen, similar problems can be found in Norway. She says that there is a need for better governance and more competence in order to implement the strategy.
‘I believe the government’s policy document is weak in this respect. The government body in charge of these things needs to have strong competence in evaluation and follow-up in order to be effective. There is also a need for better regional and local support. The propositions in our previous inquiry reports are similar to those in Sweden, for example the one to establish a gender equality agency,’ she says.

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Nordic summer school with focus on girl studies http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-summer-school-focus-girl-studies/ Bodil Formark, PhD in history and coordinator for FlickForsk! at Umeå University.

Bodil Formark, PhD in history and coordinator for FlickForsk! at Umeå University.

So there is a field called girl studies. What is it?


– The field emerged in the 1970s when it became apparent that girls were largely neglected in other research. Gender researchers focused on adult women, and when youth cultures were studied, there tended to be a focus on male-oriented phenomena like the punk subculture. Today researchers in the field explore a wide range of issues from a wide range of perspectives, says Bodil Formark.

Can you say something about the field in a Nordic perspective?

– One example of what Nordic researchers have studied is the implications for girls of having to relate to gender equality as a type of Nordic ideal at the same time as structural injustices remain. Gender equality is something that has created, and continues to create, normative ideals and hierarchies between different ways of being a girl. It’s probably difficult to grow up in the Nordic region without having to deal with the idea of gender equality in one way or another. The implications of this and how it affects different groups of young women in the Nordic countries are issues we’re hoping to give more attention to in the future, says Bodil Formark.

Why did you arrange a Nordic summer school on girl studies?

Aino Tormulainen, PhD Cultural Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Eastern Finland.

Aino Tormulainen, PhD in Cultural Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Eastern Finland.

– The idea was to initiate a dialogue and encourage reflection around the methods used in the field. How is the research done? How can the methods be developed further? Colleagues in both Finland and Sweden had been talking for years about arranging a summer school focusing on research methods. We have thought of it as a way to develop both the dialogue around young femininity and the cooperation between the two national networks, says Bodil Formark and Aino Tormulainen, who serve as coordinators of the Finnish and Swedish research networks.

Why does the summer school target not only researchers but also artists and professionals working with young girls?

– We believe that Nordic researchers need to learn more about how these other groups work with for example young femininity and girlishness. It’s also about finding methods to make us academics better at getting involved and collaborate with people in other sectors. What knowledge do we need? Are we doing the right things?

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More Than 120 Organisations in Nordic Gender Equality Collaborations http://www.nikk.no/en/news/120-organisations-nordic-gender-equality-collaborations/ Nordic gender equality certification in education. Joint campaign against sexist advertising. Recommendations for how to help female victims of online violence. These are some of the Nordic cooperation projects that have received support via the Nordic Gender Equality Fund, which was started by the Nordic gender equality ministers and is administered by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK). Now NIKK has published a database with information on all projects granted funding to date.

Maria Grönroos. Foto: Ragnhild Fjellro

Maria Grönroos. Foto: Ragnhild Fjellro

‘The cooperation leads to new knowledge and helps disseminate it across national boundaries. Our new database will improve the potential for cooperation further, since it enables Nordic actors to look up possible cooperation partners and contact actors that have already been involved in projects on a certain theme. It’s a way of increasing the visibility and contact opportunities across the Nordic region so that organisations don’t need to start from scratch every time they want to do something,’ says Maria Grönroos, director of NIKK at Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research, University of Gothenburg.

The search function enables users to choose whether they want to view projects of a certain type or on a certain topic. The available topics include education, gender-related violence, masculinities and media. The results that come up show the organisations involved in the projects as well as their respective contact persons.

‘So don’t feel alone with your challenges. You can be pretty sure that there are others in the Nordic countries that are struggling with the exact same problems and that maybe have already made some progress. We hope that the database for the Nordic Gender Equality Fund will enable people and organisations to find each other and learn from each other’s experiences,’ says Maria Grönroos.

 

About the fund

  • DKK 2.7 million distributed annually.
  • About 40 projects have been granted funding to date.
  • More than 120 organisations have been involved in the projects.
  • The organisations and actors involved in the projects include public authorities, researchers, businesses, NGOs and trade unions.
  • The projects have focused on for example the development and dissemination of knowledge, methods and practices, as well as on joint problems and challenges.
  • The projects have resulted in networks, conferences, meetings, web portals, reports, studies and instructional material.
  • The topics addressed by the projects include education, gender-related violence, men/masculinities, news media, film and the hospitality industry.

Access the database here.

 

NIKK’s new film about the fund in a nutshell

Still from the movie

Still from the movie

In connection with NIKK’s launching of the new database, we have produced a short informative film about how the Nordic gender equality cooperation works and what the Nordic Gender Equality Fund is.

View the film here.

 

Contact

If you have questions about the fund, or about the projects that have received funding in the past, please contact Maria Grönroos, director of NIKK at the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research, University of Gothenburg, maria.gronroos@genus.gu.se, tel.: +46(0)766 22 92 41

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Genusjobb goes GenderJob http://www.nikk.no/en/news/genusjobb-goes-genderjob/ GenderJob“Genusjobb”, like GenderJob, have included information on gender profiled vacancies – but have covered only Sweden. Since NIKK has taken over the administration, the work will now be done with a wider Nordic perspective.

– We hope that all followers will be happy with the change, and continue to share, follow us and tell us about jobs, says Jenny Gustafson, web editor at NIKK.

“Genusjobb” started as a volunteer initiative in 2014 as a site for people looking for jobs with a gender profile in Sweden. On the founder Sanna Gustavsson’s request, NIKK has now taken over the administration. The web portal GenderJob has been in existence since June 2014 and is a collaboration between eight national knowledge centers in the Nordic region with a focus on gender and gender equality – such as KVINFO in Denmark, Kilden in Norway, Minna in Finland and The Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research in Sweden. In addition to GenderJob NIKK also coordinates the portals GenderFund (lists funding opportunities for projects related to gender and equality), and GenderCalendar (conferences, seminars, courses and other events in the field).

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Gender inequality remains in healthcare http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-inequality-remains-healthcare/ Swedish women with Alzheimer’s receive on average three hours less home care per week than their male counterparts – a stunning example of how gender interferes with people’s need for care in a modern Nordic welfare society.

Finlands ordförandeskap 2016Several other examples are becoming all too well known: That hospitals fail to diagnose women’s heart attacks since most heart research has been conducted on men and that depression is underdiagnosed among men since the norms for this condition are based on women.

On 14-15 June, the government of Åland and the Nordic Council of Ministers arranged an expert seminar on gender-equal care, with a focus on knowledge and change.

One of experts was Kerstin Jigmo, district doctor and head of a project for a gender-equal sick-listing process in the Swedish province of Skåne.

When the rate of sick listings shot through the roof in Sweden in the early 2000s, Kerstin Jigmo and her colleagues were assigned the task of improving the sick-listing process and regional health statistics. They formed a team and set out to increase the return of long-term sick-listed individuals to the workplace.
‘We evaluated our work after one year, and the results made me irritated. We had been fairly successful with men, but the women were still on sick leave,’ says Jigmo.

Since then, Kerstin Jigmo has developed a tool to make the sick-listing process more gender equal – Genushanden, or ‘the gender hand’.

The purpose of the gender hand is to make the healthcare sector aware of five gender traps, one for each finger.
‘The general idea is that healthcare professionals should always switch a patient’s gender in their minds, meaning they should ask themselves whether they would act the same had the patient been of the opposite sex,’ says Kerstin Jigmo.

The care staff must be aware of the five ‘traps’, namely family situation, violence, somatic or psychiatric diagnosis, at-risk alcohol consumption and the rehabilitation plan.

There is a strong focus on women’s family situation, while what goes on in men’s life is not considered in the doctor’s assessment. Violence against women is a significant factor behind the need of many women to be on sick leave, something the healthcare professionals often do not know since they avoid asking about it.
‘I wish there was a standardised Nordic assessment procedure so that all healthcare centres would ask the same questions. But until that happens: Dare to ask!’ says Jigmo.

Somatic or psychiatric diagnosis is a trap because healthcare workers often think that men’s ailments are somatic while women’s problems are psychiatric. They also often fail to recognise women’s abuse of alcohol – by not asking about it – at the same time as they tend to downplay the relevance of men’s drinking habits.

A gender difference is also found in the rehabilitation process, as both the healthcare sector and employers are eager to support men to return to work while allowing women to remain on sick leave longer.

The seminar participants included healthcare workers from Åland and government officials from all Nordic countries. One of them was Åland’s Minister of Administration and EU-affairs Nina Fällman.

Half of Åland’s budget goes to healthcare, a sector struggling with high levels of sick leave among staff.

Something needs to be done and the government has promised both more gender equal salaries, better HR policy and measures against long-term sick leave.
‘The gender hand provided concrete tools to deal with the sick leaves. A more gender-aware healthcare sector would save tax money and lead to higher quality care for both women and men. I think we’ll start a project later this year where we’ll train ourselves in switching the gender of the patient and daring to ask difficult questions!’ says Nina Fällman.

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New online course will develop the gender equality work in schools and preschools http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-online-course-will-develop-gender-equality-work-schools-preschools/ NIKK spade symbolSchool staff in the Nordic countries can learn a lot from each other, according to José Cardona López and Mervi Heikkinen, who are leading the development of the online course at the University of Oulu.


Why do school and preschool staff need training on gender and diversity issues?

‘These perspectives are often included in national curricula for schools and preschools but are not addressed well enough in the teacher training programmes. That’s a big problem. Many teachers don’t have sufficient competence to deal with these issues, and that’s something we want to change. We see it as particularly important to reach out to head teachers, since they have good opportunities to make a difference by emphasising the importance of gender-competent staff.’


What are the advantages of a web-based course?

‘It offers the participants great flexibility. They can access the information when it’s convenient. It also enables us to cover a large geographic area and reach people who would otherwise be difficult to reach. There’s a chat function where the participants can share their thoughts and experiences with each other.’


What does the course cover?

Photo: Minna Viinikka

Photo: Minna Viinikka

‘It consists of informational texts and assignments categorised into six themes, such as gender mainstreaming and gender equality in the staff group. The participants get to learn for example how to establish a gender equality plan and discuss the need for gender educators. The material used is based on a previous NIKK project.’

 

Why is Nordic cooperation a good idea in this case?
‘The Nordic countries have similar educational systems and it’s beneficial to learn from each other. It’s not enough to work only within national boundaries. We need to gather experiences from different countries in order to more clearly see the challenges and what methods work.’

 

How do I register for the course?
‘The first round is underway as we speak, so all you need to do is contact us. There are 29 participants and we’re planning on starting a second round in June.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Identifying future feminist issues http://www.nikk.no/en/news/identifying-future-feminist-issues/ NIKK spade symbolCan you describe the project? What are you going to do?
‘We are going to arrange three workshops in different countries, at which we will gather researchers and activists with a focus on the future of feminism. The first meeting will be held 26–28 August in Copenhagen. It’ll be exciting!’

What do you want to accomplish?
‘The view of the feminist movements in the Nordic countries is not updated. For example, there is a notion of good cooperation with the respective national governments, but that view is based on what it was like in the 1970s and 1980s. We want to learn more about the cooperation between the Nordic feminist movements and the national governments, but also about the cooperation between the movements themselves. It seems like some groups, such as Sami feminists, are involved in more Nordic cooperation than others, which is interesting.’

What challenges are the feminist movements in the Nordic countries facing?
‘We don’t know that yet! We’ll see what comes up at the workshops. The overarching themes I think will be addressed include the financial crisis, the refugee issue and sexual rights. These are important issues in our era.’

Pauline Stoltz

Pauline Stoltz

You will have a special focus on the intersection between gender and other grounds for discrimination. Why is that important?
‘We know that it is critical in relation to how activists view their feminist movements. It’s our ambition to bring participants with a wide range of perspectives to the workshops. There is Sami feminism, antiracist feminism, trans feminism, queer feminism and so on – and the perspective does make a difference.’
How are you disseminating the results of the project?
‘We have a website where we provide information about the project and the researchers will write about the results. We also encourage the activists to bring the discussion beck to their groups and continue the dialogue there.’
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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Finnish Gender Equality Programme Faces Critique http://www.nikk.no/en/news/finnish-gender-equality-programme-faces-critique/ Hanna Ylöstalo. Photo: private

Hanna Ylöstalo. Photo: private

The programme was presented last week and does not bring much to the table, according to Hanna Ylöstalo.
‘The programme boasts a couple of concrete initiatives, which gives an impression of decisiveness, but the truth is that a lot of the stuff is old news,’ she says.

In the programme, the government presents measures to promote men’s health and support victims of domestic violence. For example, the funding of protected housing for victims will be increased by EUR 2 million per year until 2019, but Hanna Ylöstalo is not impressed. In fact, she says, the section on violence in close relationships is basically just a repeat of what Finland has already agreed to do by signing the Istanbul Convention.

 

Moreover, Hanna Ylöstalo concludes that several measures in the new gender equality programme are already enshrined in national law. One example she mentions is the requirement that all ministers must incorporate a gender equality perspective when designing new projects and policies.

‘But that has already been legislated for, so there’s no reason to include it in the programme,’ she says.

 

Economic issues not given enough attention

According to Hanna Ylöstalo, the biggest problem with the Finnish government’s gender equality programme is that the economic issues are not given enough attention. She is a member of a research network called Tasa-Arvovaje, which disseminates knowledge and contributes to the debate on economic inequality between the sexes. In a comment posted on its website, the network describes the new programme as a disappointment.

‘Finnish women generally carry a disproportionate responsibility for family chores, and the new programme does not make any effort to change that. There’s a risk that women’s role in the family is reinforced and that their role in the labour market is weakened,’ says Hanna Ylöstalo.

 

Doing their best of available resources

Illustration: Emma hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Eeva Salmenpohja, who serves as adviser to Juha Rehula, the Finnish minister in charge of gender equality issues, sees the criticism of the new programme as an extension of the previous criticism of the government’s cutbacks in the public sector.

‘We have listened and considered the viewpoints,’ she says.

The measures listed in the gender equality programme are what the national government is currently able to muster considering the economic situation, Eeva Salmenpohja continues.
‘We’re trying to make the best of the available resources. The programme would look different had the economy been better,’ she says.

The fact that some of the measures in the programme have already been addressed by previous governments and enacted in legislation is not so strange, she points out.

‘Gender equality issues require continuous attention. It’s important that we keep working on them.’

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How Do EU Decisions Affect Nordic Gender Equality? http://www.nikk.no/en/news/how-do-eu-decisions-affect-nordic-gender-equality/ NIKK spade symbolAccording to Åsta Lovise Einstabland, chief executive and project manager at the Centre for Gender and Equality, University of Agder, this issue is becoming highly relevant. A more right-leaning political landscape in combination with a financial crisis is impacting the development in the Nordic countries.
‘It has become easier to make cuts in the Nordic welfare model, which is closely linked to the development of gender equality. In Norway, preschool services are getting more expensive and harder to get. This has consequences for the gender equality in the country’s family policy. There is a similar trend across the Nordic region,’ she says.
The Nordic countries have been more prone than other European countries to promote gender equality though legislation, Einstabland continues.
‘The EU is more individualistically oriented. But there is a big difference between focusing the work at the individual and the system level. Is it the individual or the system that should determine whether a certain behaviour is acceptable or not, that should ensure that people are able to enjoy the rights they are entitled to?’

In what ways have the Nordic countries been forced to adapt to international decisions?
‘The Nordic countries have long been forerunners but are now under increasing pressure to adapt to European and other international directives,’ says Knut Dørum, history professor at the same university and project manager together with Einstabland.
‘It’s hard to say what the consequences of this –whether the gender equality will become streamlined or even stall – will be for the Nordic countries. Everything that comes from the EU is not bad, though. For example, Norway has introduced stricter legislation for sexual harassment as a result of EU directives. What concerns us is the lack of follow-up and focus on the welfare model. Stricter laws is a good signal but how many rapists are convicted? It takes a lot of hard work to create gender equality-advancing structures. We are afraid the EU will be all talk and no action,’ he continues.
What can the Nordic countries learn from each other in this area?
‘We share a similar history, legislation and welfare model although Denmark has differed a bit policy-wise. The Nordic ministers meet regularly. There is a consensus about the key importance of gender equality and about prioritising the practical work. This is important,’ Einstabland responds.
Dørum adds that the EU is comparatively bureaucratic.
‘There’s a risk that gender equality becomes an “everybody’s responsibility, nobody’s responsibility” issue.’
What’s your goal with the project?

Åsta Lovise Einstabland. Photograph by University of Agder

Åsta Lovise Einstabland. Photograph by University of Agder

‘Our goal is to explore the tension between Nordic and European/international gender equality policy. What do we gain and what do we lose from belonging to an international community? And we want to reach out with our results. The Arendal Week [a Norwegian annual forum where national delegates in politics, society and industry meet each other and the public to debate and develop policies for the present and future] will be held 15–20 August this year, and we will be there on the 16th to meet the top politicians. We hope to be able to arrange a Nordic conference in June 2017 and to release a book towards the end of next year or in early 2018,’ says Einstabland.
Dørum says that they have been able to engage some of the very best in the field.
‘We believe in the project. It has a good potential for development and it would be wise to eventually also include non-Nordic universities.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Faroese Women Have the Highest Rates of Part-Time Work in the Nordic Region http://www.nikk.no/en/news/faroese-women-have-the-highest-rates-of-part-time-work-in-the-nordic-region/ The research report maps the connections between part-time work and gender in the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. It also gives an overview of the labour markets, educational status and demography in the three areas in a part-time work perspective. The report is produced by Nordic Information on Gender, NIKK, at the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Deltid_symbol III_280x421The report shows that Faroese and Ålandic women have the highest rates of part-time employment in in the Nordic region. Forty-nine per cent of the Faroese women work part time and in Åland the share is 45.9 per cent. These figures are high in a European perspective. Only Switzerland and the Netherlands have higher figures. In Greenland, there is no significant difference in part-time work rates between women and men. Instead, there is a clear difference between rural and urban areas, with people living in rural areas being more likely to work part time.

‘The unique labour market conditions in the Faroe Islands, Åland and Greenland affect women and men differently as well as who the part-time workers tend to be,’ says Elin Engström, head of operation at NIKK.

‘The research report gives the reader a whole slew of recent data on part-time work and gender, which makes it completely unique,’ she continues.

NIKK has previously published two reports on part-time work and gender in the Nordic countries. The new report provides additional information with a focus on the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland.

Click here to read the report Part-Time Work in the Nordic Region–An Introductory Study of the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland Islands.

For more information, please contact Elin Engström, head of operations at NIKK, +46(0)766-22 92 39, elin.engstrom@genus.gu.se.

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Positive trend stalled – women still underrepresented in STEM subjects http://www.nikk.no/en/news/positive-trend-stalled-women-still-underrepresented-in-stem-subjects/ Kristian Mørk Puggaard. Photo: Ty Stange

Kristian Mørk Puggaard. Photo: Ty Stange

‘In the last 5–10 years, we haven’t seen any positive development,’ says Kristian Mørk Puggaard at DAMVAD Analytics, the company that carried out the study for the Nordic Council of Ministers.
The results of the study are presented in the report Piger i Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) – Kortlægning af udfordringer inden for køn, ligestilling og uddannelse i Norden, freely translated ‘girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – mapping of challenges in the areas of gender, gender equality and education in the Nordic region’.
The study is based on statistics on educational choices from Eurostat and a questionnaire survey of school children in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. The questionnaire survey shows that girls to a larger extent than boys doubt their own abilities within the so-called STEM subjects. This is a big challenge for the schools, according to Mørk Puggaard.
‘The girls must be able to envision themselves in these occupations and feel they are qualified. Right now they really don’t,’ he says.

Parents educational backgrounds important

The study also included focus interviews with women who have chosen to pursue an education in technical disciplines. They reveal that teachers, study counsellors and parents have had a strong influence on their occupational choice. In particular their own parents’ attitudes and educational backgrounds are identified as important factors. Most informants who chose a STEM-related education had at least one parent who worked in a STEM domain.
‘In their families, they often talk about educational choices, and we can see that those discussions have been of great importance,’ says Mørk Puggaard.
The male dominance in the STEM subjects can be observed in all Nordic countries, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands, but some differences can also be noted. For example, significantly more women are studying mathematics in Finland than in Sweden and Iceland. Some countries also display a positive development in certain specific subject areas. For example, an increasing number of Ålandic women are working in construction and manufacturing. In Norway, a similar trend can be seen in some engineering programmes, yet the changes are small and the data generally shows that the number of women has stagnated at a low level in the Nordic countries, Mørk Puggaard points out.

Big challenge for the Nordic countries

Kira Appel. Private photo

Kira Appel. Private photo

Kira Appel, chief adviser at the Danish Ministry for Children, Education and Gender Equality, agrees that increasing the share of women who get a degree in a STEM subject is a big challenge for the Nordic countries.
‘It’s important at the societal level, for individual women and not least for the STEM sectors. There’s a shortage of labour in these fields and there is an untapped potential in the population. We also know that work environments where women and men work together are more innovative and overall effective,’ she says.
The assessment of the Nordic countries started last year during the Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. Besides a description of the current situation, the report gives examples of Nordic initiatives that have been made to break away from the

male dominance. Mørk Puggaard warns that measures that target girls specifically can be counterproductive.
‘The study clearly shows that the girls don’t want that type of special treatment. They see it as stigmatising and believe it reinforces the view of girls as less able,’ he says.

Positive examples

A positive example that targets all children is the House of Natural Sciences in Denmark, which is a centre created to get children and adolescents interested in science experiments. The centre also targets teachers by sharing advice on how teaching activities can be made more attractive to the children.
Mørk Puggaard thinks that teachers need to be more attentive to what they convey to the schoolchildren.
‘They need to encourage girls in the same way as they encourage boys. Otherwise we will never be able to change this pattern,’ he says.
For change to happen, the politicians need to take a comprehensive approach and engage both schools and employers, he points out.
‘Previous initiatives have been fragmented. We need to work holistically in order to change the notion of who can work and become successful in these areas,’ he says.
As a follow up to the report, the Nordic Council of Ministers will develop a handbook with advice on how to draw more young people to the STEM subjects. Appel thinks that the Nordic countries can learn a lot from projects completed elsewhere in the region.
‘We have similar challenges and goals. Instead of starting from scratch with new projects, we can keep building on each other’s experiences,’ she says.

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Nordic Film Project Wants to Break the Male Dominance http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-film-project-wants-to-break-the-male-dominance/ NIKK spade symbolWhen it comes to gender equality in the film industry, there is some variation across the Nordic countries. In some countries, such as Sweden, the issue has been on the agenda for a longer time and there are state interventions to divide the production support more equally between women and men. In contrast, in Denmark male filmmakers receive four times as much support as their female counterparts. All countries, however, share the same underlying problem. According to Jenni Koski, producer and project manager for WIFT Nordic, the problem cannot be solved without well-coordinated efforts. WIFT (Women in Film and Television) started in the U.S. in the 1970s. Today the organisation is represented in about 40 countries. WIFT in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark have a total of 700 members.

 

Can you describe the organisation’s work?

‘By sharing experiences, we can help each other bring attention to the issues in each country and put pressure on the policy makers. If one country takes the lead, the rest of us can use it as a good example. I’m for example thinking of the Swedish film agreement, which says that the national production support must be distributed equally between women and men. It must be split 50-50 between women and men in each of the three staff categories directors, screenwriters and producers. The agreement has been a great success and has contributed to more voices being heard. It’s a good example of how positive change can be accomplished at the political level. Iceland is about to implement a similar agreement. The other Nordic countries also need this type of reform.’

 

Which structures are obstructing the development of gender equality?

‘The film industry has been male dominated throughout its entire century-long history. It has always been easier and that’s exactly what we do in our network. At our meetings, everybody can share their ideas without being judged or criticised, and beginners can get professional support from the more experienced film workers. It’s about supporting each other, not competing. Together we’re strong.’

What events are you arranging this spring?

‘In 2015, we participated in eight festivals all over the Nordic region. In March, we were at BUFF, an international film festival for children and young people in Malmö, Sweden, where we had a workshop on female representation in film. Whose stories are told and what characters do we get to see – do the films we watch reflect reality? We have also been at Season Film Festival in Helsinki in late March, where we did a seminar on what it is like to be a woman and write comedies.’

for men to get funded and advance their careers. They are more likely to have a platform and the self-confidence to make their presence known and to make things happen. It’s a tough business with fierce competition, and you’re always being judged. Women have to work harder and perform better to make their voices heard. We see that women in the film industry need to be strengthened,

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Upswing for Gender Research Following the Arab Spring http://www.nikk.no/en/news/upswing-for-gender-research-following-the-arab-spring/ peopleHistory offers many examples of how women are bundled back to their traditional roles as homemakers after participating in revolutionary processes, but this has not happened in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, according to Drude Dahlerup, professor of political science at Stockholm University.
‘There has been a strong awareness of this risk and the women’s movements, in particular in Egypt and Tunisia, have put up a lot of resistance. That was noticeable already during the Tahrir Square protests,’ she says.
The demonstrations began almost exactly five years ago. Many women were sexually harassed in connection with the protests in Cairo in the winter of 2011.
‘But they still refused to go home. They would not leave that square. Instead they organised demonstrations against the harassment,’ says Dahlerup.

Women’s rights moving forward

She has just finished a project titled New Avenues for Political Influence for Women in the Arab Region?, funded by the Swedish Research Council. The project lasted from 2012 to 2015 and was carried out in partnership with Women in Politics Research Network, WIP, at Stockholm University and Center for Arab Women Training and Research, CAWTAR, in Tunis.
‘I saw that the gender research was popping up everywhere at universities in the Arab world. That’s what gave me inspiration for the project,’ says Dahlerup.
While the project has moved forward, the hopes for democracy have evaporated in many of the Arab countries. Yet at the same time, Dahlerup is seeing important signs of progress in the area of women’s rights. For example, both Egypt and Tunisia have introduced quotas for women’s representation in the national parliaments. The upswing observed for gender research and the growing numbers of female researchers are other signs of this development, she says. The breakthrough for gender research is particularly noticeable in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia, but research is also starting to come out of Algeria, Palestine and Yemen.

A shared platform

The Arab-Nordic project has given researchers from the Arab and the Nordic countries a shared platform for collaboration and exchange. Activities arranged within the framework of the project include a course for doctoral students studying women’s presence in the public space. The participating doctoral students came from different Arab and Nordic countries.
‘That was probably the best thing that came out of the project. Everybody was so enthusiastic,’ says Dahlerup.
As part of the project, she and a researcher from CAWTAR also wrote progress reports for gender research in the two regions. The assessment of the Nordic countries shows that the number of books and articles written in English has increased dramatically in recent decades.
‘One reason for this is that the number of gender researchers has increased, but I also believe we have become more international,’ says Dahlerup.
She thinks very positively of the ongoing internationalisation process.
‘Gender research is growing globally and I think it’s important that we can compare things with each other. Looking at the situation in other countries can help open our eyes to our own structures,’ she says.
She hopes that the networks that have been established through the Arab-Nordic project will lead to new collaborations between researchers in the different countries.
‘Now we know each other. I hope we have started something that can continue to grow,’ she says.

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Lack of Legal Security for Victims of Online Violence http://www.nikk.no/en/news/lack-legal-security-victims-online-violence/ NIKK spade symbol’Most studies on online violence concern only the actual violence, but we have a different goal. We want to look at how the police and the legal system treat women who report these crimes,’ says Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir. She is the executive manager of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, which is in charge of the new project together with the Women’s Council in Denmark and Norwegian KUN Center for Knowledge and Gender Equality.

What’s the purpose of the project?
‘Based on the interviews with violated women, we want to develop guidelines for the police and the Nordic governments. Technology has developed very fast, and as societies we’re still trying to figure out how to handle it. For example, many adolescents like to send nude photos to each other. It’s quite common, and it’s ok. It’s ok to share pictures with a partner. The problem is when pictures are shared without consent, and the justice system must be able to handle this.’

How can a victim of online violence seek justice?
‘Many victims don’t know what to do. And not even the police may know, because it may not be clear whether a crime has actually occurred. For example, online stalking is not illegal in Iceland, so it’s ok to send somebody 500 messages as long as they don’t contain explicit threats.’
‘A new law was recently proposed here in Iceland. It would ban so-called revenge porn, which is when somebody shares pictures or films of somebody else online without that person’s consent. It’s the first legislative proposal ever in the Nordic countries that directly addresses online violence. Unfortunately, the proposed law is pretty bad, but it still means a lot that the policy makers are acknowledging the issue.’

Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir

Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir

Why do you think the proposed law is bad?
‘It places these crimes under the law against pornography, and that’s misleading. Instead they should be covered by the law against sexual harassment, because that’s how we must view and understand this phenomenon. The proposal will hopefully be revised based on the feedback received. In other Nordic countries, these cases have been brought under privacy laws, but that’s not right either. This is sexual violence and it’s important that we treat it accordingly.’

What can the Nordic countries learn from each other?
’We have all just started, and I hope we’ll be able to share experiences and methods with each other. Here in Iceland we’re currently looking west, at the U.S. That’s where most studies are done. The Nordic countries are technologically advanced and there is a feminist momentum. We should lead the way and not trail our American colleagues.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Nordiska ministrar står upp för kvinnors yttrandefrihet och sexuella rättigheter http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordiska-ministrar-star-upp-for-kvinnors-yttrandefrihet-och-sexuella-rattigheter/ Nytt för i år är att jämställdhetsministrarna vill bidra till den den internationella debatten om sexistiskt näthat. De utsåg en panel av nordiska experter som följde med till CSW. Här ingick aktivisten Emma Holten, forskaren Anine Kierulf, skribenten Thordis Elva, projektledaren Johnny Lindqvist och parlamentarikern Nasima Razmyar.

– Kvinnors frigörelse blir aldrig verklig om vi inte säkrar deras rätt att yttra sig utan rädsla för trakasserier och förföljelse. Utan yttrandefrihet finns ingen frigörelse. I detta avseende är den digitala sfären en enorm barriär. För kvinnor så väl som för minoriteter, säger Emma Holten.

Norden pådrivande

Huvudtemat för årets CSW-möte är hur kvinnokommissionen kan bidra till att uppnå de 17 mål för hållbar utveckling som världens länder enades om 2015.

Alla de nordiska länderna är starkt pådrivande för att kvinnors sexuella och reproduktiva rättigheter ska finnas med i mötets slutdokument.

– Kvinnors sexuella och reproduktiva hälsa och rättigheter är grundläggande för jämställdhet och stärkandet av kvinnors och flickors egenmakt, säger Åsa Regnér, jämställdhetsminister i Sverige.

Hållbarhet förutsätter jämställdhet

Ministrarna talar om jämställdhet som en katalysator för att nå övriga hållbarhetsmål. Ministrarna lyfter särskilt fram jämställdhetens betydelse för att nå målen ”god utbildning”, ”god hälsa och välmående”, ”minskad ojämlikhet” och ”ett anständigt arbetsliv och ekonomisk tillväxt”.

Finlands jämställdhetsminister Juha Rehula talar om de nordiska erfarenheterna av att sträva mot ett anständigt arbetsliv:

– Lika tillgång till anständigt arbete, och lika lön för likvärdigt arbete, är hörnstenar för en hållbar framtid. Möjligheten att kombinera arbete och familjeliv för båda föräldrarna är en viktig faktor för att säkra kvinnors deltagande i arbetslivet. Detta är något som förenar oss i Norden.

De nordiska CSW-eventen startar onsdagen den 16 mars, då de nordiska jämställdhetsministrarna medverkar i en paneldebatt i FN-högkvarteret.

Eventet är tillgängligt på FN:s webb-tvsida:

På fredagen 18 mars framträder den nordiska expertpanelen under rubriken Fighting Sexism and Hate Speech Online – a Nordic Panel of experts.

Texten är baserad på ett pressmeddelande från Nordiska ministerårdet.

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Feminists from different continents give their take on the most pressing issues http://www.nikk.no/en/news/feminists-different-continents-give-take-pressing-issues/ 1. What’s the most important feminist issue right now?
2. What needs to be done?
3. What role can the Nordic countries play?

Julia Gillard, the former Prime Minister of Australia and the Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education

  1. Julia Gillard. Press photo

    Julia Gillard. Press photo

    International Women’s Day presents us a powerful opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a girl or a woman worldwide. Sadly, for far too many girls and women, the picture remains grim. In 2016, I will be honing my focus on girls’ education, because 63 million girls are not in school across the world, and millions more are in school but not learning the basics of reading, writing and math. When we know that education is key to human development, this is simply unacceptable. And we know that educating girls in particular is a virtuous cycle: more educated women tend to be healthier, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their own children, all of which can lift households out of poverty.

  1. The under-education of girls is one of the most pressing social issues of our time. We need to move beyond well-meaning but scattered advocacy and toward helping countries to build strong education systems that deliver quality education to all students. These systems need to be responsive and accountable to communities, and they must deliver quality education in line with global best practice.  We should demand nothing less for the world’s children.
  1. The most successful countries in this mission have been committed to education and brought the political will to follow through on a clear plan. As an international community we can support developing countries by sharing research, help identifying gaps and solutions, and most importantly, by bringing additional funding. Our Nordic partners who are fervent supporters of education have been generous funders of global education and we hope they will continue. When we break it down, it costs just $1.18 USD a day to educate a child in a developing country. Surely every child is worth that.

 

Douce Namwezi Nibamba, journalist in Democratic Republic of the Congo and driving force behind AFEM-SK – an organization for women in media. 

  1. Douce Namwezi. Press photo

    Douce Namwezi. Press photo

    Women’s political participation, at all levels, is the most important feminist issue In Democratic Republic of Congo. I know that if women are participating, their needs and issues will be addressed.

  1. We need access to information on human rights, gender, good governance, democracy and women leadership. There is also a need of nomination of women in different decision making spheres and elections where women candidates gives opportunity to run. Two other important issues are the empowerment of girls and youth, and the fight against sexual and gender based violence.
  1. The Nordic countries can get deeper involved in the fight against war crimes and blood minerals. They can also support youth women´s network at grassroot level, and overall, give technical and/or financial support to developing countries.

 

Viviane Teitelbaum, President of the European Women´s Lobby.

  1. Viviane Teitelbaum. Press photo

    Viviane Teitelbaum. Press photo

    It is difficult to pinpoint one specific issue as everything is linked, I would say: ordinary sexism that leads to or tolerates violence against women, poverty and under representation in political, social and economic areas of decision-making

  1. We need to strengthen our collective voice, to implement the aspects of cultural transformation, sexual rights, ending violence against women. But also tackle the labor market and raise awareness around feminist transformation of the economy.
  1. Act as a role model for other European countries so we can strengthen our ways to engage for more equality, sustainable change and for …a feminist Europe, free of prostitution!

 

Londa Schiebinger, USA, Professor of History of Science, Stanford University.

  1. Londa Schiebinger. Press photo

    Londa Schiebinger. Press photo

    Integrate sex & gender into science, health & medicine, engineering, and environmental research. Gendered Innovations add value to research and engineering by ensuring excellence and quality in outcomes and enhancing sustainability. They add value to society by making research more responsive to social needs, and to business by developing new ideas, patents, and technology.
    Support the EU Horizon 2020 Gender Dimension in Research.

  1. Integrating sex and gender analysis into medical education, and integrating sex and gender analysis into engineering education.
  1. The Nordic countries can take leadership in this endeavor.

 

Nancy Sanchéz, Colombia, journalist, human right activist, the last ten years with the “Alliance Women Wavers of Lifefrom Putumayo.

  1. Nancy Sanchez. Press photo

    Nancy Sanchez. Press photo

    Violence against women. In Colombia, there is another war- the war at home where women, girls, boys, and adolescents are violated in overwhelming proportions. According to official statistics, inter-personal violence is responsible for 47.71% of homicides, higher than the 14.40% of homicides attributable to the armed conflict.

    In the country, the most dangerous place for a woman is her own home. Colombia is one of the countries with the highest assassination rates for women by partners or ex-partners. According to official data, a woman dies every three days at the hands of the man who supposedly loved her; they take place during domestic tasks as she complies with her role as housekeeper, wife, and mother. Generally there is a painful history of submission, domination, slavery, and physical and psychological violence preceding assassinations, which tend to be brutal, vicious, women burned alive, strangled, knifed, and beaten into disfiguration. The motive comes from jealousy, intolerance, and the belief that women are property.

  1. Strengthening Justice is key for deterring violence against women. Special Units should be created in those institutions that investigate and sanction. Laws that protect women (Law 257 and Law on Feminicide) are a step forward but the reality remains the same. Working with women, especially those from the countryside, is crucial. The creation of solidarity networks, support, safe places, training, and economic empowerment are key if women are to overcome the submission which afflicts and degrades them.Working with men, boys, girls, and adolescents is likewise important. Although there is a significant process involving women’s organizations promoting women’s rights nationally and locally, much remains to be done with men, which is still incipient.
  1. Provide support to national and local-level women’s organizations to strengthen their struggle against gender-based violence.Continue socializing Resolution 1325 as a key instrument for women’s participation in decision-making and peace processes.
    The Academy and Gender Institutes in Sweden could build strategic alliances with local organizations and institutions for broader research into the phenomenon of this type of violence and the formulation of gender-based public policies.

 

Dolly Anek Odwong, South Sudan, one of the founders of the network “Women’s Agenda for Peace and Sustainable Development in South Sudan”.

  1. Dolly Anek Odwong. Photo: Kvinna till kvinna

    Dolly Anek Odwong. Photo: Kvinna till kvinna

    Gender-Based Violence threatens the social and economic well-being of women and girls around the world. Education is the tool to achieving women’s social and economic empowerment. It has always been my belief that the fight we face on the domestic front and the fight we face on the global front for women’s rights are not two separate battles: they are uniform. Women’s Rights are Human Rights.

  1. I want to make a change in women´s lives in South Sudan and be a role model for them. It is a journey I started long time ago, during the past war in South Sudan. I think we should commit to empowering women and girls around the world. I would like to advocate for women and girls in South Sudan and around the world for funding of on UNSCR: 1325 Women’s Peace and Security.  With help and campaigns around the world to raise awareness of the issues, together we can work to stop these violations of human rights.
  1. Nordic countries should continue to work for better conditions and opportunities for women. Women are still regularly denied the most basic human rights including freedom from violence.  Gender Based Violence occur all too often in South Sudan and around the world.

As women let us live our dreams to improve lives of women and girls around the world for a better world that women should belong to.  A country without women is not a country so we must be treated with Love, Respect and Dignity.

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Nordic Feminists Want to Put Racism on the Agenda http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-feminists-want-put-racism-agenda/ NIKK spade symbolOn March 5th,  representatives from several Nordic countries met in Stockholm to discuss how the anti-racist feminist movement can be developed. The purpose of the project titled Redefining Nordic Feminism is to create a network where anti-racist feminists can share their experiences with organisation and strategies. Behind the initiative is Interfem, a feminist anti-racist think tank with resource centres in Sweden, Finland and Norway. Khan works for the organisation.

What’s the background?

‘This is really a continuation of previous projects. In 2009, we published what we named the power handbook, in which anti-racist feminists share their best tools against sexism and racism. A group of Finnish activists read the book and invited us to come and talk about it. Since then we have gotten to know anti-racist feminists in Norway, Denmark and Finland. We have realised we have a lot in common.’

Why does Nordic feminism need to be redefined?

Zakia Khan

Zakia Khan

‘We believe it is important to put the issue of racism on the agenda in the feminist organisations. Our project will help find ways to make our voices heard, get more non-white bodies in the feminist movements and expand the perspective. Both the feminist and the anti-racist movements in the Nordic countries are by tradition very white. Many Nordic women’s organisations still think it is difficult to find non-white activists, at the same time as non-white activists don’t feel welcome. Another example is the Nordic Forum conference held in Malmö in 2014, to which smaller anti-racist feminist organisations weren’t even invited. This was particularly evident when we looked at the representation outside Sweden.’

What can the Nordic countries learn from each other when it comes to the anti-racist feminist struggle?

‘A lot of stuff has happened in Sweden. Today it’s pretty normal to talk about different power structures. Things have opened up a lot and we have become included much more than in the past. Yet the issue is still quite new. Just 10 years ago, I was so frustrated about the large women’s organisations not listening to us and not letting us in. The situation is similar for non-white feminists in other Nordic countries. We can learn from each other, especially when it comes to organisation and strategies.’

Can you talk about your activities?

‘Last autumn we arranged network meetings in Helsinki and Oslo where we discussed strategies, solutions to problems and new priorities for Nordic gender equality policy. Tomorrow we’re having a similar meeting in Stockholm with participants from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Åland. The discussions will be initiated by Swedish journalist Wendy Francis, who will talk about her new podcast Angry Girls. After that, we’ll for example discuss how the anti-racist feminist activism is affected by the political situation in the Nordic region. What are the biggest challenges right now and how can we deal with them together?’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Difficult to identify Nordic investments in gender equality research http://www.nikk.no/en/news/12350/ It is difficult to figure out exactly how much money is invested in gender equality research. A review of the research councils in Sweden, Finland and Norway reveals that a uniform system that allows for comparison across countries and sectors is currently lacking. Funding is typically not coded in a way that makes it possible to easily distinguish between gender equality and gender, diversity and equality more generally.
‘In order to come up with reliable statistics, we would have to analyse every single project in detail, which would be a massive undertaking,’ says Sini Uuttu, expert at Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.
An attempt to trace research funding distributed by the Swedish research agency Fortes proves impossible for the same reason.
‘To identify projects that support gender equality research, you have to look for more than just gender equality. Labour market, drug and healthcare research are other research fields that can involve gender equality research,’ says Lars Wärngård, director of planning.

Research not always included

Foto: Fortes

Lars Wärngård. Foto; Fortes.

All research councils report that gender equality may be included in many of the projects they support. According to Sophia Ivarsson, programme director at Vinnova in Sweden, exact data is lacking because Vinnova rarely funds just research projects but instead collaboration projects where the public, private and non-profit sectors work together.
‘All projects granted funding in the programme titled Diversity Lab – Norm-Critical Innovation touches upon one or several of the protected grounds for discrimination. Gender is one of them. In the last two years, we have also allocated about SEK 20 million per year to projects with a focus on gender or gender equality but that have not necessarily involved research.’
The Swedish Research Council does not have any special grant programmes for gender equality. But this does not mean that gender equality researchers cannot be granted funding.
‘Since we ask the researchers to classify their own research, there may be projects dealing with welfare issues that also cover gender equality but that are categorised as sociology. Besides gender research, which often involves a great deal of gender equality research, there is probably also gender equality research that is not gender research, and vice versa,’ says Lucas Pettersson, head of the unit for follow-up.

Less than one per cent of the total funding

To get an idea of the amount of money granted in relation to the total allocated research funding, we need to look at a larger area and use the research councils’ subject classification systems.
The following example is for the Swedish Research Council, Formas and Vinnova: Last year, Formas granted almost SEK 9 million (a little less than 1 per cent) to projects related to either gender or gender equality. The Swedish Research Council gave SEK 18 million (0.32 per cent) to gender and gender equality as well as gender studies during the same period. Vinnova’s programme Gender and Diversity for Innovation received SEK 15 million (0.6 per cent). SEK 15 million of a yearly budget of SEK 2.5 billion should not be considered a drop in the ocean, Ivarsson points out.
‘My impression is that the research councils, at least in Sweden, are working intensely with gender equality. As a side note, there is a bit of an imbalance when it comes to male-dominated areas, but definitely not all of them. We have given out a great deal of funding for gender equality measures for example in the forestry industry.’

Researcher: Gender equality alone is not enough

Last autumn, the research consortium WeAll – Social and Economic Sustainability of Future Working Life received EUR 3 million from the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland (5 per cent of the total funding set aside for strategic research in 2015). The project is part of the Equality in Society programme. The objective is to investigate for example the role of social categories such as age, ethnicity and gender in working life. In the last five years, the Academy of Finland has distributed almost EUR 6 million to eleven projects in the area of women’s and gender research, in which WeAll belongs.
‘There is an interest in gender equality. Yet the grants are small in relation to the total funding available,’ says Marjut Jyrkinen, Research Director at the University of Helsinki and project leader together with professor Anna-Maija Lämsä from the University of Jyväskylä.
‘The way I see it, it would not have been possible to only focus on gender equality. The gender equality we’re talking about needs to be broader and consider intersectionality. At the same time, we should focus on gender, which is one of the biggest sources of discrimination in all societies. It seems easier to talk about diversity, but then we risk missing that gender in itself is an important factor.’
Hannele Kurki, senior science adviser at the Academy of Finland, confirms that gender equality as a separate area is not prioritised.
‘We fund all types of top research according to the bottom-up principle. The reduction in public funding leads to increased competition for what’s left. On the other hand, the gender researchers have so far received high scores.’

Different situation in Norway

Lise Christensen

Lise Christensen. Foto: Norges forskningsråd

In Norway, almost all ministries administer and grant research funding in their respective areas, which sets the premises for the research council’s programmes and calls for proposals.
Mari Teigen, director of CORE – Centre for Research on Gender Equality, agrees that not enough funding is allocated to gender equality research.
‘But it would be more correct to compare how the funding is distributed within for example the humanities and social sciences than across the disciplines.’
Lise Christensen, special adviser at the Research Council of Norway who offers expert knowledge and lobbies for various research topics, would like to see more research on gender equality.
‘There’s an emphasis on gender. In the past we have focused on research on gender and on equal treatment as praxis. But there’s also a need for development of knowledge on equal treatment in order to advance the work of change.’

EU initiative lends legitimacy

Lotta Strandberg, senior adviser at NordForsk, supports an expanded focus.
‘Gender equality always occurs in a context. Instead of more money channelled to gender equality research, I’d like to see the gender perspective be integrated into all research.’
According to Strandberg, it is difficult to compare the granted amounts due to the significant variation in allocation models and assignments carried out by the research councils.
‘One thing we can ponder over is what type of research is being conducted, what gender equality means in these programmes. The funding needs to be transparent and the priorities clear.’
Sophia Ivarsson has noticed a change in attitude in the last five years. In 2013, the Swedish government asked Vinnova to distribute SEK 33 million to needs-driven research for gender equality. She believes we will see more of that type of initiative.
‘The fact that the European Commission is putting its finger on gender equality makes it more legitimate for the national research councils to do the same.’
Fortes’ new action plan stresses that all research projects that are granted funding must involve a gender equality perspective.
‘Starting this year, all applicants in our biggest annual call for proposals have to explain how, if at all, their research relates to gender and diversity of which gender equality is part,’ says Wärngård.

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Nordic gender equality cooperation – apply for funding http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-gender-equality-cooperation-apply-for-funding/ Nordic Information on Gender has opened for applications for funding of Nordic cooperation in the area of gender equality. As in previous years, at least three Nordic countries must be involved in each application. The funding can for example be used to develop joint methods, build new knowledge, arrange conferences and create networks.

The so-called funding scheme was initiated by the Nordic gender equality ministers to stimulate Nordic cooperation. The activities must begin in autumn 2016 and be completed before the end of 2017. The application form is available at nikk.no.

Applications can be submitted until 31 March.

For more information, please contact Elin Engström, Head of Operations, Nordic Information on Gender, 46(0)766 22 92 39, elin.engstrom@genus.gu.se

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Widespread partner violence among young people http://www.nikk.no/en/news/widespread-partner-violence-among-young-people/ NIKK spade symbolIn Norway, about 50 per cent of all rape victims are younger than 18. The same is true for the perpetrators. Sexual violence among young people, often between partners, is common. Yet the problem is not given much attention, and there is not much knowledge about it. In response to this, the Norwegian organisation Reform – Resource Centre for Men has launched a project together with organisations within the MenEngage movement in Finland, Sweden and Denmark. The purpose of the initiative is to gather experiences and best practise from the different Nordic countries.
‘We assume that the situation looks about the same in all Nordic countries, although right now nobody really knows. The project is a way to explore this issue and identify what research and knowledge can be found in the Nordic countries,’ says Saastad.
On 15 April, the organisations will arrange the first Nordic expert conference on the topic.

What can be done to stop the gender-related violence among young people?
‘Reform has a project in place called Stopp kjærestevolden (stop partner violence). It targets 14–15 year olds and revolves around issues related to gender norms and ideals. We tried to collaborate with the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training, but it didn’t go very well. Now we have instead teamed up with the Church of Norway. We talk to the kids during their confirmation programme. It has worked out great. It’s our experience that it’s important to approach young people early, before they start drinking alcohol and getting involved romantically.’

Can you describe the links between young men’s violence, masculinity norms and gender roles?
A common denominator is that many teenagers don’t know what a good relationship with the opposite sex looks like. In school, they only get to hear about the purely sexual aspects. Nobody helps them define a healthy relationship. Our observations also show that there is very little focus on the culture of violence often seen among boys. There’s a strong heteronormative view of what boys are supposed to be like, and sex, violence and action are important elements. It’s hard to be a boy and break away from these macho norms.’

Are Saastad

Are Saastad

What are the benefits of Nordic cooperation around these issues?
‘The problem looks very much the same in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. Yet we have dealt with it in different ways. We want to gather experts and good examples of how we can work with these issues. The goal of the conference is to develop joint recommendations and guidelines, with a particular focus on how the violence among young couples affects both the victim and the perpetrator. The intention is to make this material useful to organisations and government agencies across the Nordic region.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Suggestion: Nordic men’s Week http://www.nikk.no/en/news/suggestion-nordic-mens-week/ Carita Peltonen. Pressbild

Carita Peltonen. Pressbild

The Nordic Council of Ministers is in the process of gender mainstreaming its work. The goal is for all Nordic committees of senior officials to work with gender equality issues within their respective domains. The new report, written by Carita Peltonen, is one part of this work. The report gives examples of how the Nordic Committee on Health and Social Affairs (EK-S) can integrate the gender equality perspective in its field. Peltonen for example proposes a Nordic men’s week to bring attention to men’s health and overall situation. A corresponding national week is arranged in Denmark every year.
‘I think it’s a good way to bring attention to these issues. We know that men have a shorter life expectancy than women, and that they are less likely to seek medical attention,’ she says.
She also sees a need to acknowledge different types of family constellations in order to meet the needs of different types of families.
‘The nuclear family tends to set the norm, even though in real life families can be structured in many different ways,’ she explains.

Requesting data on crisis management

The report describes how all Nordic countries have experienced various crises in recent years. Denmark, Finland and Iceland have faced economic crises. A major terror attack occurred in Norway. Finland has experienced several school shootings. Deadly shootings also took place in Copenhagen last year, and Sweden too has witnessed serious acts of violence.
‘Data on how women and men perceive and act in various types of crises could be compiled using the databases that are available in the Nordic countries. Such a project could give society better tools to understand and respond to the insecurity and stress that citizens experience in connection with crises. For example, how does a terror attack or an economic crisis affect people’s health? Does it make women and men experience more stress, and do women and men experience the same type of stress?’ says Peltonen.
Besides suggestions for projects, the report gives a review of the Nordic governments’ policy documents. Peltonen has also conducted a literature review of Nordic gender equality research in the focus domain of EK-S. More exactly, she has looked at dissertations with a gender perspective on healthcare and social issues published 1995–2015.

 

Varying focus in Nordic research

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

The literature review shows that researchers in the different Nordic countries have partly focused on different areas.
‘Denmark has a lot of research on socially vulnerable groups such as homeless people and people struggling with addictions. In Norway, there has been a great deal of research on masculinity, and Icelandic researchers are leading the way in the areas of fatherhood, parental benefit and paternal leave,’ says Peltonen.
Research on fatherhood and the role of fathers can be found also in Finland, in particular in relation to World War II, she continues.
‘A large number of fathers died and many children grew up without a father.’

 

A need for more knowledge about older people

All in all, she thinks that the literature review shows that a lot of knowledge exists regarding the situation of women and men in relation to health and social issues, but she also sees a gap.
‘Not much research has been done on the health of older women and men. Most of the research that exists today concerns the workers in elderly care. There is a need for more knowledge about the needs of older people from a gender equality perspective,’ she says.
According to Kai Koivumäki, senior advisor at EK-S, the report addresses several interesting topics. He believes it will be useful in the continued work with gender equality issues within EK-S.
‘I hope it will be easier to move forward now that we have a clear view of the situation,’ he says.

The proposed new projects will be discussed at the next meeting of EK-S, which will be held 24–25 February.

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Finland Wants to Break the Cycle of Violence http://www.nikk.no/en/news/finland-wants-to-break-the-cycle-of-violence/ Foto: Sakari Piippo

Juha Rehula. Foto: Sakari Piippo

The Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers rotates between the five Nordic countries on an annual basis. 2016 is Finland’s year, and the project ”Enough, now! Nordic models to end domestic and intimate partnership violence”´is part of its ambition to put an end to gender-related violence.
‘It’s important to work proactively against the violence and to offer the victims support and whatever help they need,’ says Juha Rehula, Finland’s Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services and in charge of the country’s gender equality policy.
‘We need to look for ways to encourage the perpetrators, whether they are men or women, to stop their destructive behaviour and therefore also the devastating cycle of violence.’
The project will culminate in a report describing, comparing and analysing the models in use across the Nordic region. A conference for knowledge sharing will be held in autumn 2016. Two other conferences on the theme of violence will also be held around the same time: one addressing human trafficking and one at which the work against genital mutilation of girls and women will be discussed.

Gender discrimination in the media

The Nordic gender equality cooperation has for some time emphasised the need to discuss the issue of gender equality in the public space. In 2016, the Finnish Presidency will explore the possibilities of legislating against sexist advertising as well as the current state of gender equality in television, radio and other conventional media.
‘One thing that can be observed is that sexualisation of the public space and gender-based hate speech are limiting the participation of women in particular. Thus, such tendencies must be clamped down on, and a gender equal and pluralistic media landscape must be actively encouraged,’ says Rehula.
The issues of hate speech and how to work against sexism will be raised for example in an expert panel arranged by the Nordic Council of Ministers at the meeting of the UN women’s commission in New York.
‘Both women and men have a right to use the public space and to be recognised and influence the society they live in. By looking at and comparing situations and good practices in the Nordic countries, we can stimulate the public discussion and develop better national and Nordic measures,’ says Rehula.

Finlands ordförandeskap 2016Health and gender equality

The connection between health and gender equality will also be addressed in several ways during Finland’s Presidency. The issue of health was discussed already in January at a conference titled How Are You Feeling, Nordic Region? held in Turku, Finland. The conference marked the beginning of a 3-year project led by the Finnish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and aimed to support cooperation in relation to the Nordic welfare model.
‘Since gender equality is a central aspect of the Nordic welfare model, it seems both natural and necessary to integrate a gender equality perspective in the project,’ says Rehula. ‘Cooperation with other sectors is also very important in the field of gender equality policy. In this project, we’re joining forces with the social, employment, cultural and educational sectors. The bureaucratic red tape can be a headache, but the work is definitely very important and interesting.’
‘The gender equality ministers will also consider the inquiry report on men and gender equality they ordered this year, and we can start deciding on future cooperation on this theme,’ says Rehula.
How do you feel about the Nordic gender equality cooperation? Can it yield benefits that an individual Nordic country would not be able to achieve alone?
‘As the Nordic countries are very similar, it can be of great benefit to compare their different approaches and policy measures. Since none of them have achieved full gender equality, they all have something to learn. The Nordic countries also have a lot to offer in the European and international gender equality discussion. For example, the final report of the project ”Enough, now!” is published in English to make it accessible to people and organisations in other countries.’

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Inequalities in Health: Men Die, Women Suffer http://www.nikk.no/en/news/inequalities-in-health-men-die-women-suffer/ Finlands ordförandeskap 2016Men have a shorter life expectancy than women. They also fall ill more often and are more likely to die from their illnesses. This pattern is a result of a less healthy lifestyle and an unwillingness to seek medical care – which also explains why men are more likely to became hospitalised and require costly specialist care. Society would save a lot of money if men could acknowledge their aches and pains and go see the doctor.
‘Men die like flies, but when you ask them they will tell you they are just fine,’ says Svend Aage Madsen, chief psychologist at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen.

Low levels of education particularly detrimental to men

Compared with men, women are more likely to say they are not well. They also have higher sick leave rates and seek primary health care more frequently. Madsen and fellow researcher Solveig Osborg Ose have looked closer at the apparent gender differences in health and health care, and they shared their knowledge at the Nordic Council of Ministers’ conference How Are You Feeling, Nordic Region? held in Turku, Finland, 27–28 January.

Sven Aage Madsen. pressbild

Sven Aage Madsen. Press photo

Madsen said that the differences in life expectancy between men and women tend to decrease when the gender equality in society increases. When it comes to men’s life expectancy, Iceland ‘wins’ in a European comparison, while Finland and Denmark ‘almost don’t deserve to be included in the Nordic region’. Level of education is another major determinant of life expectancy and health. Interestingly, however, this relationship is much stronger among men than women.

Paternal leave good for men’s health

Madsen pointed out two trends of great importance to men’s health: For the first time in history, men are falling behind women in terms of level of education, which can have a serious impact on their health. At the same time, men are showing an increasing and historically strong interest in paternal leave, which has turned out to affect their health positively.
‘The more men take on the daddy role, the higher their sick leave rates, which is a good thing. Parental leave makes them better at taking care of their own health. Men have suffered from not paying enough attention to how they are doing,’ says Madsen.
Madsen’s conclusion is that there is a need for special health policy targeting men.

Outreach care

Solveig Osborg Ose

Solveig Osborg Ose

‘The health care sector needs to learn how to communicate with men with low levels of education. It might even be a good idea to reach out to men and offer them health care services at their work.’

Osborg Ose, senior researcher at SINTEF, which is a Norwegian foundation for scientific and industrial research, concludes that while men need to stop putting off their doctor visits, women need to become better at describing problems related to their work environment.

Women have higher sick leave rates than men in all occupational groups and age cohorts, and the Norwegian females top the Nordic list. Women are less likely to be diagnosed with an illness when seeking medical attention for their problems, like their joint pains and muscle aches.

Health care providers tend to perceive their symptoms as diffuse and subjective. Osborg Ose has led a large literature study on the reasons Norwegian women go on sick leave. She begins by concluding that Norway’s welfare model has resulted in an extremely gender-segregated labour market. And since the research on work environment issues has mainly focused on the industrial sector, little is known about what causes women to go on sick leave.

Dual roles

‘The research does not give much attention to the inherent challenges in occupations dominated by women. What are the consequences of the close relationships that women often develop with patients, and of the violence they may face in dementia care?’

One hypothesis is a woman’s dual roles, as both wage earner and the person in charge of her household, can explain the high incidence of burnout and sick leave among women.
Osborg Ose says that the hypothesis needs to be tested separately for each social group. The women with the lowest incomes have less opportunity to reduce their workload by working part time.

She also points out that women have strong incentives to transfer to male-dominated occupations, whereas men do not have any incentives at all to switch to fields typically dominated by women. Osborg Ose warns that importing cheap labour in care-related sectors may reduce the status of these jobs even further and increase the social inequalities among Nordic women.

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Research programme on gender equality in academia http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-research-programme-focuses-on-gender-equality-in-academia/ The Nordic countries have had gender equality in academia on their to-do lists since the 1970s. But it has not turned out to be a quick fix. According to the Nordic Council of Ministers’ report The Nordic Region – a Step Closer to Gender Balance in Research? (2013), nearly 80 per cent of all professors in the Nordic countries are men. The greatest imbalances can be found in the natural sciences and technology.

Lotta Strandberg

Lotta Strandberg

‘The report suggests that the reasons for this should be explored. That’s the background to the new research programme,’ says Lotta Strandberg, senior adviser at NordForsk.
The new research programme, Gender in the Nordic Research and Innovation Area, is a collaboration between NordForsk, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The purpose is to find out why the area of research and innovation has not followed the trend towards a gender-equal society and identify the measures needed to solve this problem.

Nordic researchers collaborate

‘There’s a focus on finding solutions. How can we make the academic world more gender equal? A more diversified research community will generate more diversified perspectives, more ways to look at things, so it’s important to have both women and men in leading positions,’ says Strandberg.
The idea is to encourage Nordic cooperation around these issues. Consequently, the research projects must consist of researchers from at least three Nordic countries. Only researchers from the countries funding the programme – Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – are eligible to apply, but researchers from other countries are also welcome to participate in the projects. The application deadline is 27 April 2016 and the maximum grant amount is NOK 25 million.

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Women are leaving Greenland http://www.nikk.no/en/news/women-leaving-greenland/ Foto: Susanne Walström

Carl och Qannaquaq Jakobsen.
Foto: Susanne Walström

Disko Bay on Greenland’s west coast is littered with thousands of icebergs. We are about 250 km north of the Arctic Circle in Ilulissat, a town of about 4 500 people. A retired sailor, Karl Lindeman, is sitting on a bench in the sun. He has worked at sea for most of his life and was the first Greenlander to reach the South Pole. For a while, he was married to a woman from Finland. Today he lives alone.
‘I like to go fishing in my boat, or hunt Canada geese somewhere. IIulissat is a great place,’ says Lindeman.
He is sorry so many women are leaving Greenland.
‘We’re not that many people here, so it’s sad to see the young women move away. I wish they would stay. Everything is so expensive in Greenland since the population is so small.’
Qannaquaq Jakobsen, 19, and his father, Carl Jakobsen, also live in Ilulissat. They went seal hunting this morning. Qannaquaq spends a lot of time out on the water with his dad. He has no concrete plans for the future, but says he wants to keep fishing.
‘I’m going to stay here. Right now I’m single, but I don’t think it will be too hard to find a girl.’

Migration patterns linked to gender

Greenland became a Danish colony in the 18th century and was integrated into the so-called Danish Realm in the 1950s. The labour immigration from Denmark took off around this time, when large numbers of primarily men moved to the island to develop and modernise it. Those who returned to Denmark were often accompanied by a Greenlandic woman, and this migration pattern remains to this day. The smaller Greenlandic communities are very much centred around traditionally male-oriented occupations such as hunting and fishing. Vast distances and lack of infrastructure make it difficult to offer all citizens the services they may want. Those who dream of a different life move away. And when people move away to get an education, women in particular tend to never return. Researchers at the Centre for Equality, Diversity and Gender (EDGE) at Aalborg University in Denmark have written a cross-Nordic report on the theme of Nordic sparsely populated areas at the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
‘There’s clearly a gender factor in this type of migration. Women and men face different expectations when it comes to education and migration patterns,’ says Stine Thindemann Faber, gender researcher.
According to EDGE’s report, young men generally have a stronger connection to their home region and appreciate the activities offered there. In contrast, women tend to think there are more opportunities for them in the cities.

Expensive and difficult to find housing

Camilla Lennert Kleeman is 28 years old and a student at the university in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. She thinks there are several reasons why woman are leaving Greenland and never return. One is the limited opportunities to get an education.
‘Another reason is that it’s so difficult and expensive to find housing here, and there are long waiting lists for childcare. These are things that make it difficult to return to Greenland with a family.’
She says that it is often easier for people from other countries to find housing and childcare. Students also get special treatment, since the government wants to encourage higher education.
Niviaq Korneliussen, author from Greenland, mentions additional reasons why women move away: everything is expensive and there is a lack of qualified jobs. She says that Greenland must become more attractive to educated women.
‘We need to reduce the costs and create more opportunities for cultural workers. Right now it’s too difficult to find something to do if you have a special interest. For example, I’m having problems finding book readings and events for writers.’

Politicians want to attract mining companies

Martha Lund Olsen, Greenland’s gender equality minister, points out that women have higher levels of education than men in today’s Greenland. An increasing number of women hold leading positions in society. Yet many highly educated women move away due to a lack of qualified jobs.
‘We’re trying to create new job opportunities in Greenland by attracting mining and oil companies, as they could be a good match for our well-educated women.’
She says that foreign investors and new job opportunities also would add important revenue to the state finances, which currently are in deficit. The money is needed for the construction of new homes. Greenland does not have any private real estate developers. Instead, this has been the responsibility of the government over the last 60 years. Building is expensive, not least because building materials like wood products have to be imported. Normal people just don’t have enough money.
‘There is a bad housing shortage for people who would like to move here. Many Greenlanders are on long waiting lists for a place to rent.’

A more tolerant Greenland

Research shows that the women often perceive the gender roles to be more modern in the cities than in the more rural areas. It has not been determined whether this is a reason Greenlandic women are choosing to leave the island. But urban life tends to offers better opportunities to escape the traditional gender norms, which historically have been strongly rooted in Greenlandic society. Men have been hunters and women have been homemakers. The social control has been very strong, and so has the heteronorm. However, this has started to change in recent years. Pride festivals have drawn thousands of people into the streets. In May this year, Greenland’s parliament unanimously passed a gender-neutral marriage law. Nuka Bisgaard, Greenland’s only official transgender person, has arranged several pride festivals in Nuuk. She attributes the popularity of the events to people’s curiosity.

 Asii Chemnitz Narup

Asii Chemnitz Narup
Foto: Susanne Walström

‘I think people in Greenland want to live modern lives and make room for new things.’
Bisgaard has also toured Greenland’s coastline as a drag queen, to help create a more tolerant Greenland. A documentary about Bisgaard’s life premiered last spring. Many people in Greenland have reacted to the film and Bisgaard’s drag show. Especially men seem eager to share their views.
‘It seems like I have opened some kind of door. My show has shown that people can be different, and that triggers many thoughts,’ says Bisgaard.
Also Nuuk’s mayor, Asii Chemnitz Narup, is engaged in LGBT issues. According to Chemnitz Narup, the LGBT movement is about creating a society where everybody has a place regardless of gender and sexual orientation.
‘We’re right now transitioning from being a fishing community to being a modern society. Those who study abroad and return home have a more global outlook on things. I want Greenlandic society to be tolerant, a place where we can all live together,’ says Chemnitz Narup.

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FOOTNOTE: The urbanisation trend, where a high proportion of young Nordic women leave rural areas to study at a university in a larger city, was a prioritised theme during the Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2015. An expert conference on migration patterns and other conditions in sparsely populated Nordic areas was held in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, in June. Possible solutions were discussed, and best practises compiled from the conference will be disseminated in 2016.]]>
New call for applications for gender equality cooperation http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-call-applications-gender-equality-cooperation/ stodordning

In March 2016, NIKK will once again invite interested organisations to apply for funding for Nordic cooperation in the area of gender equality. A total of DDK 2.7 million will be distributed to approved projects.

The funding scheme was initiated by the Nordic gender equality ministers to stimulate Nordic cooperation within the framework of their cooperation programme and the priorities therein.

As in previous years, at least three Nordic countries must be involved in each application. The funding can be used to arrange for example conferences, meetings, knowledge projects and networks. The activities must begin in autumn 2016 and be completed before the end of 2017.

Applications are to be sent in by a webform which will be accessed online during this period.

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We will be back in 2016 http://www.nikk.no/en/news/we-will-be-back-in-2016/ NIKK_logo_pms_liggande-tomte
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Glædelig jul og e Godt Nytår
Hyvää Joulua or Hauskaa Joulua – Onnellista uutta vuotta
Gleðileg Jól og Farsælt Komandi ár
God jul og Godt Nyttår
God jul och ett gott nytt år

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More than half of the Faroese women work part time http://www.nikk.no/en/news/more-than-half-of-the-faroese-women-work-part-time/ Erika Hayfield. Pressbild

Erika Hayfield. Pressbild

In 2012, the Nordic Council of Ministers commissioned Nordic Information on Gender to coordinate a project called Part-Time Work in the Nordic Region. The ambition has been to contribute with analyses and develop new knowledge about part-time work.
To date, the project has yielded two reports and two follow-up conferences. However, the published reports have not covered the Nordic autonomous regions. Thus, a third report focusing on the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland is now underway. Dr Hayfield, assistant professor in social sciences at the University of the Faroe Islands, is leading the efforts.
Tell me about the work. What are you up to?
‘We’re taking a close look at part-time work in these areas. We spend most of the time collecting information, mapping data and compiling previous research. We’re also conducting our own smaller study, with three focus groups comprising Faroese women who have been interviewed about why they have chosen to work part time.’
How common is part-time work in the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland?
‘More than 50 per cent of Faroese women work part time. One likely reason, among others, for this is that many men leave home for extended periods to work in the fishing and offshore oil industries. They may for example be gone for two weeks at a time to work in Norway. In the meantime, the women have to manage their homes and children alone. We still don’t know what the situation looks like in Greenland and Åland, but the labour markets clearly have many differences.’
Which aspects of part-time work are you studying?
‘We’re approaching the issue from a structural, cultural and individual perspective. To what extent do cultural factors, such as the view of gender roles, affect the part-time work patterns? How are cultural factors interacting with the structures of the welfare systems, such as the design of child-care services? Faroese dads only get two weeks of parental leave, which signals that their government does not actively encourage men to take care of their children.’
What’s the biggest challenge in the project?
‘Very little research has been done on the interaction between cultural and structural factors. Something as simple as finding out how many people work part time in Greenland and Åland turned out to be difficult at first. But now we have received great support from Nordregio. They are giving us some useful data. We’re very pleased with the initiative to the study. Living on islands in the middle of an ocean implies a very unique situation that needs to be studied.’

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Male Dominance Remains after Recent Nordic Elections http://www.nikk.no/en/news/male-dominance-remains-after-recent-nordic-elections/ Mia Hanström. Press photo

Mia Hanström. Press photo

The elections in Åland, held on 18 October, resulted in a parliament consisting of 20 men and 10 women.
‘It’s a bit better than in the past, but it isn’t good,’ says Mia Hanström, head of Feministparaplyet – a feminist umbrella network.
The Liberals won the most votes in Åland and formed a government with the Social Democrats and the Moderate Coalition. Three of the new ministers are women and four are men.
Hanström’s network pushed the issue of female representation in politics throughout the election campaign. Most parties presented fairly gender-balanced electoral lists. The most male-dominated parties were Ålandic Democracy and the Non-aligned Coalition, both of which belong on the right wing.

Hanström points out that many countries have laws mandating gender-equal electoral lists.
‘I believe such laws should be discussed as a possible solution here as well. That would put pressure on the parties that are still struggling with the gender issue,’ she says.
Gender-balanced electoral lists are an important step but will not solve the whole problem, Hanström continues.
‘We need to make more women visible in politics and change the image of politicians being male by default,’ she says.
Around the same time as Åland held its general elections, Norway held its municipal elections. About 38 per cent of Norway’s newly appointed municipal politicians are women.

Better gender balance in the Faroese cabinet

The female representation in the Faroese cabinet increased dramatically after the general elections held 1 September. Four of the eight appointed ministers are women, whereas the previous cabinet consisted of one woman and seven men.
‘This is a big leap forward for gender equality in the Faroe Islands. This is the first time ever that 50 per cent of the cabinet members are women,’ says Erika Hayfield, assistant professor in social sciences at the University of the Faroe Islands.

The Social Democratic Party was the big winner of the election, which means that the political power moved to left on the scale. The new government coalition also includes two other parties: Republic and Progress.
‘The coalition’s gender balance looks very good in the parliament, too, as nine of its 17 representatives are women,’ says Hayfield. ‘Overall, however, the parliament remains heavily male dominated – 22 of the 33 members are men.’

Male dominance in Norwegian municipal councils

Ingrid Guldvik. Press photo

Ingrid Guldvik. Press photo

Norway’s municipal elections were held 13–14 September. Men are in the majority also at this level. The Norwegian state broadcasting company NRK has looked at the gender distribution among politicians in 100 Norwegian municipalities. Their review shows that the share of women in the municipal councils is on average 38 per cent – the same as after the elections in 2007 and 2011.
‘The development has stalled in the last 15 years,’ says Ingrid Guldvik, professor of political science at Lillehammer University College.
The male dominance in Norwegian municipality councils is particularly noticeable at the higher levels. Over 70 per cent of all heads of municipal governments are men, writes the weekly magazine Kommunal rapport. Ingrid Guldvik believes that the political parties have an important responsibility to break the pattern.
‘If they want change by the next elections, they need to start now. They need to promote and support women in their organisations. Women and men should have the same opportunities to form and influence society, and that’s not the case in Norway today,’ she says.

Non-issue in Norge

According to Guldvik, there is a notion that women and men already have equal political power in the Nordic countries, and this makes people and organisations less interested in the issue.
‘The debate never really heats up in Norway. I think we need more discussion,’ she says.
The same is true for Åland, says Mia Hanström. During the election campaign, Åland’s feminist umbrella network tried to bring attention to the need for both more women and more feminism in politics. They for example asked all feminist politicians to answer a survey that later was published on the organisation’s website. More women in political power positions does not automatically lead to more feminist policymaking, but the lived experience is important, according to Hanström.
‘We need more women in politics in the same way as we need politicians from both urban and rural areas.’

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Tidskriften Lambda Nordica firar 20 år http://www.nikk.no/en/news/tidskriften-lambda-nordica-firar-20-ar/ -Vi har faktiskt stora planer. I dag är de anglo-amerikanska forskarna mest synliga inom lhbtq-fältet (lesbisk-, homo-, bi- och trans, red. anm.) och deras forskningstidskrifter har kommit att bli mest tongivande. Vår ambition är att bli en europeisk motvikt till den dominansen, och vi får också fler och fler bidrag från hela Europa och även från andra delar av världen, säger Jenny Björklund, Centrum för genusvetenskap, Uppsala universitet som tillsammans med Ulrika Dahl, Genusvetenskap, Institutionen för kultur och lärande, Södertörns högskola, är chefredaktör för Lambda Nordica.

Tidigt ute med queer i Sverige

Tidskriften lambda nordica.

Första numren av tidskriften gavs ut 1989, och var då främst en kulturtidskrift med homosexualitetsforskning som inriktning. Brist på finansiering gjorde att tidskriften tvingades ta uppehåll fram till 1995 när Lambda Nordica fick medel från Amundsons fond, som administreras av Kungliga vetenskapsakademien. Tidskriften har sedan dess gradvis blivit mer akademiskt inriktad och kommit ut med två nummer och ett dubbelnummer per år. Även trans- och queerperspektiv har blivit centralt i tidskriften som var tidigt ute med att lansera begreppet queerteori i Sverige, i ett dubbelnummer 1996. – Lambda Nordica har betytt oerhört mycket för forskningsfältet. Det har länge varit den enda nordiska tidskriften för ett fält som har vuxit explosionsartat de senaste tio åren, säger Jenny Björklund. – Det är den enda regelbundet peer-reviewed vetenskapliga tidskriften om lhbtq i Norden. Vi hoppas kunna fortsätta att stärka tidskriften och ha aktuella nummer med de frågor som diskuteras nationellt och internationellt. Vi har jobbat hårt för att bredda Lambda nordica och göra den internationellt intressant, säger Ulrika Dahl.

Abstracts från hela världen

De senaste åren har frågor om trans och homonormativitet fått mycket utrymme på forskningsfältet lhbtq, men också frågor som rör nation och migration. – Vi har nyligen haft två stora utlysningar. En för ett nummer om historia och temporalitet och en om queera, postkoloniala Europa. Det pågår mycket forskning på dessa teman just nu. Tid, historieskrivning och minne är centrala frågor för queerteoretisk utveckling. Samtidigt är frågan om homonationalism och hur lhbtq-frågor på olika sätt hänger ihop med europeisk internationell politik, utvecklingspolitik och migration högaktuella i vår tid. Vi har fått massor av abstracts från hela världen, säger Ulrika Dahl. Redaktionen värnar om att erbjuda juniora forskare att skriva och vill hjälpa till att etablera fältet. – Vi arbetar aktivt för att rekrytera skribenter. Det kommer allt fler avhandlingar, och det är i hög utsträckning doktorander och juniora forskare som kommer med nya perspektiv och ny empiri. Samtidigt är utmaningarna för fältet desamma som för hela genusforskningsfältet: det behövs mer finansiering för forskarutbildning och finansiering av forskning, säger Ulrika Dahl och påpekar att även kraven på var forskare ska publicera sig, och hur artiklar ska skrivas ökat.

Meriteringssystem bygger på ideellt arbete

Hög kvalitet mycket engagemang från redaktion och från forskare som redaktionen värvar åt att granska andras forskningsartiklar. För att nuvarande system för att meritera sig som forskare ska fungera, behövs bättre villkor för att arbeta med tidskrifter, anser Ulrika Dahl. – Vi förväntas publicera på ett visst sätt, men infrastrukturen för att göra det är undermålig. Vi bygger vår definition av vetenskaplig excellens på peer-review, men det finns ingen tid för det, utan det ska ske på frivillig basis. Det är roligt, spännande, och viktigt arbete, men på sikt måste det här systemet göras om för det kommer inte att fungera annars, säger Ulrika Dahl. Lambda Nordica ägs av en förening och har i dag tidskriftsstöd från Vetenskapsrådet. Den publiceras på engelska, är sakkunniggranskad (peer review) och läggs ut i sin helhet på nätet med open access, det vill säga fri tillgång till artiklarna, men går också att prenumerera på i pappersform.

 

Den nordiska tidskriften Lambda Nordica fyller 20 år. Vi frågade några av de genusforskare i Norden som har följt Lambda Nordicas utveckling, om vad tidskriften betyder och har betytt för dem och för lhbtq-forskningen i Norden.

 

Michael Nebeling Petersen

Michael Nebeling Petersen, adjunkt, Institut for Kulturvidenskaber, Syddansk universitet. Även om lhbtq-forskningen är tätt sammanvävd med genusforskningen, så är det otroligt viktigt för ett forskningsfält att ha en tidskrift. Lhbtq-forskningen är spridd över många universitet och institut över hela Norden, och trods Lambda Nordicas tyngdpunkt i Sverige, så har tidskriften fungerat som en samlande tidskrift för hela Norden, där både studenter och forskare har kunnat läsa om den aktuella forskningen, men också själva publicera, och därmed delta i, den vetenskapliga dialogen och debatten.

 

Tiina RosenbergTiina Rosenberg, professor i teatervetenskap, Institutionen för kultur och estetik, Stockholms universitet. Lambda Nordica är en viktig introduktör av hbtq-forskning i Norden. I Lambda Nordica har såväl unga forskare som mer etablerade akademiker möjlighet att presentera sin forskning och diskutera centrala frågor inom detta spännande forskningsområde. Det är glädjande att Lambda Nordicas artiklar numera finns tillgängliga på nätet. På så sätt finns det en enastående möjlighet att blicka både bakåt och framåt i nordiska hbtq-studier och få en uppfattning om hur forskningsfältet utvecklats. Det är också glädjande att så många yngre forskare intresserar sig för hbtq-studier och har möjlighet att hämta inspiration från tidigare nummer av Lambda Nordica.

 

Elisabeth Lund EngebretsenElisabeth Lund Engebretsen, lektor, Centrum för genusforskning, Universitetet i Oslo För mig har tidskriften Lambda Nordica en unikt positionerad röst och perspektiv på tvärvetenskaplig, gränsöverskridande genus-, queer- och sexualitetsforskning och forskningsaktivism. Lambda Nordica´s arbete att relativisera det hegemoniskt engelskspråkiga och Nordamerikanskt centrerade teoribyggandet och dess aktuella politik kring citerings-praktik´är oerhört viktigt. Lokaliserad i norra Europa har den en unik geografisk, politisk och begreppsmässig hemvist, med betoning på det nordiska men också med ett specifikt nordiskt queerperspektiv. Jag tror Lambda Nordica i den meningen skapar en mycket speciell queer härkomst för ett arbete som är akut viktigt i den transnationella arenan för queer forskning och aktivism i dag. På ett personligt plan har jag varit mycket imponerad av den redaktionella kvaliteten på interaktionen med författare och dess mycket engagerade återkoppling och copyredaktionella stöd – detta är ganska ovanligt i den moderna förlagsbranschen.

 

Jens RydströmJens Rydström, professor, Institutionen för genusvetenskap, Lunds universitet. När jag i början på 2000-talet skulle leta litteratur för en kurs om hbtq i historien, visade det sig att Lambda Nordica var en rik källa att ösa ur. Sen dess har tidskriften utvecklats och blivit ett av de viktigaste forumen i Europa för teoretisk debatt och empiriska undersökningar om queerteori och olika aspekter av genus, sexualitet och intersektionalitet. Utan Lambda Nordica är det svårt att tänka sig att den nordiska queerforskningen hade legat så långt framme internationellt som den gör.

Antu SorainenAntu Sorainen, docent, Institutionen för filosofi, historia, kultur- och konstforskning, Helsingfors universitet. Lambda Nordica har bidragit till att komma över den minnesförlust som skymde historiska data och teoretiserande om queer sexualitet i de nordiska länderna. Genom tvärvetenskapliga diskussioner om data från antropologi, sociologi, historia, konst och filosofi hjälpte tidskriften till att bygga upp e-postlistan Nordiska Queer Studier, tillsammans med sin yngre kusin SQS, Tidskrift för queerforskning i Finland. Vi behöver de här tidskrifterna eftersom fältet lider av en brist på institutionellt stöd. Lambda Nordica är en ljus blip i vår radar när den statliga åtstramningspolitiken slår mot våra universitet, och det är svårt att se någon omedelbar förbättring av situationen.Vår viktigaste bundsförvant, genusvetenskapen, och mer allmänt, humaniora och samhällsvetenskap kämpar för livet. I denna situatione kan Lambda Nordica inte prisas nog för dess historiska framgångar i att bygga fältet och för dess kontinuerliga betydelse för att ge en avgörande plats åt (queerad) social rättvisa i Norden.

 

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Wide Range of Nordic Cooperation Projects http://www.nikk.no/en/news/wide-range-nordic-cooperation-projects/ StödordningOnce a year, Nordic Information on Gender allocates money to Nordic gender equality projects on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The so-called Nordic funding scheme was initiated by the Nordic gender equality ministers with an aim to stimulate Nordic cooperation in the area.
A wide range of projects were granted funding this year. The project Nordic Gender Equality Policy in a Europeanisation Perspective, coordinated by the Norwegian Centre for Gender and Equality at the University of Agder, will explore to what extent the Nordic countries have served as exporters of gender equality policy since the 1990s, as well as how much they have had to adapt to international decisions in the same period.
Project Ad Watch is an initiative against sexist advertising launched by the Swedish Women’s Lobby in 2013. The plan is to introduce the campaign also in the other Nordic countries, and to carry out a review of Nordic legislation against sexist advertising. The aim is to present suggestions for improvements of regulations and implementations to Nordic ministers.
The Nordic expert conference on violence among young couples is another project that has been granted funding. The conference will be arranged in Oslo in April by Reform – Resource Centre for Men in Norway in cooperation with partner organisations in Finland, Denmark and Sweden. The aim with the conference is to develop recommendations, guidelines and other material that can be used by organisations and authorities across the Nordic region.

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Teaching Preschool Workers to Analyse Gender Norms in Children’s Books http://www.nikk.no/en/news/teaching-preschool-workers-to-analyse-gender-norms-in-childrens-books/ Anne Winsnes Rødland

Reform, The Norweigen resource centre for men, has launched a new website – genustest.no – to help preschool workers in the Nordic region analyse gender in children’s literature. Do the books promote gender equality? Or do they reinforce destructive gender stereotypes?]]>
‘Everybody knows that Pippi, Albert Åberg, Gummi-Tarzan and the Moomintroll like to challenge traditional gender norms. Far fewer people are aware of subsequent writers and illustrators who have followed in the equality-pioneering footsteps,’ says Ole B. Nordfjell, senior adviser at Reform – Resource Centre for Men.
The new website genustest.no is aiming to change that.
Reform has developed the website at the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers, and the goal is for all preschool workers in the Nordic region to use it. The website provides tools for analysing whether picture books are reinforcing or challenging traditional gender norms. It also provides tools for evaluating the level of diversity in preschool bookshelves.
‘Students and preschool workers should actively consider the values regarding gender and diversity that literature, language and stories contribute to. The website offers concrete advice and we would like for people to use it as part of an active approach to literature in the preschool setting,’ says Nordfjell.
‘The hope is that new generations of kids will find that picture books are both good literature and good in an equality perspective,’ he adds.

 

Who is cleaning? Who is talking?

Nordfjell has written the texts with the support of literature and gender researcher Mia Österlund from Åbo Akademi University in Finland.
‘To be able to analyse the picture books you need to be visually literate, you must be able to read images,’ explains Österlund.
‘Children are often good at that. They look at the pictures while adults read the texts. But adults should also be able to read the pictures in a book and see how kids and adults are portrayed.’
Österlund says that pictures can tell a lot about the interaction between women and men, girls and boys.
‘Who does what? Who is cleaning? Who is allowed to do something? Who is not allowed? Who is talking? Who is silent? This has to do with power relations,’ says Österlund.
It is well known that picture books can create quite a stir, in particular when they portray something that violates a norm.
‘We have for example seen that picture books showing boys dressed in skirts can spark a lot of debate,’ says Österlund.
She points out that being critical of norms does not mean that one must violate all norms. The idea is to have a conscious and critical approach to the norms presented in the books.

 

Six analytical strategies

All content of genustest.no is based on research – gender research, picture book research and literature research.
‘Our aim is to spread knowledge about how to read picture books and how they express and communicate gender,’ Österlund explains.
The website presents six analytical strategies that together can give teachers an idea of whether a certain picture book contributes to increased equality or has the opposite effect.

Ole Nordfjell (Photo: Reform - ressurssenter for menn)

Ole Nordfjell (Photo: Reform – ressurssenter for menn)

The first strategy – the Teller – asks the question: What gender does the main character and the subordinate characters have?
The next strategy is called the Norm Critic. Here the focus is on gender patterns displayed in the book. Although the analysis is centred around gender, the norm critical analysis includes an intersectional perspective. This means that it also considers factors such as ethnicity, class, age, disability, sexuality, gender and looks at how they interact.
The Picture Reader explores how images contribute to the book’s expression of gender and asks for example what colours are used in the book. Pink? Light blue? Black? Is the protagonist depicted with an expressive face? Do the images suggest that the book targets primarily boys or girls?
The strategy called the Queering Researcher focuses on whether there is anything unusual about gender, love and family life presented in the book and asks what these mismatches and ambiguities mean.
The Child Researcher asks the children what they think. By reading to them and talking about the book, the Child Researcher examines how children understand gender patterns. What impressions does the book give of what it means to be a boy or girl?
The last strategy, the Fortune Teller, looks at how gender patterns in the family and society are evolving and approaches the picture book in a broader context. Does the book say anything about what it is like to grow up as a boy or girl in today’s society?

 

Adults too can learn from children’s books

Österlund points out that although we are talking about picture books designed for children, the books can also be of interest to adults.
‘Picture books can offer interesting commentary on the adult world. Actually, you can find some of the most valuable commentary on parenthood in these books, as the interaction between children and adults is a frequent theme.’

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New Statistics Database for Nordic Gender Equality http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-statistics-database-for-nordic-gender-equality/ Dagfinn Høybråten. Press photo

Dagfinn Høybråten. Press photo

Now anybody can go to www.norden.org/jamstalldhet and find statistics on how money and power, paid and unpaid work, suicide and smoking are distributed between women and men in the five Nordic countries and the three autonomous provinces Åland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

The statistics show for example that men are overrepresented in the labour force in all included countries and provinces, with only one exception: Åland. They also reveal that Iceland has the highest proportion of female managers, that Finnish children spend the least amount of time in day care and that Swedish men spend more time performing unpaid household labour than other Nordic males.

 

Gender equality data to serve Nordic policy makers

Commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Nordic national statistics offices have worked together for over a year to be able to present a large number of comparative statistics. The purpose of the initiative is partly to give Nordic policy makers access to the best possible gender equality data and partly to disseminate information about Nordic gender equality to other countries.

‘The Nordic countries are forerunners in the area of gender equality. But we’re still not where we want to be. Important differences remain between the countries and there is plenty of room for improvement in all areas covered by the statistics. It is therefore important that this information is made accessible. The Nordic countries need to compare themselves with each other in order to learn where and how further progress can be made,’ says Dagfinn Höybråten, secretary general of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

The Nordic countries compared to EU

The subject headings include demographics, health, education, income and power.

Compared with other international gender equality databases, the Nordic one boasts more recent data and more comparative indicators.

Some of the indicators compare the Nordic countries with an EU average. For example, the numbers show that the income gap between male and female retirees is larger in the Nordic countries than in the rest of the EU. The reason for this is that Nordic women are more likely to live alone.

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Nordic Countries Join Forces Against Online Hate Speech http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-countries-join-forces-against-online-hate-speech/ panel

The expert panel.

Hate speech, threats and sexism on the internet is a widespread yet largely unexplored problem. What does the situation look like in the Nordic region? How can it be dealt with? These questions were discussed at the seminar hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers, which drew about 60 participants from the Nordic and Baltic regions. Emma Holten, Danish lecturer and gender equality activist, served on the expert panel. She says we must stop viewing the internet and reality as two separate arenas.

‘The struggle against online hate speech has to become more integrated. The whole approach has to change. We need to develop training on internet rights, and we have to link these rights to other rights people have outside the internet,’ she says.

One issue discussed at the expert seminar was legislation regarding online hate speech in the Nordic countries. It became clear that the national legislations need to be upgraded. Holten believes that the Nordic countries have a good potential to become leaders in the area.

‘Governments can regulate the sale of alcohol and should be able to do the same thing with pornography. There should be a license for providers of harmful material.’

The research presented at the conference shows that women are more likely than men to become targets of hate speech of sexual or sexist nature, and young women and girls are particularly vulnerable. Holten thinks this may be a reason not much is being done to combat the problem.

‘I think the debate would be very different if the primary victims were white, middle-aged men.’

 

Important with an intersectional perspective

Ingrid Aspelund

Ingrid Aspelund

Several good examples of what the work against online hate speech and sexism looks like in the Nordic countries were presented at the seminar. Ingrid Aspelund is active in the Norwegian variant of the No Hate Speech Movement, which is a European campaign encouraging young people to act via social media for example by taking over and turning hate campaigns around in comment fields.

‘If somebody sees a hateful comment online, he or she can go to our Facebook page and ask us about a good way to deal with it. Then we figure out a good strategy and implement it together,’ says Aspelund.

She says that the project has drawn a lot of attention in Norway and has managed to put the issue on the agenda. Trainings for actors already involved in work related to gender equality and racism have also been arranged.

‘It is important to make these organisations aware of what’s going on online, so they can integrate what they learn in their own work,’ says Aspelund.

She also emphasises the importance of applying an intersectional perspective in the discussion on hate speech and sexism on the internet. The Norwegian campaign has for example shed light on online hate speech targeting individual with disabilities.

‘The intersectional perspective is essential in my opinion. It’s a complex world. A woman with a migrant background gets treated differently online than a white woman like me.’

 

New form of violence against women

Icelandic author and activist Thordis Elva Thorvaldsdottir was also part of the expert panel at the seminar. In her home country, she is known for her work against so-called revenge pornography. Revenge pornography occurs when nude pictures and videos of women are spread on the internet without the exposed person´s consent. The perpetrators are often ex-boyfriends who want to discredit their ex-girlfriends, but images that are spread can also be the result of hacking, extortion or falsified images made in photoshop. Thorvaldsdottir points to the importance of understanding who is to blame in cases of revenge porn.

Thordis Elva Thorvaldsdottir

Thordis Elva Thorvaldsdottir

‘It is not unusual for young people to send nude pictures as a way of flirting with each other. Since adults don’t understand this, they often think the women are at fault and wonder why they have taken the pictures. But it is the men who should be held responsible for spreading the pictures without the women’s consent.’

Thorvaldsdottir has written a book about gender-related violence in Iceland. She says that the public undressing of women is the new generation’s version of the violence, and likens it to pulling down a woman’s trousers in the street – with the difference being that a very large number of people can look at the woman’s naked body online for a very long time.

‘I think it’s important to address these issues in school, as part of sex ed. Today in school they talk about using condoms, but a safe sex life on the internet seems to require totally different measures, like a virtual condom,’ she says.

 

Conclusions will lead to action

The expert seminar against online hate speech was arranged by Denmark, which currently holds the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The conclusions of the event will be compiled in a report, which in turn will inform decisions in the Council of Ministers regarding joint Nordic measures.  Kira Appel, Chairman of the Ministers’ Committee of Senior Officials, believes that the conference shows that the Nordic countries share similar challenges.

– It is clear that there are good opportunities to use and benefit from each other’s specific experiences and projects across the Nordic region. We must build on the work already done. The Nordic exchange of knowledge is crucial for future actions, says Kira Appel.

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New Nordic teaching material will learn students about women´s rights http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-nordic-teaching-material-will-learn-students-about-womens-rights/ NIKK spade symbolThe site is separated into 12 themes, such as work and equal pay, education, violence, media, peace and security and sustainable development. Everything is presented in a gender equality perspective. The teaching material has been developed within the framework of “A Gender Equal Nordic Region”, which is a project run by three organisations from Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. The idea is that teachers in various subject areas should be able to use the material, and that it will inspire students to get involved in these issues.

‘Icelandic schools don’t have any textbooks that deal with women’s rights and gender equality issues. This type of material is a good thing,’ says Vilhjálmsdóttir, who has been part of the project working group.

The Nordic countries have chosen somewhat different paths when it comes to teaching gender equality in schools. When Vilhjálmsdóttir started working as a teacher, she designed a course in gender and gender equality. It became very popular. After a few years, she was asked to train other teachers to enable them to offer the course at their schools.

‘Twenty-five of Iceland’s 33 upper-secondary schools are offering the course at the moment. It has sparked a lot of interest among the students. Feminist clubs have popped up at several schools!’

 

Advantages with electronic platform

Hanna Björg. Press photo.

Hanna Björg. Press photo.

The Icelandic gender equality course puts a strong focus on discussion and active participation. Everything from pornography and prostitution to labour market issues and politics is addressed and analysed from a gender power perspective. Vilhjálmsdóttir sees the new online teaching material as a useful complement.

In Iceland and Sweden, schools are required by law to teach gender equality in schools. The Danish national education act lacks a similar provision, which means that teachers are not required to address these issues.

‘I think relatively few teachers are teaching this stuff. Most of them probably already have a personal interest in gender equality issues,’ says Lise Bæk Vestermark, upper-secondary teacher in Roskilde and also member of the working group.

She likes that the website covers women’s rights in a wide range of areas. This enables teachers to choose whatever issue they want to talk to their students about.

‘One advantage with an electronic platform is that it lets you click on links to access new research or other continuously updated material. This way the content never becomes old and obsolete,’ says Bæk Vestermark.

 

Women´s Convention relatively unknown

The project behind the website came about after the Nordic Forum in Malmö 2014. According to Stéphanie Thögersen, project leader, many young people who attended the event showed a lot of interest and engagement in gender equality issues – something the project wanted to keep building on.

She says that schools and the public lack important knowledge about the UN Women’s Convention and the Beijing Platform for Action.

‘Most people have heard about the Children’s Convention, but the Women’s Convention remains relatively unknown. Feminist engagement gets even more effective when young people learn about their rights and how they can let this knowledge guide their efforts,’ says Thögersen.

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Abortion Hot Topic in Nordic Countries http://www.nikk.no/en/news/abortion-hot-topic-nordic-countries/ At the first parliamentary hearing, held in mid-October, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timo Soini from the Finns Party declared that he is against abortion. Miina Keski-Petäjä, abortion researcher at University of Helsinki, is critical to the suggestion that healthcare workers should be able to refuse participating in abortions.

Miina Keski-Petäjä, abortion researcher at University of Helsinki

Miina Keski-Petäjä, abortion researcher at University of Helsinki. Press photo

‘I think it’s problematic that patients may encounter healthcare workers who don’t accept their decision. This may make an already difficult situation even harder,’ she says.
She also believes that the proposed policy may lead to increased inequality in healthcare.
‘The policy may cause problems in conservative rural areas, where the nearest hospital might be far away,’ she says.

Norwegian doctor Johanne Sundby confirms Keski-Petäjä’s concerns. In Norway, abortions are performed by doctors, who have the right to refuse the procedure. This may cause problems in communities with few doctors and midwives, she says. All clinics are required by law to offer all the care people are entitled to, including both the actual abortion and the aftercare, but this may be a challenge in some small communities, according to Sundby.
The freedom of conscience clause in the Norwegian abortion legislation applies to the actual abortion procedure, but some people want to expand it to include also other tasks and professional groups. For example, there are general practitioners who don’t want to refer patients to clinics where they can get an abortion.

Johanne Sundby, Norwegian doctor.

Johanne Sundby, Norwegian doctor. Press photo

All doctors should be required to provide the care patients are entitled to. The patients shouldn’t have to risk facing healthcare workers who make them feel guilty,’ says Sundby.

Swedish healthcare workers cannot refuse carrying out abortions, but the issue is debated intensely, just as in Finland. Two midwives have sued their respective employers after being denied employment due to their refusal to perform abortions. The first decision is expected in November.

Broad support for abortion force opponents to seek new paths

Lena Lennerhed, professor of history of ideas at Södertörn University, sees the focus on freedom of conscience as a conscious strategic move by abortion opponents in Sweden.
‘There is broad support for the right to abortion. They won’t get anywhere by saying they are against abortion, so they choose this path instead. This is how the resistance to abortions is carried out at the moment,’ she says.
The laws regulating the right to abortion vary across the Nordic region. In Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Greenland, pregnant woman are free to decide to have an abortion up to the 18th and 12th week of pregnancy, respectively. In the Faroe Islands, Åland, Iceland and Finland, certain medical or social criteria have to be met for an abortion to be performed. However, it is hard to say how relevant these requirements are in practice. In Finland, all requests for an abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy are approved, but the simple fact that a formal evaluation has to be made does make a noticeable difference, says Lennerhed.
‘Although in practice women get to decide up to week 12, somebody else has to give a formal approval. This is a clear signal that it is not the pregnant woman’s own choice,’ she says.

Lena Lennerhed, professor of history of ideas at Södertörn University

Lena Lennerhed, professor of history of ideas at Södertörn University. Press photo

In a Nordic context, the resistance against abortions has historically been particularly strong in Norway, and Sundby believes this is still the case. The right of Norwegian women to request an abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy is widely supported, but attempts to extend the limit to the 16th week have failed.
‘There’s an ongoing public discussion about whether abortions should be made more difficult to get. I see this as a step backwards. Abortion is portrayed as a moral issue for the pregnant woman rather than as the legal right it actually is,’ she says.
Voices questioning the right to abortion are often heard in the other Nordic countries as well. Greenland has a high frequency of unwanted pregnancies compared with its Nordic neighbours, and some participants in a current media debate are saying that abortion patients should have to pay part of the costs of the procedure. Sundby is very critical of suggestions of this type.
‘I’m totally against it. It would open up for an unregulated market with cheap, dangerous abortions, as we see in poor countries,’ she says.

Abortion opposition grows stronger in economic recession

Let us return to Finland and the freedom of conscience debate. Keski-Petäjä does not think the Finnish citizen initiative will be passed in parliament, but she is afraid the debate surrounding the proposition will lead to increased resistance to abortion in some people.
‘It wouldn’t be the first time in history the resistance to abortion would grow stronger in the wake of conservative winds and economic recession. Conservative, racist and sexist ideas are becoming increasingly common in the Finnish public debate. The targets are often refugees, sexual minorities and women,’ she says.
The increased support for the Finns Party has contributed to a normalisation of these types of attitudes and arguments, says Keski-Petäjä.
‘The question is what the other parties are going to do. I wonder if they are going to stand up strongly for human rights or if they are afraid of losing voters to the Finns Party.’

Different laws in the Nordic countries

  • In Norway and Denmark, a woman can choose to have an abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy. A pregnancy can be terminated after this point only if there are acceptable medical or social reasons for such a decision.
  • In Finland, a pregnancy can be terminated until the 12th week if certain broadly defined criteria are met. If there are strong reasons to terminate a pregnancy after this point, an abortion can be performed until the 20th week. In case of foetal defects, the limit is 24 weeks.
  • Swedish women can choose to have an abortion until the 18th week of pregnancy. In Iceland, the limit is week 16, and permission for later abortions can be given if the woman’s health is at risk.
  • In Norway and Denmark, healthcare workers can refuse to participate in an abortion by referring to the freedom of conscience clause. This type of clause is being discussed also in Sweden and Finland.
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Politically Engaged Young People Are Scared http://www.nikk.no/en/news/politically-engaged-young-people-are-scared/ ‘Politically engaged young people are scared silent through online threats and sexist comments. This leads to a major democratic problem,’ says Kai Alajoki, president of the Nordic Youth Council.

foto_Eygló Harðardóttir_liten

Eygló Harðardóttir, Icelandic gender equality minister

The seminar on young people’s vulnerability to online hate speech in the Nordic countries was arranged in connection with the Nordic Youth Council’s session, which was held in Iceland this year and attracted participants from all over the Nordic region. The event was opened by Icelandic gender equality minister Eygló Harðardóttir, herself a frequent target of hate speech via emails and social media:

‘I think all politicians have experienced it. People don’t seem to understand how much pain it causes. They write things they would never say face-to-face.’

She believes it is important that politicians model proper behaviour by not responding to hatred with hatred.

‘The worst thing you can do when dealing with internet trolls is to give them a platform,’ says Harðardóttir.

Caroline Engvall, journalist and author from Sweden, argued that the justice system should work actively to contact young victims of cyber bullying, since they are unlikely to report their experiences to the police by themselves.

Norwegian researcher Helga Eggebø pointed out that a new definition of hate crime should include gender and gender identity. Sexist hate speech targets primarily young women and LGBT youth.

‘Politicians have a special responsibility’

foto_Kai Alajoki_liten

Kai Alajoki, president of the Nordic Youth Council

On Tuesday, parliamentarians and government representatives from all Nordic countries will gather in Reykjavik for the Nordic Council’s session. Kai Alajoki believes that all politicians have a responsibility to protect young people from their online vulnerability.

‘They have a special responsibility since they are largely directing the public debate. They can make sure that they themselves don’t trigger hate speech by expressing preconceived views and unfounded opinions. They should talk respectfully about all people,’ says Alajoki.

He also feels it is not reasonable that the fight against sexist hate speech has to be led by those who are targeted the most.

‘We men should get more involved and speak up against all the threats and hatred,’ says Alajoki.

FOOTNOTE: The Nordic Youth Council is a forum for Nordic political youth organisations. The seminar on young people’s vulnerability to online hate speech in the Nordic countries was arranged in connection with the Nordic Committee for Children and Young People (NORDBUK), the Nordic Committee of Senior Officials for Gender Equality (EK-JÄM) and the Nordic Committee of Senior Officials for Culture (ÄK-K).

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Rösträttskonferens lyfter dagens utmaningar http://www.nikk.no/en/news/rostrattskonferens-lyfter-dagens-utmaningar/ – Historien lär oss att envist arbete är enda vägen framåt, säger Irma Erlingsdóttir, som leder isländska Institute for Gender, Equality and Difference (RIKK). De hoppades på 200 deltagare till konferensen och gläds åt att hela 500 personer har anmält sig.

Vad beror det stora intresset på?
– Rösträtten var en av de viktigaste milstolparna på vägen mot demokrati. Det gäller den grundläggande rätten till inflytande. Vi ska glädjas åt alla de små och stora segrarna som har tagit oss hit där vi är idag och låta det bli en uppmuntran i det fortsatta arbetet.

foto_Irma Erlingsdóttir_280x421

Irma Erlingsdóttir leder isländska Institute for Gender, Equality and Difference (RIKK)

Hur är de här frågorna relevanta idag?
– Vi har nått långt, men det finns fortfarande stora utmaningar. Under konferensen kommer vi att reflektera över jämställdhet i en internationell kontext. Vi ska vi försöka peka ut de största hoten mot kvinnors politiska och sociala rättigheter idag.

Vilka hot ser du?
– Kvinnor är till exempel underrepresenterade i den politiska debatten, både i etablerade medier och på internet. Hur påverkar anonymiteten på internet kvinnor? Den frågan vi kommer att ta upp med hänsyn till att det är så vanligt med sexuella trakasserier. Vi kommer också att diskutera löneskillnaderna mellan kvinnor och män, könsrelaterat våld och hur den ekonomiska krisen bidrar till ökade klyftor.

Hur kan det här förändras?
– Det behövs politisk vilja och det behövs grupper och individer som har mod att stå upp för det demokratiska samhället. Här på Island tycker jag att det mest imponerande arbetet just nu drivs av gräsrotsrörelsen för kvinnor med normbrytande funktion. Vi har till exempel organisationen Tabu som leds av väldigt modiga kvinnor som kämpar för de mest grundläggande mänskliga rättigheterna.

Vad kan de nordiska länderna lära av varandra?
– Vi kan lära mycket, och vi har också lärt mycket av varandra genom historien. Vi har dragit nytta av varandras erfarenheter och sporrat varandra i arbetet mot jämställdhet. Island och Norden ligger långt fram på jämställdhetsområdet och vi har ett ansvar att dela de här lärdomarna med resten av världen.

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Intersectional Gender Equality Policy on Nordic Agenda http://www.nikk.no/en/news/intersectional-gender-equality-policy-on-nordic-agenda/ NIKK spade symbol‘This is a hot topic in Sweden right now,’ said Liisa Husu, professor in gender studies at Örebro University, when she opened the workshop Thursday.

The Swedish gender equality commission presented its final report earlier in the week. The commission proposes a clearer intersectional perspective in the country’s gender equality policy, and that the government should establish a national gender equality agency.
‘If this means that gender will be treated separately, it could be seen as a return from an integrated to a separating perspective. But the establishment of a national gender equality agency is at the same time a big and important step forward,’ said Sofia Strid, researcher at Centrum för feministiska samhällsstudier, Örebro University.
Strid is part of the Nordic research network that arranged the workshop. The network wants to facilitate a discussion about the increasing complexity of gender equality policy. Around 20 researchers from various Nordic countries participated in Örebro.

Johanna Kantola, gender researcher at the University of Helsinki described the situation in Finland:
‘We’re experiencing a gender equality policy crisis,’ she said.
Her statement can be interpreted as a rhetorical wink to the government. According to Kantola, various crises are precisely what the Finnish government likes to refer to when justifying cutbacks in the public sector. The financial crisis, the EU crisis and the refugee crisis are used as reasons to reduce public spending, she says. The government wants to save money for example by changing the rules for paid sick leave and lowering the extra pay for public employees working nights and holidays.
‘The only good thing happening in Finland right now is the growing opposition,’ said Kantola.
She mentioned an initiative where 88 professors are protesting publically against the cutbacks. She also described how Finnish trade unions have mobilised around the gender equality issues:
‘Many people who have never been part of the feminist movement are starting to get involved.’

Hege Skjeie, professor at the University of Oslo, described some challenges with the intersectionality perspective. Photo: Charlie Olofsson

Hege Skjeie, professor at the University of Oslo, described some challenges with the intersectionality perspective. Photo: Charlie Olofsson

The workshop in Örebro began Thursday and continued Friday. Hege Skjeie, professor in political science at the University of Oslo, described some of the challenges resulting from the theoretical transition from gender equality to a broader focus on equal treatment and antidiscrimination. One thing she sees is that some groups can be eager to safeguard their own interests.
‘They may fear that their own particular group will end up short-changed,’ she said.
The groups with the longest history of being organised and the strongest legal protection feel they have the most to lose when other grounds for discrimination are put on the agenda, she continued and gave an example. In Norway, the possibility to adopt an integrated antidiscrimination law has been discussed – an idea some women’s groups oppose.
According to Sofia Strid, the Nordic countries have chosen partly different paths in their design of discrimination laws. For example, Sweden has a law in line with the one proposed in Norway, while Finland has separate discrimination and gender equality laws in place.
‘We need to learn more about the consequences of different models. How does the design of the laws affect gender equality, the class system and LGBT people’s rights? This is something we need to look closer at,’ said Strid.
In her research, she has shown a particular interest in how the civil society has received the intersectionality perspective.
‘It’s interesting to look at how various organisations deal with the discrimination grounds. For example, we see that many feminist organisations try to include several other grounds for discrimination at the same time as they place gender a bit above the others.’

Both Strid and Skjeie feel that there is a lack of examples of how the intersectionality perspective can be implemented in policy proposals and practical gender equality work. They mention the Equality Ombudsman as an example where the intersectional analysis has led to concrete change. Norway was the first Nordic country to have a central equality ombudsman for all types of discrimination, and the other countries have since carried out similar reforms.
Strid thinks that having Nordic researchers get together and talk may help unveil how the intersectionality perspective has impacted policy and the situation of various groups.
‘We need to look at which paths are available and which paths have proved effective.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Closed Appointment Procedures Increase Gender Imbalances in Academia http://www.nikk.no/en/news/closed-appointment-procedures-increase-gender-imbalances-in-academia/ Photo: Søren Kjeldgaard

Photo: Århus university, Søren Kjeldgaard

Sociologist and organisational researcher Mathias Wullum Nielsen, who presented his PhD dissertation in June, has spent the last handful of years studying gender equality in academia. He has primarily used his own academic institution, Aarhus University in Denmark, as the object of study, but he has also made comparisons between Denmark, Sweden and Norway. He concludes that the Scandinavian countries display important differences in terms of discourse, practices and concrete measures to increase gender equality in academia.

Denmark is less willing than Norway and Sweden to talking about gender equality as a rights issue,’ says Wullum Nielsen. ‘They prefer to apply a utility perspective: Organisations that hold back women are not talking full advantage of their potential and will therefore end up less competitive. Denmark is therefore using a more narrow range of interventions.’

Differences can also be found between Norway and Sweden, he says. In Norway, a lot of the gender equality work has focused on structural measures to support women in academia. In contrast, Sweden gives more attention to organisational cultures and how they can be changed.

‘Denmark is inspired by both Sweden and Norway. At the same time, however, the Danish discourse is more stuck in the notion that the issue of gender equality concerns only women and that gender equality strategies should focus on equipping women with the qualifications they need to be successful but are currently lacking.’


Open recruitments not so open after all?

In an article recently published in Nature (24 September 2015), Wullum Nielsen reports the results from another study he has done, on appointments of senior researchers at Aarhus University. From 2004 to 2013, 20 per cent of all new professors and associate professors were recruited without an open call for applications, he found. When looking only at the positions that were openly advertised, a large part of them only attracted one applicant – an observation suggesting that the open recruitment processes may not have been so open after all.

The studies also show that the gender imbalance is considerably larger in closed than in open recruitment processes: 23 per cent of the applicants were women when the positions were openly advertised, whereas the share was only 12 per cent when the recruitments were handled more informally, without an open call for applications.

‘I’m very interested in how the academic world thinks about the concept of meritocracy,’ says Wullum Nielsen. ‘Every time somebody suggests measures to increase gender equality in academia, opponents claim that such measures are incompatible with the principle of meritocracy, which is a cornerstone of the academic world. So I wanted to see how things really work in this field.’


The organisation needs to deal with the problems

What’s most surprising is not that the problems exist, but rather that the development seems to be headed in the wrong direction, he points out. Both the minister in charge and the university itself have signalled that open recruitment processes shall be the norm. Nevertheless, the share of informal recruitments increased from 8 per cent in the first half of the studied 10-year period to 30 per cent in the second half. And Aarhus is not alone – a recent review reveals similar patterns at several other Danish universities.

‘Sometimes there may be good reasons to fill vacancies without an open recruitment process, but the finding that the proportion is so high indicates that the organisation needs to deal with the problems,’ says Wullum Nielsen.

The observation that informal recruitment processes on average are less beneficial for women is old news, he says. One reason for this bias is that male managers tend to prefer candidates who are more like themselves. Another is that female academics are often less visible to decision makers since their ties to those with power in the academic world are generally weaker.

As part of his PhD project, Wullum Nielsen also explored how the use of bibliometrics to measure a researcher’s individual merits affects the gender equality.

‘I’ve looked closer at the so-called Danish bibliometric research indicator, which goes by its Danish acronym BFI. According to my study of Aarhus University, male and female researchers have equally good citation rates. It therefore seems fair to assume that they should achieve about the same BFI scores. However, men generally score higher in the BFI system. The main reason for this is that men are more likely to publish their research in scholarly journals that yield higher scores,’ he says.


Better to read than to count?

One plausible explanation for this bias is that the BFI system ranks journals in male-dominated research fields higher and consequently tends to assign higher scores to male scholars’ publications. It is well known that the female representation in the committees making these assessments is low, Wullum Nielsen points out.

‘It may seem like a good idea for gender equality to measure in the organisation. Clearly presented objective data makes it easier to point to discrepancies. But it’s not that easy. If the assessment criteria are determined in favour of the dominant group, the results will help reinforce the imbalance, contrary to what’s intended.’

Wullum Nielsen sees it as problematic that bibliometrics has gained such importance in the assessment of individual scholars’ achievements. Since external factors can have a strong impact on a researcher’s bibliometric score, in particular early in the academic career, it would be reasonable to assess somebody’s potential in some other way – for example by reading their publications instead of merely counting them.

Wullum Nielsen’s PhD dissertation is titled New and Persistent Gender Equality Challenges in Academia. He will spend the next two years doing research at Stanford University, with professor Londa Schiebinger.

‘I will mainly focus on how gender equality in academia affects the research content and the knowledge that’s produced,’ he says.

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Policewomen mobilise against trafficking http://www.nikk.no/en/news/policewomen-mobilise-against-trafficking/ NIKK spade symbolThe conference in Riga, scheduled for 7–8 October, will focus on the concrete problems that the Nordic and Baltic countries are currently facing in their work against human trafficking and other forms of gender-related violence. According to detective inspector Berglind Eyjólfsdóttir, chair of the Nordic-Baltic Network of Policewomen, there is a great need for cooperation.

‘It’s not just about sharing experiences and improving methods, it’s also about networking. I think it’s important that those of us who work with these issues get to know one another – it will make it easier to contact each other in our daily work.’

She says that the perpetrators are often one step ahead of the police and can quickly change their methods. This means that the police must always keep updated.

‘Discussing these issues helps us understand the situation in the other countries. It’s an eye-opener,’ says Eyjólfsdóttir.

The conference in Riga is part of the project Gendered Violence – Nordic-Baltic Dialogue. Earlier this year the network met in Copenhagen for a first seminar. So, more concretely, how can the cooperation improve the work of the police? Eyjólfsdóttir mentions a human trafficking case in Iceland. A woman was identified on a flight to Reykjavik. At first the police thought she was involved in a drug-related crime, but eventually it turned out she was a trafficking victim from Lithuania.

Berglind Eyjólfsdóttir. Press photo

Berglind Eyjólfsdóttir. Press photo

‘Two colleagues had recently been to a study visit organized by NBNP in Lithuania. That made it much easier to contact colleagues there and work on the case together.’

What’s the biggest challenge in the work against human trafficking?
‘One challenge is how to identify the victims; another is to find ways to work with them. The latter can be difficult, since the victims are often afraid of authorities and the police,’ says Eyjólfsdóttir.

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Iceland Joins the Nordic Gender Calendar http://www.nikk.no/en/news/iceland-joins-the-nordic-gender-calendar/ Hugrún Hjaltadóttir

Hugrún Hjaltadóttir. Photo: private

We have benefitted a great deal from the Nordic co-operation. At this point we’re hoping to be able to contribute more and show what we do to a larger audience. Another aim is to bring more attention to the Nordic co-operation here in Iceland,’ says Hugrún R. Hjaltadóttir, adviser at the Icelandic Centre for Gender Equality.

The three web portals are operated jointly by national knowledge centres for gender issues in the Nordic countries, including the Danish Centre for Gender, Equality and Diversity (Kvinfo), the Information Centre for Gender Research in Norway (Kilden), the Centre for Gender Equality information in Finland (Minna), the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research (NIKK) and from now on the Icelandic Centre for Gender Equality (Jafnréttisstofa).  

We are thrilled to have Iceland on board. It is important that the portals cover all initiatives, events and opportunities across the entire Nordic region,’ says Josefine Alvunger, communications officer at NIKK in Sweden.

GenderKalenderN lists Nordic and international conferences, meetings, seminars, PhD courses and more. The idea is for all units to contribute with information from their particular country in a central database. All information can also be shared via Facebook and Twitter.

The two other portals, GenderJob and GenderFund, work in the exact same way but focus on gender-related jobs and funding opportunities. GenderJob lists job vacancies related to gender and gender equality in the Nordic region and elsewhere. GenderFund should be of interest to anybody looking for research grants, project funding, stipends etc. And GenderkalenderN keeps track of everything from feminist culture festivals to research policy conferences at the EU level. The portals are inter-Nordic and share a focus on gender and gender equality.

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New report on challenges in the Nordic peripheral areas http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-report-on-challenges-in-the-nordic-peripheral-areas/ Photo: Colourbox

Photo: Colourbox

The report is produced by researchers Stine Thidemann Faber, Helene Pristed Nielsen and Kathrine Bjerg Bennike, commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

The survey presents research on changed living conditions as a result of global changes, declining economic growth, migration, depopulation and fewer jobs in professions traditionally considered male. Young women especially move to larger cities in pursuit of higher education. These are challenges of great impact not only on the vitality and unity of the region, but also on the men and women who live there and their mutual social relations, the researchers conclude.

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‘Hate Speech Scares Women Away from the Public Debate’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/hate-speech-scares-women-away-from-the-public-debate/ ‘More opportunities to express views and opinions, also anonymously, is good for democracy. The flip side of the coin is that we’re also seeing more hate speech, threats and harassment.’ says Kira Appel, chair of the Nordic Committee of Senior Officials for Gender Equality. Photo: Private.

‘More opportunities to express views and opinions, also anonymously, is good for democracy. The flip side of the coin is that we’re also seeing more hate speech, threats and harassment.’ says Kira Appel, chair of the Nordic Committee of Senior Officials for Gender Equality. Photo: Private.

Women are disproportionally affected by sexist comments and hate speech in the public debate, says Kira Appel.
‘This seems to be a growing problem both nationally and globally, including in the Nordic countries. Men are criticised for what they say, while women, regardless of what the debate is about, are often harassed because they are women. There is a huge difference.’

At a meeting in May, all Nordic gender equality ministers expressed deep concern about the development. Denmark, the country currently holding the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, was asked to arrange a seminar on everyday sexism and internet harassment later this year.

The seminar is part of the Nordic cooperation programme on gender and gender equality in the public space. The objective is to point out best practice and give practical recommendations to relevant Nordic actors.

Appel hopes that the causes and effects of sexism in everyday life will be unveiled.
‘Studies on stalking show that harassed women often become fearful and withdrawn and may even change their behaviour. If women are scared away from participating in public arenas and in the public debate, society has an important democracy problem.’

 

Unique Nordic report

 ‘The police must signal that they take internet harassment seriously. We also need to add some nuance to the image of the perpetrators,’ says Helga Eggebø, senior advisor at the KUN centre for gender equality in Norway. Photo: Karoline O. Pettersen

‘The police must signal that they take internet harassment seriously. We also need to add some nuance to the image of the perpetrators,’ says Helga Eggebø, senior advisor at the KUN centre for gender equality in Norway. Photo: Karoline O. Pettersen

In 2013, the Nordic Council of Ministers published the first ever report to address antifeminism and right-wing extremism, including online, in a Nordic context. The list of concrete measures is based on the input from 25 experts (see infobox).

Helga Eggebø, senior adviser at the KUN centre for gender equality in Norway, is currently analysing the results of a new study on experiences of interned-based harassment. She points out that the victims are not limited to individuals active in the public debate.
‘Electronic violence has become part of the violence in close relationships. Today people tend to stay connected and therefore accessible 24/7, making it increasingly difficult to resist attacks.’

Women are often harassed because they are women, but also men are attacked on the basis of personal factors, such as sexuality.
‘Somebody might say you’re crazy or that you don’t have a right to express your views due to your age or position. Or somebody might say they know where you live or where they can find you.’

 

Whose freedom of speech?

The issue of freedom of speech poses a challenge to the work against hate and sexism in the public debate.

Appel sees the increased number of channels where more voices can be heard as a positive development.
‘More opportunities to express views and opinions, also anonymously, is good for democracy. The flip side of the coin is that we’re also seeing more hate speech, threats and harassment.’

Eggebø refers to US research showing that the freedom of speech has become a rhetorical weapon: Feminists opposing something somebody says or does are often accused of trying to limit other people’s freedom of speech.
‘You think there’s consensus about who’s attacking and who’s attacked, but there’s a conflict. Both sides can feel attacked. There’s no agreement on how the situation should be defined.’

 

Ombudsperson calling for action plan

In a report presented in April, Sunniva Ørstavik, gender equality and discrimination ombudsperson in Norway, called for a comprehensive national action plan against expressions of hate. She wants to combat both legal and illegal hate speech, for example through research and preventive work in schools, measures she says will not limit people’s freedom of speech.
‘Internet trolls are generally perceived as pathetic loners,’ says Eggebø.

‘This image can serve as a coping mechanism, but is not always true. We have interviewed victims who have been able to identify the perpetrators, and according to them they can be totally normal people.’

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Gender Equality Index Puts Pressure on EU Governments http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-equality-index-puts-pressure-on-eu-governments/ Norden. Illustration Emma Hanquist

Norden. Illustration Emma Hanquist

Sweden has the highest gender equality index in the EU, followed by Finland and Denmark. The index is presented by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) on behalf of the European Commission. The Nordic member states score well above the EU average in several areas.
‘Just because the Nordic countries are topping the list doesn’t mean they are gender equal. Instead it should be taken to indicate poor progress in many other countries,’ says Lenita Freidenvall, researcher at Stockholm University and secretary of the Swedish government’s commission on gender equality policy.

Lower lifelong earnings for women

The Nordic countries receive high scores in political representation, as the gap between women and men is relatively small in this area. However, great inequalities can still be found in domains related to employment and the labour market, and these inequalities are in turn closely connected to differences in the economic conditions women and men face across the lifespan, says Freidenvall. Although women work more than in the past and on average have higher levels of education than men, the gender salary gap has changed only marginally, she points out. In addition, women are underemployed to a greater extent than men and also take out most of the parental leave.
‘All of this in combination gives women lower lifetime earnings and therefore also lower pensions. This seems to be a problem in all Nordic countries.’

Gender segregation in Nordic working life

The lack of gender equality in working life can partly be attributed to gender-segregated labour markets, says Freidenvall. To find out how segregated the European labour markets are, EIGE has compared the shares of women and men who work in education, healthcare and social work. In Sweden, 43.4 per cent of the surveyed women work in these areas. For men, the figure is 11 per cent.
‘We find that women have increasingly entered the male-dominated occupations, but not vice versa,’ says Freidenvall.

The gender-segregated labour markets reduce the total score for the Nordic countries. Another factor is underrepresentation of women on company boards. Great inequalities can also be found in the distribution of unpaid care and domestic work. In Finland, 72 per cent of the women say they spend at least one hour a day doing domestic work. For Finnish men, the figure is 39 per cent.

Big differences across EU countries

Lenita Freidenvall. Pressbild

Lenita Freidenvall. Press photo

EIGE’s index is based on sex-disaggregated statistics from the year 2012. The conditions faced by women and men have been assessed in domains such as work, money, knowledge, time, power and health. Each country has then been assigned a series of scores based on the gap between women and men in the respective domains. The scores have then been converted to a total gender equality index for each country. An index of 100 implies perfect gender equality. Sweden tops the list with an index of 74.2, followed by Finland at 72.7 and Denmark at 70.9. The EU average is 52.9 and Romania is found at the bottom of the list with an index of 33.7.
‘The index reveals major differences in gender equality across the EU countries, and it’s impossible to suggest a solution that would work in all countries,’ says Freidenvall.
She thinks the index may help put pressure on the European national governments.
‘The data reveals the development over time and points to some dark spots. This will help the governments see which areas they need to focus on,’ she says.

Small changes since last update

This is the second time EIGE presents the index. Overall, the EU countries have become slightly more gender equal since last time the index was presented two years ago. Finland’s index has gone up somewhat, while the opposite is true for Denmark and Sweden.
‘You can’t blindly trust that the progress will continue. That’s an important lesson to learn. Nothing will happen without active efforts and political prioritisations,’ says Freidenvall.
But she stresses the need to also look beyond the gender dimension.
‘We also need to pay attention to differences within the female and male populations. For example, we need to look at the situation of immigrant women and their access to full-time employment and an income,’ she says.

The need to explore more factors than gender was also pointed out last time EIGE’s gender equality index was released, in 2010. Intersecting factors are presented to some extent in EIGE’s index, but those figures do not affect each country’s total score. The next update of the Gender Equality Index, in 2017, will provide a more detailed assessment of intersecting inequalities, according to this year’s report.

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Migration in Grönland – a gendered story http://www.nikk.no/en/news/migration-in-gronland-a-gendered-story/ Helene Pristed Nielsen and Stine Thidemann Faber have written the Nordic mapping of challenges and best practices in relation to gender, education and population flows in Nordic peripheral areas together with Kathrine Bjerg Bennike.

Helene Pristed Nielsen and Stine Thidemann Faber have written the Nordic mapping of challenges and best practices in relation to gender, education and population flows in Nordic peripheral areas together with Kathrine Bjerg Bennike.

The Nordic countries display similar migration patterns. Young women are more likely to leave their rural home communities to pursue post-secondary education elsewhere. Men are more likely to stay, and if they do leave they are more likely to return. Consequently, many sparsely populated areas are experiencing an imbalance between male and female inhabitants. In addition, the availability of traditionally male occupations is decreasing in these regions, causing widespread unemployment.
‘Men from sparsely populated areas are often portrayed as people stuck in old ways and unable to keep up with the times. And just like women’s migration away from these areas has been described as a problem, so too has men’s tendency not to move,’ says Stine Thideman Faber, gender researcher at EDGE – Centre for Equality, Diversity and Gender at Aalborg University.

She is one of about 50 participants from the entire Nordic region who met in Nuuk to discuss the rural migration issues from a gender equality perspective. Denmark, this year’s leader of the Nordic Council of Ministers, had taken the initiative to the event.

 

Different expectations on women and men

A cross-Nordic research report produced by the researchers at EDGE was presented prior to the seminar. Thideman Faber has reviewed all available Nordic studies on the topic.
‘There is a clear link between migration and gender. Women and men face different expectations when it comes to education and migration patterns,’ she says.

According to the report, young men tend to have stronger ties to their home communities and often enjoy local leisure activities such as hunting and fishing. In contrast, women feel they have better opportunities in more densely populated areas and also tend to value the greater access to social and cultural events found in cities. In addition, many women feel that the gender roles are more modern in cities than in smaller communities.

Migration flows to the mainland

Martha Lund Olsen. Press photo

Martha Lund Olsen. Press photo

The seminar wasn’t held in Greenland by accident. Greenland has a population of 56 000 and in contrast to all other Nordic countries, this figure is expected to decrease over the next couple of decades. In fact, the island’s female population has been decreasing since the 1960s.
‘This used to be due to Danish men meeting Greenlandic women and bringing them back to Denmark,’ says Martha Lund Olsen, Greenland’s gender equality minister.

At present, two different migration flows can be noted. Many women are moving from the small coastal communities to larger ones, such as Nuuk. Also, both young men and women are leaving Greenland to study somewhere else, in many cases Denmark. The men are more likely than the women to eventually return to the island.

 

Lack of jobs and housing

Lund Olsen says that women are hesitant to return for several reasons, including a shortage of housing and skilled employment.
‘We’re trying to create new employment opportunities on the island by attracting mining and oil companies. This would make it easier for well-educated women to find jobs.’

She also says that foreign investors and new employment opportunities would make important contributions to the public finances, which are currently in poor shape. The new money could be used to build homes.
‘Housing is a major problem for people who want to move to Greenland. Many Greenlanders are waiting for a rental contract and there is a stubborn housing deficit,’ says Lund Olsen.

 

Few studies with a gender perspective

The seminar participants included representatives from universities, NGOs and political institutions. The discussions and workshops will hopefully result in a handbook with concrete advice for actors in all Nordic countries. More studies are needed, according to researcher Thideman Faber.
‘When reviewing the available studies, we had a hard time finding anything with a gender perspective, despite the fact that these issues are so clearly linked to gender. I would like to see more cross-Nordic research in this area,’ she says.

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Sexual Harassments Widespread in the Nordic Countries http://www.nikk.no/en/news/sexual-harassments-widespread-in-the-nordic-countries/ Eygló Harðardóttir. Pressbild

Eygló Harðardóttir. Pressbild

In connection with the opening of the Nordic conference on sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace, Eygló Harðardóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Social Affairs and Housing, said that the growing tourism in all Nordic countries is making sexism and sexual harassment in the hospitality industry an increasingly important issue.

Paula Mulinari, senior lecturer at Malmö University in Sweden, keynoted the conference. She pointed out that 30 years ago, the Nordic languages did not even have a term for harassment. She also said that sexual harassment is a problem at both individual and societal level, and added that there are both political and legal ways to change the situation.

 

Nordic research

Lizette Risgaard (LO, Denmark), Pontus Sjöstrand (Visita, Sweden) Malin Ackholt (Hotell- och restaurangfacket, Sweden) Paula Mulinari (Malmö University, Sweden) and Seija Virta (Palvelualojen ammattiliitto, PAM, Finland)

Lizette Risgaard (LO, Denmark), Pontus Sjöstrand (Visita, Sweden) Malin Ackholt (Hotell- och restaurangfacket, Sweden) Paula Mulinari (Malmö University, Sweden) and Seija Virta (Palvelualojen ammattiliitto, PAM, Finland)

The conference was financed by The Nordic Council of Ministers Funding Scheme for Gender Equality. Researchers from all Nordic countries presented their work. Steinunn Rögnvaldsdóttir, researcher from Iceland, said that 60 per cent of all restaurant workers are women and that the waiting staff experience the highest rates of harassment in the workplace. On average, 61.7 per cent say they have been harassed by customers, 32.1 per cent by co-workers and 21 per cent by managers and supervisors. Rögnvaldsdóttir said we need to find out whether the workers know their rights and who to contact for support.

Seija Virta from Finland said that many of those who experience sexual harassment think it is difficult to ask for support. She also said that it is particularly problematic when the perpetrator is a co-worker. In addition, Finnish research has shown that many managers and supervisors do not take the problem seriously. Only one-quarter of those who have reported sexual harassment feel that their manager or supervisor has reacted, said Virta.

 

A societal problem – but who is responsible?

Claus Jervell from the Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud said that sexual harassment in the hospitality industry is a serious and widespread problem. He pointed out that the root of the problem is that there is no consensus in society that it is indeed a problem. He also asked who is responsible to deal with the problem. Jervell called it a work environment problem that we must and can solve, and that doing so will be both easy and inexpensive.

 

Possible solutions

  • Acknowledge the problem and listen to those who are affected.
  • Talk about the problem with those who are not affected.
  • Create routines based on a concrete risk assessment.
  • Require managers and supervisors to act whenever cases of harassment are reported.
  • Require everybody who is aware of harassment to report and/or stop the practice.

 

 

Time to break the silence

Schwarzenberger, writer and project leader

Schwarzenberger, writer and project leader

Sonja Schwarzenberger led a panel debate at the conference. She is a writer and project manager and has authored the book Bryt tystnaden (break the silence) together with Naiti del Sante. According to Schwarzenberger, one problem is that feelings of shame keep many female victims from speaking up. She said that all Nordic countries should introduce minimum standards for preventive work and that we need to clearly communicate that sexual harassment is unacceptable.

The primary question asked in the panel debate was: What responsibility does the labour market have in the prevention of sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace? The panellists agreed that more action is needed. Statistics show that young women experience the highest rates of sexual harassment. It is important that they feel comfortable breaking the silence and asking for support.

The experts at the conference also agreed that one of the most important things to do is to make everybody involved aware of the problem. It’s about introducing new values and a new culture. It’s about providing handbooks and guidelines. Changing the law is not enough if managers and supervisors don’t know how to deal with sexual harassment when it happens, said the experts. They also emphasised the importance of the Nordic cooperation, as it enables the countries to find solutions to sexism and sexual harassments together.

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Sexuality in Focus at Gender Conference in Rovaniemi http://www.nikk.no/en/news/sexuality-in-focus-at-gender-conference-in-rovaniemi/ Liisa Husu. Press photo.

Liisa Husu. Press photo.

The large European conference on gender and feminist research was arranged by ATGENDER at the University of Lapland – the farthest north university in the entire EU zone. This was the third time the European Feminist Research Conference was held at a Nordic higher education institution since the beginning in 1991.

‘European gender research is clearly full of life,’ says Liisa Husu, professor of gender studies at Örebro University.

‘There’s great diversity among the participants, both geographically and in age. Besides researchers and professors, there are a lot of young PhD and other students here, which bodes well for the future.’

However, the economic situation in Europe did not pass unnoticed.

‘Travelling to Rovaniemi is expensive for a lot of Europeans. The previous conference was held in Budapest, which made it easier for representatives from Eastern Europe to attend,’ says Husu.

‘Sex & Capital’

The theme of the conference was ‘Sex & Capital’ and the topics included the role of feminism in the economic crisis. The word ’sex’ can have several meanings, adding breadth to the theme, says Husu.

‘So far there has been a lot of focus on sexuality, or sex trade. I would have liked to see more keynotes on the societal and economic macro issues. That’s a focus I’d like to see more of.’

On the second day of the conference, Husu presented her own research on gender inequality in academia. Even though the Nordic countries are world leaders in both gender equality and research, Nordic academic institutions are full of weaknesses when it comes to gender equality and diversity, Husu tells us.

‘The Nordic countries have worked actively with these issues for several decades but still haven’t come much further than the rest of Europe, especially if you look at the share of female professors. The resistance against gender equality in academia is very strong.’

Husu also sees a precarisation of academic positions. For example, the number of temporary and more insecure jobs has increased, and a disproportionate share of them are held by women. This reinforces the gender-biased structures, she says.

‘When I entered this research field in the 1980s, I really didn’t think these issues would last this long. It’s 2015 and I’m still talking about basically the same things. We feminists need to take action, and feminist researchers need to keep questioning the gender patterns in academia. But what’s even more important is that the unions and politicians work actively to put these issues on the political agenda.’

The political situation in Finland

Another, perhaps more unexpected, issue discussed at the conference is the current political situation in Finland. The Centre Party won the parliamentary election in April, and the centre-right government programme was presented last week.

‘Unfortunately, the Finnish government is the opposite of the Swedish, which calls itself a feminist government. In contrast, the new Finnish government’s programme holds that Finland is a gender-equal country – an attitude my colleagues and I are very critical of. The only other references to gender equality in the programme concern the integration of immigrant women in Finnish society and a focus on women and girls in development aid policy. This is very problematic and has given us good reason to discuss with foreign colleagues where Finland is headed.

The participants’ engagement in society was a common thread through the conference, according to Husu. Gender research is sometimes criticised for being too introverted, but the event showed strong evidence of widespread social engagement and that many researchers want to use their work as a driver of change. Husu feels that conferences like the one in Rovaniemi are of great value to European gender research.

‘We’re witnessing major cutbacks across European universities, and gender research is a fairly new academic discipline across the board. Institutionally, this implies a vulnerability. Because of this, European forums of this type are important, since they allow us to compare experiences, create alliances and networks as well as discuss new survival strategies.’

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Gender Quotas for Diversity in Leadership http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-quotas-for-diversity-in-leadership/ In 2008, Iceland became the second country after Norway to introduce a gender quota law. The law provides that public committees, councils and boards must consist of at least 40% women and 40% men. In 2010, a similar requirement was imposed on private companies with at least 50 employees.

‘Time for men to stand up from their chairs’

Kristín Ástgeirsdóttir. Photo: Cia Pak (norden.org)

Kristín Ástgeirsdóttir. Photo: Cia Pak (norden.org)

Kristin Astgeirsdottir, director of the Centre for Gender Equality in Iceland, said at the conference that the issue had been discussed for a long time in Iceland before the law was adopted.

‘We tried to push change without legislation but weren’t successful, so the law was eventually adopted. Those who criticised the initiative have become silent. I’ve long supported gender quotas and like to say that men have enjoyed quota privileges for centuries – men have always been on boards just because they are men. So it’s about time they stand up from their chairs and invite women to the table.‘

 

Astgeirsdottir points to several reasons for the lack of women in leadership positions. Masculine traditions and a male-oriented work culture are important factors.

‘People prefer leaders who are like themselves. They often appoint friends and acquaintances to board members, and so on. New studies show this. Leadership is not appointed in a professional manner. Add to this that family life often keeps women from taking these jobs.’

Important to carry out the discussion in an international context

When asked about the reason for the conference, Astgeirsdottir said it is important to keep the debate alive.

‘We still need more women in leadership and management. It is important to convince people of the need for diverse leadership. The conference was part of this ambition. It is also very important to carry out the discussion in an international context. We can learn a lot from international research and the debates in other countries. You hear the same arguments for and against the quotas just about everywhere. So it’s a good idea to get together and talk about it, find out what they do elsewhere to increase the share of women in leadership, discuss obstacles and find ways forward.’

Astgeirsdottir hopes the conference will bring attention to the new research on the effects of the quota legislation and on how board members are appointed.

‘I also hope the debate will remind companies and other organisations of their legal obligations.’

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New Publications about Part-Time Work in the Nordic Region http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-publications-about-part-time-work-in-the-nordic-region/ frontp_part-time-culture-full-time-normThe causes of part-time work are discussed in the fact sheet Part-time Work – Different Economic Effects for Women and Men. The publication summarises the report Part-Time Work in the Nordic Region II, written within the framework of the project.

Experts met to discuss important issues and questions for the future at the project’s final conference in Reykjavik in autumn 2014. The results from the conference as well as the challenges related to part-time employment in the Nordic region are described in the fact sheet Part Time Culture and Full Time Norm – Paths to Gender-Equal Working Time in the Nordic Countries.

 

Part-Time Work in the Nordic Region was carried out 2013–2014. Nordic Information on Gender coordinated the project on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers. All material from the project is available at www.nikk.no/en/parttime.

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How to Increase the Involvement in Gender Equality Work http://www.nikk.no/en/news/how-to-increase-the-involvement-in-gender-equality-work/ NIKK spade symbolMany Nordic municipalities and county councils work with gender mainstreaming, but their results are not widely known. Last week, representatives from eleven municipalities met to discuss strategies for how to reach out and engage more people in the gender equality work. Marit Tovsen from the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities helped arrange the conference.

In what way can it be difficult to reach out to people with the gender equality issues?
‘The challenges vary across the Nordic region. The Danes tend to think they have already achieved gender equality, so it’s difficult to make people understand why these issues remain important. Sweden is different in that the municipalities have worked systematically with gender mainstreaming for many years and there is a stronger awareness that the gender equality objectives have not been fulfilled. Norway falls somewhere in between. Fairness and equality issues are receiving a lot of attention, but the municipalities are more interested in ethnicity and integration. Some municipalities apply a gender perspective on these issues.’

What’s your advice to other gender mainstreaming workers? How can you reach out?
‘It’s important to adapt the argumentation to the target group. When talking to politicians, show them facts and statistics. You should also explain the core of gender mainstreaming work: that it increases the quality of the services provided to citizens. For example, viewing preschool services through gender equality lenses or thinking gender in urban planning can improve the lives of both women and men. Not everybody understands what the concept of ”gender mainstreaming” means, so it’s important to explain it clearly.’

What strategies did you talk about at the conference?

Marit Tovsen. Photo: private

Marit Tovsen. Photo: private

‘We talked a lot about the importance of working systematically and over a long period of time. That’s important if you want to achieve change. One issue that has been addressed is how to gain political approval for the gender equality work and how to get the resources you need. It is also important to spread awareness of the gender issues among leaders and key persons in the organisation. It might for example be beneficial to get the HR manager on board.

What are the biggest challenges in the work with gender mainstreaming in the Nordic region?
‘The biggest challenge is to never sit down, but to always keep working. Successful gender mainstreaming is not possible without continuity and a long-term approach.’

What are you gaining from the Nordic cooperation around these issues?
Gender equality is a central element of our Nordic model. We think the same things but do things differently. We can learn from and inspire each other.’

The seminar was arranged within the project Gender Mainstreaming at the Local Level. The project is a collaboration among the Nordic national associations of municipalities.
Bård: alla färger

This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Washing Line in the Colors of the Rainbow http://www.nikk.no/en/news/washing-line-in-the-colors-of-the-rainbow/ Photo Gunilla Persson

Photo Gunilla Persson

“Most people take for granted that you treat everyone equally, but for those who are afraid to face homophobia it can mean a lot to know that your friend, neighbor, colleague or relative is sympathetic to HBTIQ – people,” says Ilar Gunilla Persson who runs the project together with Heidi Lunabba.

The two artists started the project during Jeppis Pride Festival in Jakobstad 2014. Now Washing Line in the Colors of the Rainbow will be touring the Nordic countries visiting amongst others the Sápmi Pride Festival, Helsinki Pride, Falu Pride and Gotland Pride.

Everyone who wants to show their support for equal values are invited to participate by hanging out their wash in the colors of the rainbow, take a photo and share the image using the tag #tvattlina.

“By making the project international we create a movement for tolerance and humanity in countries that sadly share the problem of homophobic and intolerant discussion and a harshening political climate”, Heidi Lunabba explains.

The Nordic tour will start on Friday during Sapmi Pride.

“The Sápmi Pride festival is an important festival since the risk of discrimination is doubled as HBTIQ-saami are a minority inside the minority, therefore it feels great to start of the tour in Karasjok,” says Heidi Lunabba.

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Network to Develop Nordic Mentor Programmes http://www.nikk.no/en/news/network-to-develop-nordic-mentor-programmes/ NIKK spade symbolThe event was arranged by the Norwegian Centre for Equality, the Swedish Minerva Foundation and KVINFO’s Mentor Network in Denmark, who together established a Nordic mentor network in 2014 to gather the Nordic expertise and create a forum for cooperation around the many challenges mentors and mentoring programmes face.

 

Gender perspective cornerstone of mentoring projects

There are plenty of mentoring programmes across the Nordic region, but one thing the three collaborating organisations have in common is their focus on the gender perspective.

‘Mentoring can be useful at many levels, with many groups and in many contexts. The work can be tailored to the group you’re working with, and to its specific challenges. But what’s unique about what we do is the gender angle. That’s what brings us together,’ says Ree-Lindstad.

All three organisations have implemented mentoring programmes specifically targeting women. But today the programmes often also include men.

‘When we train mentors, we try to make them aware that gender can play a role in how you work and how you relate to your mentee. They need to be aware of the structures in society,’ she explains.

 

A special Nordic approach

‘The Nordic cooperation gives us a professional environment where we can learn from each other. Instead of learning by doing, we can learn from each other’s experiences,’ says Ree-Lindstad.
‘The Nordic mentoring model differs from how it’s usually done in the rest of Europe and in the U.S. We want it to be voluntary and free, and it should be a win-win situation for both the mentor and the mentee. The mutual learning experience, where the mentors use the mentoring work for their own development, is of central importance. In the rest of Europe, mentors are often paid and have a role resembling that of a social worker. In the Nordic countries, that type of work is already taken care of by other actors in the welfare systems,’ says Ree-Lindstad.

 

Professional development and quality are important

Marianne Lundberg, Minerva Foundation; Elin Kjeldstadli Hatlestad, Centre for Equality; Beatriz Hernandez de Fuhr, KVINFO; Kristina Nasenius, Minerva Foundation; and Goro Ree-Lindstad, Centre for Equality in windy spring weather in Copenhagen. Photo: Jørgen Poulsen

Marianne Lundberg, Minerva Foundation; Elin Kjeldstadli Hatlestad, Centre for Equality; Beatriz Hernandez de Fuhr, KVINFO; Kristina Nasenius, Minerva Foundation; and Goro Ree-Lindstad, Centre for Equality in windy spring weather in Copenhagen. Photo: Jørgen Poulsen

The whole point is to develop the quality of the mentoring work, says Ree-Lindstad. To this end, the network seminar, which gathered directors of 12 Norwegian, 13 Danish and seven Swedish mentoring projects, included a presentation of Swedish and Danish best practice cases as well as discussions on how high quality can be ensured. The quality factor is a central aspect of Ree-Lindstad’s vision for the Nordic cooperation.

‘We need to find opportunities to meet. We will prioritise professional development so we can develop the mentoring as a method and thus increase the quality of the work. Admittedly, there is some variation in the quality of the mentoring. If we can build up the competence of those who are involved in these programmes, the quality will go up and more people can be offered good mentoring services. In the future, we will also look closer at how we can evaluate the mentoring and its effects,’ says Ree-Lindstad.

 

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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The Gender-Segregated Labour Market – A Nordic Paradox http://www.nikk.no/en/news/the-gender-segregated-labour-market-a-nordic-paradox/ logo_NIKK-spade-symbol_227x190‘We tend to think of gender equality as a one-dimensional phenomenon,’ says Mari Teigen, research director at the Norwegian Institute for Social Research and director of the Centre for Research on Gender Equality.

Around 20 researchers and scholars from universities across Scandinavia gathered during May 7-8 at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo to discuss comparative studies of the Nordic gender equality model. The network is putting a difficult welfare challenge on the agenda. How can we explain that we still have gender-segregated labour markets in the Nordic countries?

‘Segregation breeds segregation,’ says Teigen.

She has studied gender segregation in education and the labour market for many years, and last year she was the editor of a new book on the topic (Kjönnsdeling og etniske skiller på arbeidsmarkedet). Her work shows that the conflict between the gender equality-oriented welfare state and vast gender segregation in the labour market persists.

‘Gender segregation in education and the labour market makes it problematic for people who want to make non-traditional choices,’ says Teigen and points to discrimination as an ultimate consequence.

‘We have identified clear cases of gender-driven exclusion processes in some gender-segregated fields,’ she says.

 

Women moving into male-dominated occupations

The gender segregation is a challenge to society for several reasons.
‘There are big differences between the private and public sectors. The private sector is much more male dominated,’ says Teigen.

But what do the differences mean in practice?
‘What we see in the labour market is that women are moving into the male-dominated field, but not vice versa.’

There are obvious reasons for this.
‘Male-dominated jobs have higher status and better pay. But we also know that the occupations that are at a standstill, and that are female dominated, are characterised by low pay, high demands and unattractive work schedules.’

‘As a result, men don’t want to move into female-dominated occupations,’ says Teigen, who believes that this tendency may help explain the persisting gender segregation.

 

A healthy family life

The Nordic network: Mari Teigen (Norwegian Institute for Social Research), Ann-Dorte Christensen (Aalborg University) (Norwegian Institute for Social Research, Oslo), Ulf Mellström (Karlstad University) and Liisa Husu (Örebro University).

The Nordic network: Mari Teigen (Norwegian Institute for Social Research), Ann-Dorte Christensen (Aalborg University) (Norwegian Institute for Social Research, Oslo), Ulf Mellström (Karlstad University) and Liisa Husu (Örebro University).

However, there are also other reasons the labour market remains gender segregated. One has to do with workers’ ability to combine work and family life.
‘Male-dominated occupations in the private sector offer less room for a satisfactory family life, since the culture in those fields expects you to work a lot of hours and make a lot of money,’ says Teigen.

But the career-family life equation is a challenge also in other fields. Teigen points to the health and care sector.
‘The extent of weekend work that’s necessary if you want to work full time in the health sector keeps many women from working full time,’ she says.

So, are women sacrificing more working time than men to make family life work? Yes, says Teigen.
‘You could say that the women are paying for a healthy family life.’

 

Nordic platform

The seminar in Oslo is one of four meetings arranged by the network.

The theme of the meetings is gender equality in a Nordic perspective. Ulf Mellström at Karlstad University, who helped pull the meeting together, hopes that increased awareness and sharing of knowledge will yield positive results.

‘I hope we can promote funding of this type of research through a publication platform. We are much stronger together than individually,’ he says.

Mellström stresses the political importance. He hopes that the unique gathering of sociologists, political scientists and gender researchers will serve as a source of competence in Nordic policy making. Because there is no doubt that we still have a long way to go in the Nordic gender equality work. Not least when it comes to gender segregation in the labour market.

‘I think many people believe that politicians are working hard with the segregation issue, but there is little evidence pointing in that direction,’ says Teigen.

‘It is well documented that gender equality makes society qualitatively better for both women and men in terms of quality of life. Gender equality brings dignity to individuals and a greater sense of community to society,’ says Mellström

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Users of Special Transport Services Face Suspicion http://www.nikk.no/en/news/users-of-special-transport-services-face-suspicion/ Andreas Pettersson. Press photo

Andreas Pettersson. Press photo

The purpose of the special transport services is to increase the autonomy and independence of individuals with a norm-deviating functional variation, but applicants are subject to close scrutiny.
‘You have to reveal everything about yourself; how your body works and what relationships you are engaged in. You have to prove you are worthy of the assistance,’ says Andreas Pettersson, researcher at the Forum for Studies on Law and Society, Umeå University.

Pettersson’s doctoral thesis, titled Out and About in the Welfare State – the Right to Transport in Everyday Life for People with Disabilities in Swedish, Danish and Norwegian Law,  brings attention to the legal relationship between the public and the individual. The thesis discusses three types of transport solutions for eligible individuals: special transport services, car allowances, and cash reimbursing of transport costs. The thesis’ methodology and theories are based on gender research.

One of the most serious weaknesses identified in the thesis is that economic arguments are allowed to affect the legal decisions surrounding the granting of assistance. This finding is particularly evident for Sweden and Norway. Denmark specifies a minimum level of support, which provides some protection against politicians’ budget decisions. The rather intimate assessments of applicants are standard practice in all three countries. Pettersson warns that this level of scrutiny may run contrary to the very purpose of the service.
‘The objective is to facilitate equality and participation, but the system works in the opposite direction,’ he says.

The view of the state as good is typical for the Nordic countries, and Pettersson believes that this contributes to an acceptance of this type of elaborate control mechanism. He feels that the government should respond to the citizens’ high trust by showing stronger trust in them.
‘If somebody for example uses a wheelchair, I think it ought to be enough if that person says he or she needs this service,’ he says.

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The Law Can’t Stop at the Front Door http://www.nikk.no/en/news/the-law-cant-stop-at-the-front-door/ Monica Burman. Press photo

Monica Burman. Press photo

The law cannot stop at the front door, but must enter into the home, said UK Professor Rosemary Hunter in her keynote speech.
The need to legislate on issues related to the private sphere was a recurring theme at the conference, which was held 5–6 May. Law and gender researchers from mainly the Nordic countries met in Umeå, Sweden, to discuss how legislation can be used to create gender equality.

Almost 80 people participated in the conference – far more than the host had expected.
‘There’s a feminist wave going on right now, at least in Sweden. There’s a strong interest in these issues, not least among students,’ says Monica Burman, researcher at Umeå Forum for Studies on Law and Society, Umeå University, which arranged the conference.

‘Gender equality is not a competition’

The Nordic countries are often described as international forerunners in gender equality, and this is in fact curbing the development. According to the Nordic self-image, the Nordic countries have already achieved gender equality. However, this is a false belief, said the participants in a panel discussion at the conference.
‘It’s true that we are topping the list compared with other countries, but that doesn’t say much about what we need to do,’ said Hege Brækhus, professor at the University of Tromsø.’
The pay gap between women and men has not changed in years and domestic violence remains a widespread problem, she continued.

Brynhildur G. Flóvenz, associate professor at the University of Iceland, agreed with the criticism of the Nordic self-image.
‘We are the world champions of gender equality, right? But it’s not a competition,’ she said, adding that the Nordic countries do not score so well in all events.
Not least when it comes to gender equality in academia have the Nordic countries fallen behind, she pointed out. Only 15 per cent of Danish professors are women, according to statistics from 2012.

‘A growing field with great diversity’

Law and gender panel. Photo: Charlie Olofsson

Law and gender panel. Photo: Charlie Olofsson

The conference included panel discussions, speeches and project presentations. Monica Burman describes the legally oriented gender research in the Nordic region as a growing field with great diversity.
Thirty papers on a wide range of topics were presented at the conference. Surrogate motherhood, the Swedish tax deduction for household services, gender quotas for company boards, adoption, forced sterilisation and discrimination in connection with pregnancy were some issues addressed.

The conference was titled Law’s Ability to Produce Gender Equality.
‘We all agree that the law is a tool, but we are not equally optimistic regarding the change that can be accomplished through legislation,’ Burman explains.
Burman participated in a panel discussion on future challenges. Several of the panel participants emphasised the importance of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women in order to achieve change.
‘It is a strong document but a poorly used tool. We need to use the law,’ said Eva-Maria Svensson, professor at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Tromsø.

Burman feels that the entire conference radiated a strong willingness to produce change and be more activist as researchers.
‘There’s a willingness to reach out in society and get things done, and not just sit at home and tinker with one’s research,’ she says.

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Gender & Law: New Research Presented in Umeå http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-and-law-new-research-presented-in-umea/ Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

The conference in Umeå 5–6 May included 30 paper presentations on a wide range of topics. Daniela Alaattinoglu talked about her research on forced sterilisation in Sweden. Her study compares the sterilisations performed on racial-biological grounds from the 1930s to the 1970s with the sterilisations of transsexuals performed until 2012. In the former cases, the Swedish government has issued an official apology and paid out large amounts of money in compensation. However, no such initiatives have been made in relation to the latter cases.
‘The groups are categorised differently and I wonder what that says about their different positions in society,’ said Alaattinoglu during her presentation.

Ninety-three per cent of the 63 000 individuals who were sterilised on racial-biological grounds were women. Daniela Alaattinoglu can only speculate about the reason for this.
‘It could be because women were more accessible to the health care sector for example in connection with pregnancies, but that’s probably not the whole truth. It might also have to do with a desire to control women’s sexuality.’

Louise Langevin, professor at Laval University in Quebec, was one of the guests who had travelled the furthest to attend the conference. She talked about her research concerning surrogate motherhood, where she studies the tension between different feminist analyses. Surrogate mothers are viewed either as vulnerable and in need of legal protection, or as actors acting based on self-interest.
‘Do they have enough information and opportunities to be able to negotiate? Do they have real power over the situation? That’s a core issue,’ she said.

Illustration: Emma hanquist

Illustration: Emma hanquist

Daniela Cutas and Elin Jonsson from Umeå University participated in a session focusing on the family and the welfare state. Their partly overlapping projects concern norms in relation to family and parenthood.

Cutas is leading a project analysing the ethical and political issues surrounding assisted reproduction. The project looks closer at the arguments regarding who should be granted parenthood in an era with increasing availability of assisted reproductive technology. Sexual relations are rewarded despite the fact that the reproduction does not have anything to do with sex in these cases, she concluded.
‘Friends and siblings who want to have a child are not approved, but why?’

Jonsson’s research makes it evident that a child is supposed to have two and only two parents. This summer, Sweden will start allowing women without a partner to get inseminated, and no Nordic country currently allows a child to have more than two legal guardians.

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Future Challenges in the Arctic http://www.nikk.no/en/news/future-challenges-in-the-arctic/ Foto: Colourbox

Photo: Colourbox

The conference report describes the presentations and discussions that took place at the meeting in Akureyri, Iceland, on October 30th and 31st 2014. The conference brought together government representatives, policymakers, academics and a wide range of stakeholders including members of the business community, resource managers and users, community leaders, and NGO representatives.


The main objective for the conference was to promote an extensive, policy relevant dialogue on gender equality putting current realities and future challenges into context with climate and environmental changes as well as economic and social developments. Another goal was to raise decision-makers’ awareness of the situation of women and men in the Arctic and to strengthen cooperation among different people working with gender issues.


Among other prominent themes were: the importance of gender mainstreaming into all aspects of Arctic development as well as implementing effective tools for gender analysis at all levels of governance; the obligation of Arctic states to ensure gender equality and to eliminate all forms of discrimination; the need for making gender-related issues a priority in the Arctic; and the necessity to adopt a holistic, context-based approach to Arctic development.

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Large Gender Gap in Pensions http://www.nikk.no/en/news/large-gender-gap-in-pensions/ The report Gender Gap in Pensions in the EU, presented by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), shows that the average European gender gap in pensions was 38 per cent in 2012. Denmark stands out among the Nordic countries with a gap of only eight per cent. In Sweden, men’s pensions are 30 per cent higher than those of women. For Finland the figure is 27 per cent. Norway and Iceland are not included in the report since they are not part of the EU.

More equal distribution with national old-age pension

Ole Beier. Press photo

Ole Beier. Press photo

Ole Beier, chief of research at the Danish ATP, has studied the Nordic pension systems in a gender equality perspective. He says that the statistics in EIGE’s report can be explained by the design of the pension systems. In a nutshell, the gender differences are smaller in countries where the government-funded part of people’s pensions is dominating.
‘Men have an advantage in countries where workplace pensions and private pension savings make up a greater part of the total pension, not least because they work more, have higher incomes and have better opportunities to save money. Women’s pensions are more affected by the level of the basic state pension.’

The differences in the pension systems explain why the gender gap in pensions is larger in Sweden than Denmark, says Beier. In Denmark, people’s pensions are dominated by the national old-age pension. Today many Danish pensioners have only limited funds saved in workplace and private accounts.
‘Since our old-age pension does not vary with how much you have worked, the gender differences are not very big. This will change in the future when other parts of people’s total pensions will increase in importance.’

Larger gap in the future

Beier says that the EIGE report only gives a snapshot of the situation, as most European countries are in the process of changing their pension systems. Workplace pension and private retirement savings will increase in importance in the future, he explains, and this will probably lead to increased gender differences. So, what can be done to reduce the gap?
‘We need to find a combination of the different parts of the pension systems that makes the outcome fair to women. For example, Danish pensioners with limited private savings receive more money from the old-age pension system.’

Louise Lindfors is leading a Nordic network focusing on women’s economic citizenship and is also chair of the Fredrika Bremer Association, which has launched a campaign called Bra Pension (which means ‘good pension’). She shares Beier’s belief that the gender gap in pensions is unlikely to decrease in the near future.
‘There are no indications that the gap will disappear in the next ten years. Instead it looks like it’s becoming permanent.’

Many pensioners below the poverty line

Louise Lindfors. Press photo

Louise Lindfors. Press photo

Lindfors concludes that women’s lower wages will determine the levels of their pensions. In addition, women take out more parental leave, work more part time, stay home with sick children more and are on sick leave to a greater extent than men. All these factors will have a strong impact on their future pensions.
One concrete measure to reduce the gap in Sweden, she says, would be to raise the national guaranteed pension. Today around 225 000 pensioners are living below the EU poverty line. Most of them are women.
‘People in this group are simply unable to make ends meet. They have to rely on their children and are often forced to cut back on food. Nobody in Sweden should live below the EU poverty line, and this should be made an explicit target.’

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The Nordic Countries Dealing with Gender Inequality in Academia http://www.nikk.no/en/news/the-nordic-countries-dealing-with-gender-inequality-in-academia/ Foto: Colourbox

Foto: Colourbox

The problem of unequal gender distributions is widespread among Nordic universities. The trend is similar everywhere: more women than men begin and complete a Bachelor’s degree. Then something happens, and the women disappear. Female professors are vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts. The issue is receiving increasing attention and will be discussed at a meeting for Nordic ministers of education (MR-U) on 27 April.

The initiative comes from Denmark, who wants to discuss the problem at the Nordic level. It’s especially the situation at the higher academic levels that will be discussed. We’ll see what the meeting leads to,’ says Kai Koivumäki, senior adviser at the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Department of Knowledge and Welfare.


Men are dominating at the top

Statistics from 2012 show that the share of female professors varies across the Nordic region. Iceland and Finland have the largest shares, at 24 per cent. In Sweden the share is 20 per cent and in Norway 21 per cent, a level similar to the EU average. Denmark has the biggest problem, as only about 15 per cent of all professors at Danish higher education institutions were women in 2012.

The Nordic Council of Ministers has now decided to take action. In March, Nordforsk, which is in charge of Nordic co-operation in research and postgraduate education, decided to appoint a programme committee for the initiative Gender in the Nordic Research and Innovation Area. The aim of the programme is to produce new knowledge that can be used to both directly and indirectly deal with the imbalance between men and women in research and innovation in the Nordic countries. The programme is scheduled to end in 2020 and will for example produce gendered statistics at Nordic level, fund research on the issue and increase knowledge.

Nordforsk is the organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers that’s in charge of these issues. They have prepared material for the discussion at the meeting,’ says Koivumäki.

Expert groups in Denmark and Sweden

Also the individual Nordic countries are working actively to solve the problem. Sweden recently appointed a national expert group for gender equality in academia, and Denmark has had a special taskforce in place since December.

Statistics show that the number of women falls dramatically at higher levels in research. Why is that? The expert group has looked closer at this question and will present solutions based on the knowledge we have today,’ says Johnny K. Mogensen, head of the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation at the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science.

Often only male applicants

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

The Danish expert group will soon present the outcome of its work. Mogensen says that the recommendations will concern several different areas, including recruitment processes.

Not all jobs in academia get advertised. And when they are, the criteria described in the advertisement can be very narrow and specific. Statistics show that many advertised postdoc positions lack female applicants. And when professors are recruited, this happens in three out of four cases,’ he says.

Other recommendations concern how to create a good work environment in academia for both women and men. The expert group will also address traditional gender patterns and their relevance in relation to the statistics.

Maybe a person’s assessment of his or her competence is affected by notions of gender and makes women place higher demands on themselves. This may explain why they don’t apply for top positions in academia,’ says Mogensen.

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Increased Risk of Violence for people with Norm-breaking Functional Capacity http://www.nikk.no/en/news/increased-risk-of-violence-for-people-with-norm-breaking-functional-capacity/ Ann Jönsson. Press photo

Ann Jönsson. Press photo

Having a norm-breaking functional capacity commonly makes a person highly dependent on others, and victims of violence in this group are often in some way dependent on the perpetrator. Another problem is that society often fails in dealing effectively with these issues due to lack of knowledge and stereotypical thinking. For example, the police may not be able to communicate with a deaf person about the violations he has experienced, and a man seeking protection may be told men can’t be violated.

The project Gender-based Violence against People with Disabilities brings attention to the fact that the risk of falling victim to violence is higher if a person has a norm-breaking functional capacity. Under the leadership of the Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues, experts from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Åland and the Faroe Islands are assessing the situation in their respective countries. The project will result in a Nordic overview of how this group is dealt with in policy making and in national legislation against gender-based violence.

Ann Jönsson, expert at the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and Sweden’s representative in the project’s expert group, believes in the importance of Nordic co-operation.

‘We can learn from each other. We have similar welfare systems, history, rights and views on the topic. People with disabilities are integrated in our societies and we have strong disability organisations monitoring the issue.’

 

80 per cent of the women victims

A study requested by the European Parliament in 2004 shows that 80 per cent of women with norm-breaking functional capacity have experienced violence. Larger studies on violence against men and children are lacking, but indicators point to an increased risk of violence also in these groups.

‘Unless we distinguish between women, men, girls and boys, part of the violence remains invisible,’ says Jönsson.

In 2011 she wrote the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare’s training material Sällan sedda, which deals with how violence against women with disabilities can be prevented. Violence in close relationships often involves a life partner and the victim’s home environment. A person with a norm-breaking functional capacity is often dependent on a wider circle of people. The high-risk environments often differ in that they are expanded to also include for example group homes, transportation and other support services.

‘The most important thing with Sällan sedda was that the perspective – disabilities and their possible consequences – became integrated into our work. It became an important perspective among others,’ says Jönsson.

 

Discrimination affects a person’s self-image

Hrafnhildur Snæfríða- Gunnarsdóttir. Photo: private

Hrafnhildur Snæfríða- Gunnarsdóttir. Photo: private

In October, the EU report Access to specialised victim support services for women with disabilities who have experienced violence was published. The report is based on a study including women from four European countries, including Iceland. All women interviewed reported to have experienced some form of violence related to their norm-breaking functional capacity. One of the researchers behind the report, Hrafnhildur S. Gunnarsdóttir at the University of Iceland, emphasises that the discrimination and marginalisation of these individuals in society have to be considered in order to understand the violence.

‘The subordination of women, the powerlessness in everyday life and the constant vulnerability to harassment and objectification contribute to a self-image where many victims cannot even identify that they have been victimised. In order to prevent the violence, we need to increase the status of women with disabilities in society at large.’

 

Institutions most risky

Maria Montefusco, project manager at the Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues and Secretary of Council of Nordic Cooperation on Disability, points to an important difference between the Nordic and other European countries.

‘We no longer have the same large institutions, the environment that has been identified as being the most risky. The Nordic studies show that violence is more common in segregated housing.’

Gunnarsdóttir agrees: housing facilities and institutions contribute to isolation, which can make it difficult for victims to seek help.

‘In order to muster enough strength to seek help, you need support from those around you. The isolation can prevent the residents from creating their own networks.’

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’This type of violence is a failure of society’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/this-type-of-violence-is-a-failure-of-society/ Maria Montefusco. Photo: Fredrik Sjögren NVC

Maria Montefusco. Photo: Fredrik Sjögren NVC

Persons with norm-breaking functional capacity are victims of violence to a greater extent than other people, and the fact that authorities have little knowledge about the problem puts the victims in a particularly difficult situation. Due to their special vulnerability, the effects of the violence are often not the same as when the victim is a person with norm-conforming functional capacity, Montefusco points out.

Why is it important to address this issue in a Nordic context?
‘The research is scarce and there’re not many experts to consult, so we have a lot to gain from sharing experiences with each other. All Nordic countries are working with this issue, but in different ways. At this point it’s hard to say which approach works best.’

What differences do you see?
‘For example there is a difference in how vulnerable groups are made visible. Particularly in Sweden, vulnerable groups have long been given special recognition in the work against violence.

In Iceland, the issue of violence and disability has been debated intensely in the last two years and the Norwegians have inventoried and evaluated support services. In Denmark, authorities have a good understanding of which crisis centres are available. In Finland, one problem has been the variation in how municipalities have managed to create safe environments. At the turn of the year, the funding responsibility was transferred to the state, increasing the regional equality.’

What are the benefits of the gender perspective?
‘There are lots of benefits. We know a great deal about the violence against women, but the knowledge about violence against men with a disability is almost non-existent. There’s a risk that we fail to recognise the vulnerability of this group, and there are stereotypes and a lack of knowledge in for example law enforcement and the legal system.’

What are the challenges in dealing with this issue?
‘It’s a difficult topic. There’s a taboo surrounding it. This type of violence is a failure of society. It’s hard to come to grips with. The issue is perceived as very complex. We don’t really know what to do if we find out that a person with a disability has fallen victim to violence. Not everybody in the care sector is a potential perpetrator, but there’s a need for increased transparency and a discussion about the power position of those who work with these people in their home environments.’

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New Nordic Network for Women with Spinal Cord Injuries http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-nordic-network-for-women-with-spinal-cord-injuries/ There is a great need for knowledge and sharing of experiences, says Nilsson, who has started activities for women with spinal cord injuries in Sweden. The Nordic co-operation project, which is funded by Nordic Welfare, was initiated this spring with a meeting in Copenhagen.

What are you going to do in the project?

Erika Nilsson. Photo: Ervin Katai

Erika Nilsson. Photo: Ervin Katai

We have just started and our plans are not complete yet. But we’re hoping to do a workshop on issues specific to women at the Nordic spinal cord injury conference in Trondheim in September. We have also talked about putting together a course. We want to encourage research of relevance to our group, but also support newly injured women and point to the possibilities of living a good and active life even you have been put in a wheelchair.’

What kind of knowledge is missing today?
‘We need to make people more knowledgeable about pregnancies and giving birth. Some women are putting off having children. They don’t know whether their paralysed bodies will be able to deliver a baby. Healthcare professionals lack knowledge in this area as well. A group I’m part of has launched a website about becoming and being a parent as a person with a spinal cord injury. The project has received a lot of attention in our neighbour countries. We also need to address issues related to sexuality and contraceptives. For example, the risk of getting a blood clot increases if you’re in a wheelchair and take birth control pills.’

Why is Nordic co-operation needed?
‘The low number of women with spinal cord injuries makes it important to co-operate across national boundaries. Only 20 per cent of those who suffer a spinal cord injury are women. We have a lot to gain from reaching out to each other. Working together will make us stronger and more influential.’

What happens next?
‘The Nordic network will meet after the summer in Trondheim. Then we’ll talk about what to do next. We have also started a Facebook group for Nordic women with spinal cord injuries. I have worked with these issues for 12 years and I see an obvious need for meeting places for women. If you’re newly injured, it’s easy to think your life is over. In those situations it can be valuable to talk to other people who have lived with their injuries for a long time.’

 

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Gender Researchers Sorting Out the Lingo http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gender-researchers-sorting-out-the-lingo/ ill_studier_470x300px_Emma_HanquistThe aim of the Norwegian project is to explain gender-related concepts in an online glossary that will continue to grow over the course of the project. The project is headed by Jorunn Økland and Amund Rake Hoffart, researchers at the Center for Gender Research, University of Oslo.

‘We’ll do the spadework and select a large number of concepts used in the field, from both Norwegian and English sources. Then we’ll gather gender researchers from different universities and discuss which terms to include in the glossary.’

 

English is taking over

The glossary project is funded by the Language Council of Norway and run by the Center for Gender Research. Hoffart stresses the importance of making the terminology relevant to everybody in the field. The glossary will include concepts and definitions in both Standard and New Norwegian – the country’s two official forms of written language.

‘One goal is to strengthen the position of the Norwegian language in this academic field. It is well-known that English is becoming increasingly dominant in academia,’ says Rake Hoffart.

The meaning of several gender-related concepts is subject to lively debate in Norway. One example is the use of hen and hin, two gender-neutral pronouns.

‘In Sweden it seems like hen has been integrated in the language in a different way than in Norway. Our national language council is receiving a lot of questions about this and it’ll be interesting to look closer at these words.’

Another issue that will be discussed is the gender vs. sex issue. Norwegian currently does not have a special term for the former; instead, if a distinction is necessary the Norwegians typically refer to a person’s social (vs. biological) sex.

‘We’ll discuss this further. It’s interesting that Sweden has solved this in a different way,’ says Rake Hoffart.

Controversial concepts particularly challenging

OrdlistaThe Swedish project has many things in common with its Norwegian counterpart. The work is led by gender researchers Ann Werner and Anna Lundberg and will result in a dictionary. The publication will include discussions and explanations of concepts used in gender studies and gender research. As in Norway, the idea is to create a common platform for researchers.

Together with a reference group with representatives from Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research and various gender institutes, Werner and Lundberg are going to select which concepts and authors to include in the work with the book.

‘There may be a need to have several authors describe certain controversial concepts. One such concept is intersectionality,’ says Werner.

The dictionary is part of a writing series on gender published by the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research. Previous works in the series deal with subjects such as education, the labour market and critical thinking.

 

Ownership of language

Creating a dictionary is not a simple task. Lundberg says that the question of who owns the language is of central importance.

‘So it’s important that we both talk history and are open to negotiations.’

The dictionary, which will be available for download, is scheduled to be finished in early 2016. It will primarily target students and an interested public, but the plan is to also make it useful in gender mainstreaming training.

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’We Demand That Employers Stop Breaking the Law!’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/we-demand-that-employers-stop-breaking-the-law/ ‘Plans to have children shouldn’t affect somebody’s chances of being called to a job interview or getting a job,’ says Elisabeth Lier Haugseth, head of department at the Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud. Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen

‘Plans to have children shouldn’t affect somebody’s chances of being called to a job interview or getting a job,’ says Elisabeth Lier Haugseth, head of department at the Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud. Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen

Over half of the female employees in the Norwegian study said they had been treated differently in connection with parental leave or a pregnancy. For men, the figure is 22 per cent. One in five pregnant women chooses not to look for a job because she does not want to be perceived as difficult by the employer.

‘The results are terrible but unfortunately not surprising. Discrimination in connection with parental leave or a pregnancy is the most common reason for contacting us. It happens every week,’ says Elisabeth Lier Haugseth, head of department at the Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud.
The study was conducted by TNS Gallup and included over 2000 people who had a baby during the period 2008–2014.

Lier Haugseth says the differential treatment has serious consequences. Individuals lose a fair shot at employment, salary growth and career development, and society misses out on important competence.

‘We demand action on this. Employers should be aware of the gender equality legislation and stop violating it. Public authorities should promote a gender equal work policy and spread information about workers’ rights. In addition, the path to restitution in court should be made simpler and faster.’

 

Same problem across the Nordic region

According to Pirkko Mäkinen, Finnish gender equality ombudsman and involved in a Finnish campaign supporting the rights of pregnant women – Oikeuksia odottaville – all Nordic countries are struggling with the same problems.

Of over 700 people who participated in a Finnish study, almost 70 per cent said they or somebody they knew had been discriminated against as a result of being pregnant. In over 60 per cent of the cases, the employer was a company. In 20 per cent of the cases, the employer was a municipality.

‘The situation has improved for men. An increasing number of collective agreements include at least partly paid parental leave for fathers,’ says Pirkko Mäkinen, Finland’s gender equality ombudsman. Photo: Riitta Supperi

‘The situation has improved for men. An increasing number of collective agreements include at least partly paid parental leave for fathers,’ says Pirkko Mäkinen, Finland’s gender equality ombudsman. Photo: Riitta Supperi

‘The statistics only show the tip of the iceberg. Finnish dads take out considerably less parental leave than Swedish dads, so the employers are not used to the idea of men going on parental leave. It may be particularly difficult to stand up for one’s right in communities with limited job opportunities,’ says Mäkinen.

The purpose of the campaign is to inform women and men about their rights and remind employers about the law.

‘Discriminatory hiring practices are not as common anymore. However, an increasing number of people say they have not been able to return to the same job duties after a parental leave. The situation has improved for men. An increasing number of collective agreements include at least partly paid parental leave for fathers.’

 

Temporary workers vulnerable

Lier Haugseth emphasises that plans to have children should not affect a person’s chances of being called to a job interview or getting a job.

‘Still, 12 per cent of the Norwegian women and 9 per cent of the men said they had been asked about it during a job interview. Fourteen per cent of the women had experienced not getting a job because of a parental leave.’

In Finland, the most vulnerable group consists of women with temporary contracts, women who work part time or for a temp agency, and women with contracts not specifying a set number of working hours – so-called zero-hour contracts.

‘The employers should realise that they get a good reputation if they deal with these issues in a good way,’ says Mäkinen.

 

Go to http://www.oikeuttaodottaville.fi/sv/etusivu to send your boss an information package anonymously and name good employers that comply with the law. Both these services are used frequently.

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Exploited Foreign Women Lacking Support in Law http://www.nikk.no/en/news/exploited-foreign-women-lacking-support-in-law/ Katarina Björkgren. Photo: private

Katarina Björkgren. Photo: private

The conference was a follow-up of a meeting held in 2012 on the same theme. That conference was arranged in connection with the presentation of a Swedish government report on the incidence of violence against foreign women and their children who come to Sweden to live with Swedish men. Measures to improve their situation were also discussed.

‘The background to this year’s conference is that nothing has happened since the report was presented. The problem hasn’t been dealt with, and we wanted to bring attention to that,’ says Katarina Björkgren from the Västra Götaland county board.

 

What are the most important conclusions from the conference?
‘That we have a large group of women who don’t receive the same treatment as the majority population when it comes to domestic violence, despite the fact that our countries have signed international human rights conventions. Since these minority women fall primarily under the so-called Aliens Act, milder forms of violence often pass unnoticed. Majority women, in contrast, are clearly told that all forms of domestic violence are unacceptable.’ 

‘Another important conclusion was that the legislation enables men to take advantage of foreign women in a way resembling human trafficking. I also see it as important to focus on the children. Some men are also out to exploit the women’s children, something the women often cannot do anything about. So the legislation doesn’t lead to just exploitation of adult women, but also paedophilia. And nobody is responsible for the children.’

 

What is the most important work that needs to be done?
‘Sweden has a two-year rule, meaning that during the first two years, a foreigner’s residence permit is conditional on ties with a Swedish resident. In Norway, the limit is three years, but the government has proposed an increase to five years. The measure held as most important was to make Norway reconsider the raising of the limit. Compliance with our human rights commitments will be difficult if we have people in society who are forced to endure violence for five years because they’re afraid they will lose their residence permits if they tell somebody. Many of these women are from countries to which it is socially impossible to return as a divorcee. If they go back, their only opportunity to put bread on the table may be a life in prostitution. 

What’s the biggest problem right now: the legislation and the way it’s applied, or the lack of information to the women?
‘Both. When women come to live with a Norwegian or Swedish man, they usually don’t know the language very well, and in Norway they’re not entitled to an interpreter. All of this makes it difficult for them to learn about their rights. They are usually not covered by information campaigns targeting other immigrant groups. We need to focus our work on the legislation, on informing those who implement the laws and on the women.’

 

The conference was hosted by the three Swedish county boards inVärmland, Västra Götaland and Norrbotten together with the Swedish Embassy and the MiRA Centre. The participants consisted of politicians and public administrators as well as representatives from organisations and academia. The plan is to arrange a new conference in two years to follow up the progress made in the area.

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Two Steps Forward and One Step Back in the View of Female Entrepreneurship http://www.nikk.no/en/news/two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back-in-the-view-of-female-entrepreneurship/ Photo: Colourbox

Photo: Colourbox

The Nordic countries share many traits. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Åland have similar value systems and social solutions. The same can be said about their views of business, entrepreneurship and gender equality.

Katarina Pettersson, researcher at the unit for rural development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, has conducted a gender analysis of policies for female entrepreneurship in the Nordic region.

I’ve explored the policies implemented to support women’s entrepreneurship in the six Nordic countries and have simply looked closer at how the different policies are formulated,’ she says.

The report, titled En genusanalys av policy för kvinnors företagande i Norden, discusses the results and lessons learned from initiatives to promote female entrepreneurship. It offers both broad and deep knowledge about which measures can be expected to lead to equal conditions for entrepreneurship.

When women are placed in a subordinate position and it is assumed that they need help, that they don’t understand entrepreneurship and business, the focus is set on individual female entrepreneurs and not on the structural problems in business-promoting systems and the labour market at large.’

Some Nordic countries have taken steps towards a more structural perspective in recent years, while others have taken a step backwards.

It’ll be interesting to follow this development. Not least since both Norway and Sweden have relatively new governments in place,’ says Pettersson.

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Need for Research on Gender Equality in Nordic Academia http://www.nikk.no/en/news/need-for-research-on-gender-equality-in-nordic-academia/ Jesper Werdelin Simonsen. Press photo

Jesper Werdelin Simonsen. Press photo

‘The share of women in senior academic positions at Nordic universities and other research institutions is not proportional to the share of women in society at large. The gender balance in research and innovation is no better than the European average. The gender balance might be good in the overall management of academic institutions, but this is not reflected in the top academic positions. This is the background for the programme,’ says Simonsen Werdelin.

 

Better statistics

The research programme is a follow-up to the report Norden – et steg nærmere kjønnsbalanse i forskning? (the Nordic region – a step closer to gender balance in research?), drawn up in 2013 on request by the Committee for Gender Balance in Research in Norway. In addition to establishing a joint Nordic research programme, the report recommends that the Nordic countries work systematically to develop better statistics on gender balance in academia. This statistical endeavour will be included in the new programme.

‘The EU has a big programme called She Figures, where they collect data on the gender equality situation in research and innovation. The goal of creating a Nordic She Figures is both to create better data for ourselves and to contribute to higher quality of the European She Figures,’ says Simonsen.

 

Compare the Nordic countries

ill_forskare_186x265px_Emma_HanquistThe report points out that the research-based knowledge on gender balance in Nordic academia remains weak. The report mentions a number of areas where more knowledge is needed, including research funding and gender, work environment studies in a gender equality perspective, and publication and citation patterns in a gender perspective. The programme will not just gather information about the gender dynamics in academia in each individual country, but also facilitate studies of differences and similarities among the Nordic countries and between the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe.

‘The main argument for improving the gender balance in academia has always been that if we don’t, we’ll waste a lot of important talent resources. So the focus is not primarily on discrimination or discriminatory structures in academia, although there are probably some good examples of that. What’s important is that an improved gender balance will raise the quality of Nordic research,’ says Simonsen.

 

Call for applications next autumn

The programme was established in early March by the board of NordForsk, a body under the Nordic Council of Ministers that funds Nordic research cooperation. Currently, the Research Council of Norway, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte) and the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture have agreed to fund the programme along with NordForsk. Several other Nordic institutions are also considering contributing.

‘The programme committee will hold its first meeting shortly, but the first call for applications can’t be expected until next autumn. The programme will be action oriented and not focus on basic research. We therefore need to identify the areas with the greatest need for action when preparing the project documents,’ says Simonsen.

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Nordic Ministers call for men to play greater role in gender equality http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-ministers-call-for-men-to-play-greater-role-in-gender-equality/ Manu Sareen. Pressbild

Manu Sareen. Pressbild

 

“Over the last 20 years the Beijing Platform for Action has been a guiding star for women and girls’ empowerment. And we have come far towards a world in which every woman and girl can exercise her freedoms, her choices, and realize all her rights. So this year is a time for celebrating progress. But it is also a time where we must move to the next level of gender equality”, says Manu Sareen, Danish Minister for Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs, who chairs MR-JÄM in 2015.

On Wednesday, the ministers gathered at the UN CSW for a panel debate about men and gender equality.

Eygló Harðardóttir, Icelandic Minister for Social Affairs and Housing, who is also responsible for gender equality, notes that it has positive benefits for both women and men.

“Everybody benefits from a labour market that is not based on gender stereotypes. Everybody benefits from a childcare policy that lets fathers play a role in childrearing. And progress will only be made in the work to combat violence against women if men take an active stand,” the minister says.

 

The Nordic countries have been comparing experiences, pursuing joint priorities and working together to promote gender equality for over 40 years. Active participation by men and boys is one of the main themes of the current Nordic programme for co-operation on gender equality.

“The contribution made by boys and men is crucial. We need to work together to make progress towards gender equality,” says Åsa Regnér, Swedish Minister for Gender Equality.

Eygló Harðardóttir

Eygló Harðardóttir. Press photo

According to MR-JÄM, Nordic experience shows that gender equality is not just a matter of justice or democracy, but an economic necessity and a pillar of the Nordic welfare model.

“Women and men need to work together to change attitudes and build sustainable societies for ourselves and future generations. Gender equality benefits all of us,” says the Finnish representative at the panel debate, Anne Sipiläinen, Under-Secretary of State.

The Norwegian representative, State Secretary Hans Brattskar, stresses that men have just as great a responsibility for progress as women:

“When it comes to addressing the inequalities and discrimination faced by women and girls, men are important agents of change – because often they are the ones wielding power.”

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The article is previously published at norden.org]]>
Sweden Expands Gender Mainstreaming Programme http://www.nikk.no/en/news/sweden-expands-gender-mainstreaming-programme/ The conference. Photo: Jämställ.nu

The gender mainstreaming conference. Photo: Jämställ.nu

Gender mainstreaming is used as a strategy to achieve policy objectives for gender equality in all Nordic countries, but the exact design of the work differs.

All Nordic EU-countries have been required to follow the EU rules for gender mainstreaming work since 1997, and Norway follows the rules by choice.

‘It’s not enough to wake up in the morning and say you feel kind of feminist. A feminist government needs to stick its neck out and push things forward,’ said Swedish gender equality minister Åsa Regnér at a conference in Stockholm on 4 March.

Three hundred people, including 40 director generals of some of Sweden’s largest government agencies, had gathered at the conference to kick off the expansion of the Gender Mainstreaming in Government Agencies (GMGA) programme.

‘Government agencies play a very strong role in Sweden compared with their counterparts in many other countries. It’s therefore important that you feel connected to the national gender equality policy,’ Regnér said.

Forty-one agencies supported

The Swedish GMGA programme started in 2013 with 18 government agencies. Now it is time to add another 23, including the Swedish Prosecution Authority, the Swedish Public Employment Service and the National Board of Health and Welfare. Over the next four years, the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research will assist the selected agencies in their gender mainstreaming work.

A Nordic review, requested by the Danish government, concludes that Sweden has made the greatest investments in the area. In Sweden, gender mainstreaming is prioritised centrally, and the implemented measures are rather comprehensive, with a focus on preventive work. In contrast, Denmark has emphasised concrete problems affecting certain parts of the population. The review, carried out by Oxford Research, finds that also Finland and Norway have chosen a more problem-oriented approach.

Active efforts with limited resources

Åsa Regnér. Photo: Jämställ.nu

Åsa Regnér at the gender mainstreaming conference. Photo: Jämställ.nu

Annamari Asikainen from the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health thinks positively of the Swedish government’s initiative. She says that those types of resources are simply not available in Finland.

‘We too work actively with these issues and are trying to incorporate this way of thinking in key processes in the ministries. Finland’s gender mainstreaming strategy has received a high rating from the European Institute for Gender Equality. Maybe that means we’re doing the right things with our limited resources.’

The Finnish gender equality legislation requires all public agencies to actively promote gender equality. Gender mainstreaming is used to this end. Each ministry has a gender equality group that supports the government agencies in its respective domain. Asikainen says that the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, which is in charge of the Finnish public employment agency, has come a long way in the area. The agency has arranged training to help its staff become better at considering gender equality aspects in their work.

‘It’s about breaking away from segregation and the lack of gender equality in the labour market.’

‘A long-term plan for the work is lacking’

Also the Norwegian gender equality legislation requires public agencies to promote gender equality, and gender mainstreaming is used there as well. Each ministry is in charge of the work in its respective domain. But, similar to the situation in Finland, Lise Østby from the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs points out that the resources available for this work are limited.

Norway also has three private foundations that offer advice and training in the area of gender mainstreaming. The Centre for Equality in the town of Hamar is one of them. Director Signe Opsahl says that the public agencies have good ambitions when it comes to gender equality issues, but that the necessary knowledge and an effective structure for the work are generally lacking.

‘The actual implementation of the gender mainstreaming is weak in many ways. There’s no long-term plan for how to actually do the work,’ she says.

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What’s the most important feminist issue right now? http://www.nikk.no/en/news/whats-the-most-important-feminist-issue-right-now/ Amal Aden. Foto: privat

Amal Aden. Photo: private

‘The most important issue is how we can help liberate minority women. I’m thinking in particular of women who don’t have any networks, who don’t speak the language in the country they have settled in, who live with violent men and who are forced to endure physical and mental abuse. These are the women we should help deal with their gender-related limitations.’
Amal Aden, author and lecturer focusing on the rights of women and children

 

 

Drífa Snædal. Foto: privat

Drífa Snædal. Photo: private

‘Feminism has taught us to define power structures between genders, groups, nations and countries. We need to focus on the connection between different forms of oppression. We need to inform and educate so that more people can see and work against the power structures. In the labour market it’s about pay differences, violence and different career opportunities.’
Drífa Snædal, general secretary Federation of General and Special Workers in Iceland

 

 

Mia Hanström. Foto: privat

Mia Hanström. Photo: private

‘Equal pay, shared parental leave, equal representation, equal treatment and equal pensions for women and men. I could go on and on. However, power analyses and measures to ensure equal distribution of our common resources are probably at the very top of the list. We need a gender perspective, a norm-critical perspective and an intersectional perspective in this work.’
Mia Hanström, chair of Åland’s feminist umbrella network

 

 

Aija Salo. Foto: privat

Aija Salo. Photo: private

‘Maybe education and the way children grow up. All children have the right to security and to positive response and support without gender stereotypes. Every person should get to decide over his or her own body, name and legal gender. This is not possible unless parents, teachers, doctors, coaches etc. have the necessary norm-critical competence. Laws also need to be changed, like the transgender act.’
Aija Salo, secretary general of the Finnish organisation for LGBT rights Seta

 

Rauna Kuokkanen. Foto: privat

Rauna Kuokkanen. Photo: private

‑ As a Sámi woman and Indigenous feminist, the most important issue for me is self-determination for Indigenous women. Indigenous peoples must be in charge of their own affairs. Indigenous women must be in charge of their own lives and bodies. Gendered violence against Indigenous women is a self-determination issue, and Indigenous self-determination is a gender justice issue. Rauna Kuokkanen, Sámi from Ohcejohka (Utsjoki), Northern Finland. Associate Professor of Political Science and Aboriginal Studies at the University of Toronto.

 

 

Hilde Sofie Pettersen. Photo: private

Hilde Sofie Pettersen. Photo: private

‘We in the north must let go of the image of ourselves as highly equal. It gives us a rhetoric that has no room for all the work that remains. Okay, we are more equal than Saudi Arabia, but we must remember that we have genital mutilation, forced marriages and widespread discrimination also in Norway.’
Hilde Sofie Pettersen, editor of the feminist publication Fett

 

 

Tomas Agnemo. Foto: Män för jämställdhet

Tomas Agnemo. Photo: Men for Gender Equality

‘That society makes a serious attempt to deal with men’s violence and hatred. The violence and hatred against feminists and antiracists, the hatred against women, the hatred against animals and nature. It’s men who are doing all of this, and it’s masculinity norms and men that need to change. Society needs to take this seriously and undertake broad violence-prevention work aimed to change the prevailing masculinity norms.’
Tomas Agnemo, director Men for Gender Equality

 

 

Birgit Søderberg. Foto: privat

Birgit Søderberg. Photo: private

‘One of the biggest problems in the work to achieve greater gender equality in the Danish society is that the environment for discussion is so inflamed. It is practically impossible to have a constructive debate on gender equality measures – even if you present nice cost-benefit analyses showing that we would all gain from it.’
Birgit Søderberg, Lokk – the national organisation of women’s shelters in Denmark

 

 

Carina Ohlsson. Foto: privat

Carina Ohlsson. Photo: private

‘The possibility for women to provide for themselves is crucial, which means that their position in the labour market has to be strengthened with a right to full-time work and equal pay. Women’s right to their own bodies is also key. Men’s violence against women, rape, prostitution and human trafficking are the ultimate consequences of an unequal society.’
Carina Ohlsson, chair Social Democratic Women in Sweden and member of the Swedish Parliament

 

 

Ozan Yanar. Foto: Heikki Tuuli

Ozan Yanar. Photo: Heikki Tuuli

‑ We should be able to make feminism mainstream way of thinking in our societies. Even Nordic countries which are considered most equal societies in the world, have problems like gender wage gaps and different glass ceilings. It’s important to break problematic traditional gender roles, challenge heteronormative thinking and take into account needs of different minorities. Ozan Yanar, Co-chairman of the Youth Greens in Finland

 

 

Peter Sandström. Foto: privat

Peter Sandström. Photo: private

‘I grew up in the 1970s and needless to say, the world was different back then. There was this healthy unisex approach to for example clothing and hobbies. I think kids have a very open attitude to gender equality, and that should of course be encouraged. The distinction between what’s masculine and what’s feminine begins way too early.’
Peter Sandström, Finnish-Swedish author living in Turku

 

 

 

Amu Urhonen. Foto: Charlotta Boucht

Amu Urhonen. Photo: Charlotta Boucht

‑ For me, feminism is an ideology of freedom to be what we are and to be able to use and develop our individual skills. I would like to see feminism grow more inclusive. Currently, most feminist talk is way too academic. That makes feminism sound more difficult than it is. We should focus on mainstreaming equality instead of arguing of nuances. Feminism benefits everyone. That’s surely a message worth sharing! Amu Urhonen, Green feminist and disability activist

 

 

Pia Deleuran. Foto: privat

Pia Deleuran. Photo: private

‘How the development of family formation and family law in the Nordic countries can be based on zero tolerance for violence and abuse as well as recognition of and respect for the importance of  reproductive aspects. An investigation of the area should be undertaken immediately. See more on Nordictour2014.dk.’
Pia Deleuran, lawyer and mediator focusing on advanced conflict management. Deleuran has a special interest in equality, legal security and human rights issues.

 

 

Kirsi Marttinen. Foto: privat

Kirsi Marttinen. Photo: private

‑ Violence against women. Almost a third of all Finnish women have experienced physical or sexual abuse in a relationship but the cases are not often reported. We need: 1) more awareness of the issue 2) accessible services, e.g. shelters, for victims 3) to stop mediation in close relationships 4) funding and resources for governmental action plan 5) political will for all the aforementioned. Kirsi Marttinen, Secretary General for Finnish Centre Women. Executive committee member, National Council for Gender Equality.

 

 

 

Katrin Kallsberg. Foto: privat

Katrin Kallsberg. Photo: private

‘One of the most important feminist issues in the Faroe Islands right now is the lack of role models. We have our parliamentary election this year, and although Faroese women have been able to vote for almost 100 years, we have only one woman in our government. The proportion of women in Faroese politics has increased, but we need women in the most important positions as well.’

Katrin Kallsberg, chair of the Faroese national gender equality committee, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at the National Hospital of the Faroe Islands, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

 

 

Fakhra Salimi. Foto: privat

Fakhra Salimi. Photo: private

‘Racified women and girls lack influence in Nordic decision-making bodies, and as a result of this we often see a lack of a multidimensional perspective on gender equality policy in the region. Women’s struggle is a struggle for rights and equality. As racism discriminates people in society, the struggle against racism is also a women’s struggle.’
Fakhra Salimi, leader of the MiRA Resource Center for Black, Immigrant and Refugee Women

 

 

‘Sexual harassment was included under the gender equality act following the legal amendment in 2013, making such conduct illegal. Greenland’s gender equality council will bring focus to this type of harassment, which is defined as any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature with the effect or purpose of violating, humiliating, discriminating against or impair the person
Inge Olsvig Brandt, Greenland’s gender equality council

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“Very different gender issues on the agenda in Canada” http://www.nikk.no/en/news/very-different-gender-issues-on-the-agenda-in-canada/ Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Nordic and Canadian politicians, researchers, NGO representatives and people from business and industry met last week in Quebec at a conference on sustainable development in the northern and Arctic areas of the two regions.

One of the many topics at the conference, which was arranged by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the government in Quebec, was gender and gender equality. The Nordic representatives included Erika Anne Hayfield, PhD and assistant professor at the University of the Faroe Islands. Hayfield presented her research on young people’s migration from the Faroe Islands. NIKK had a chance to talk to her during the conference.

‘The main argument in my presentation is that we have to work with in- and outbound migration as an integral part of the Faroese culture. My research shows that young people think of it as a natural part of life. It’s about opportunities. It’s about breaking free from the safe environment in a small community.’

‘More women than men move away to get an education. However, the gender aspect becomes even clearer when it comes to returning. Many women cannot find employment in the Faroe Islands. They see the private sector as very male dominated. For example, there are very few women in management positions,’ says Hayfield and explains that the reasons also include a superior Danish welfare system, a Faroese labour market with lots of part-time work and a traditional gender culture.

Are there any other conference contributions that address gender and gender equality? How much room is given to these issues?
‘The conference is covering a lot, and the participants come here with very diverse backgrounds. It seems like Canada and the Nordic countries have very different gender issues on their agendas. Over here I perceive quite different gender equality concerns, concerns that have to do with Canada’s indigenous peoples. I attended a workshop where they for example talked about an educational programme at university level for these groups. The average age in the programme is 38, and most of the students are women. The reason for this is that many women have children at a young age. There’s some prestige involved in this behaviour. So they drop out of school. The young women ask themselves what opportunities they have, and many of them don’t see many other opportunities than having children. This means that the challenges are very different than the ones we face in the Nordic countries.’

Are there any aspects that you can bring home with you and that have made you wiser?

Erika Hayfield. Foto: privat

Erika Hayfield. Photo: private

‘The Nordic region has come a long way when it comes to gender equality. I wish the Faroe Islands would have come as far as the other Nordic countries. But my perspective changes completely when I compare our situation with places where they can’t even really talk about gender issues because they’re too busy dealing with the fundamental challenges some groups in society are facing, like education and language policy. Their lack of equality is not so much a matter of gender, but more about being treated unequally in relation to the rest of Canada. This obviously doesn’t make it OK that the Faroe Islands has not made more progress in the gender equality area. It only means that we have different things on our agenda than a modern country like Canada.’
What’s your overall impression of the conference?
‘I’ve got so much out of the conference. But I think we can learn something from it. If we wish to cooperate and share knowledge with Canada, maybe we should emphasise a clearer focus so that we really get a debate on gender. We didn’t get that type of debate here, as it ended up only concerning the indigenous peoples. That’s extremely relevant too, of course. But to get a really good debate on gender, you almost have to plan a separate seminar or workshop around that topic. Why put gender and gender equality under the theme “social conditions”, like they did here? Nothing defines our identity more than gender.’

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Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality Attend UN CSW http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-ministers-for-gender-equality-attend-un-csw/ Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

“Men are important supporters in areas where the status of women needs to be strengthened, for example, in fighting violence against women. The Nordic countries have some good examples of this that we would like to share with you in New York”, says the Danish Minister of Gender Equality, Manu Sareen, the chair of the Nordic Council of Minsters for Gender Equality in 2015.

In their new co-operation programme, the Nordic ministers for gender equality highlight the example of men in traditionally female dominated occupations. Breaking the gender division in the labour market promotes both the career and job opportunities for both sexes, as well as reducing the income gap between women and men which arises as a result of division along gender lines.

“Let’s not forget that a more equal division of care work in families promotes both women’s opportunities in the labour market and men’s role as fathers. Many will spend more time with their children”, says Manu Sareen.

The Nordic minister’s panel will take place in the UN Headquarters, auditorium Dag H, on Wednesday 11 March, 11.30–12.45 local time. The seminar will be streamed live on www.norden.org.

Equality affects the economy

A basic prerequisite for economic growth is a high participation in the labour market of both sexes – but personal finances are also affected by gender equality policies. In conjunction with CSW, the Nordic Council of Ministers is organising a expert seminar on gender equality as a crucial economic parameter, where different viewpoints on gender equality as a prerequisite for economic growth and prosperity will be presented.

The expert seminar will take place in the UN Headquarters, auditorium Dag H, on Monday 16 March, 13.15-14.30 local time.

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Gathering Nordic Gender Equality Statistics in One Place http://www.nikk.no/en/news/gathering-nordic-gender-equality-statistics-in-one-place/ Annemette Lindhardt Olsen. Photo: private

Annemette Lindhardt Olsen. Photo: private

In an international perspective, the Nordic countries have come a long way in their gender equality efforts. The progress is evident in areas such as health, political power and women’s access to education. Nevertheless, a lot of work remains. To get a better understanding of the current situation, the Nordic Council of Ministers has initiated a cooperation project between the Nordic statistics offices. A working group has been tasked to develop statistics on gender and gender equality and make the information available to a broader public.
‘The statistics will help inform the political decision making, and will also be used to spread knowledge about the Nordic gender equality work,’ says Linn Mårtens, gender equality adviser to the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Difficult to compare statistics on violence

The cooperation between the Nordic statistics offices started in the summer of 2014. Since then, the working group, which consists of one representative from each country, has been meeting to compile the statistics. When the statistics offices’ own information has not been enough, the working group has used other sources, such as NOMESCO, the committee for health statistics in the Nordic countries, and the UN organ UNECE (Economic Commission for Europe).
‘We have come up with some good data on for example income, parental leave and gender distribution on company boards,’ says Annemette Lindhardt Olsen, who is leading the group.
Some areas have been more difficult to work with. Men’s violence against women is one example.
‘The national statistics on violence are based on observations that can’t be compared with each other. We can’t just look at police reports either, since many victims never contact the police,’ says Lindhardt Olsen.

Publishing the results

The results of the work will be published in a report titled Nordic Gender Equality in Figures 2015, which will be presented at the UN women’s conference in New York in early March. The easy-to-read report will be divided into separate areas, including health, education, labour market and influence/power. The statistics will show both development over time and differences and similarities between countries, such as that the income gap between women and men is smallest in Denmark and that women’s unpaid work at home has decreased in all Nordic countries since the year 2000.
‘The report will be used in international contexts. The Nordic countries have come a long way when it comes to gender equality and may help inspire other countries,’ says Lindhardt Olsen.

New website with gender equality statistics

Statistics from the Nordic countries are already available in the Nordic Statistics database, but gender equality is not included as a separate subject area. The new statistical material will be added shortly. Also, a new webpage will be added at norden.org on 15 September. The new page will present the gender equality statistics with descriptive text, data and graphs.
Lindhardt Olsen says that one advantage with the project is that it has helped establish cooperation between officers specialising in gender equality at the Nordic statistics offices.
‘It’s important to know what one’s Nordic colleagues are doing. We can help and inspire each other. It’s about sharing knowledge. Now we’ve established close contact and can also plan future cooperation,’ she says.
Linn Mårtens at the Nordic Council of Ministers thinks it is great that all Nordic gender equality statistics are gathered in one place.
‘It means that we can refer anybody who’s interested to the website. We’ve had statistics in the past, too, but they have never been available in one place.’

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Nordic Experiences to Inspire Danish Municipalities http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-experiences-to-inspire-danish-municipalities/ Peter Ussing and Kirsten Precht. Photo: Jørgen Poulsen

Peter Ussing and Kirsten Precht. Photo: Jørgen Poulsen

All Danish municipalities are required to gender assess their citizen services and the working conditions of the people they employ. The purpose of this requirement is to improve the gender equality in the municipal workplace and ensure that all public services are equally available to men and women. However, the report titled Mätbar jämställdhet (Measurable gender equality) from the Danish Institute for Human Rights shows that compliance with the mainstreaming requirement varies a great deal among the 98 Danish municipalities.

The reasons for the discrepancies include that the municipalities lack relevant gender equality statistics and useful indicators. Without proper metrics, it is difficult for politicians to formulate objectives and gauge development over time. Consequently, the Danish Institute for Human Rights is calling for clearer and more user-friendly statistics on gender equality. The report brings attention to Swedish and Norwegian experiences.

 

Connection between objectives and statistics

‘Statistics Sweden develops statistics based on the Swedish government’s gender equality objectives. They have a clear task to illuminate how the work to achieve the objectives is progressing at the national, county and municipal levels,’ says Peter Ussing, project leader at the Institute, who has edited the report together with special adviser Kirsten Precht.

In Norway, Statistics Norway has published gender equality indicators at municipal level since 1990. ‘Based on this information, each municipality is assigned a gender equality index, which shows how the municipality is doing in relation to the national average. Denmark can learn a lot from these two Nordic neighbours,’ says Ussing.

 

Combining statistics

Statistics Denmark, who contributed to the report, already presents extensive gender data. However, it can be difficult to draw conclusions based on the statistical material without specialist knowledge, as it for example can be necessary to combine several statistics to get a fair view of a situation. Based on the Norwegian and Swedish experiences, the report illustrates for example how three types of statistics can be combined in a useful way: gender distribution in the labour market, employment rates and share of people with higher education.

 

Need for legislative change

Diagram

Illustration: J Gustafson

Statistics Denmark will not be able to carry out this task successfully without legislative change and proper funding. The report therefore recommends that the politicians request that Statistics Denmark develop and disseminate gender equality statistics to the municipalities. It also recommends that Statistics Denmark, the municipalities, the Danish Ministry of Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs and other relevant actors cooperate to establish the necessary indicators.

‘The clearer the politicians can define the objectives, the clearer and more focused and user-friendly the statistics delivered by Statistics Denmark will be. And conversely, the better the statistics, the easier it is to set goals. Denmark has been pragmatic and doesn’t share Sweden’s and Norway’s strong tradition of measuring and developing objectives in this area. The work relies on getting the statistics in place, so it’s great to get a discussion going,’ says Kirsten Precht who also wrote the introduction to gender mainstreaming in the report.

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Debate on sex purchase legislation keeps simmering http://www.nikk.no/en/news/debate-on-sex-purchase-legislation-keeps-simmering/ Domarklubba. Foto: Colourbox

Photo: Colourbox

Sweden adopted its sex purchase law in 1999 and Norway followed in 2009, and the controversial legislation has been subject to recurring discussion in both cases. Although similar arguments have been presented, the debates have in some respects taken different directions. The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) recently presented an evaluation of knowledge about the consequences of the Swedish Sex Purchase Act. The intended effect of the law is now being questioned based on this evaluation. RFSU concludes that there seems to have been a change in attitudes, where not only the buyers of sex but also the sellers are looked upon as criminals. The organisation also says that the risks for the sellers seem to have increased and that the law is not combined with social support measures to a sufficient extent.

Wanted to abolish the law in Norway

In Norway, the debate has been simmering ever since it was introduced. Critics say that the law is harmful and makes sellers of sex more vulnerable. The discussion culminated last autumn when the Norwegian right-wing government wanted to abolish the law as it was not considered to have the intended effect. An independent analysis company was appointed to look closer at the issue, and the resulting report shows that the purchasing of sex has decreased by 20-25 per cent compared with the year before the law went into effect. It was also found that the law has made Norway less attractive for organised prostitution, and therefore has reduced the risk for human trafficking linked to prostitution.

Hanne Størset is active in the Norwegian Feminist Group Ottar and represents a Nordic network against the purchasing of sex. She recognises the arguments in the Swedish debate.

‘The critics point to the stigmatisation of the women as the main dilemma, while it’s in fact the prostitution that’s the biggest problem. It’s harmful to women in many ways. This is clearly a matter of gender power and not just a social problem,’ she says.

More knowledge! Or do we already know enough?

RFSU proposes that Sweden look into the possibility of revising the legislation with a clear focus on the rights of individuals who sell sex. In a comment, the organisation requests a national knowledge centre that can gather more knowledge about the purchase of sex and preventive measures.

Norwegian participants in the debate are also calling for more knowledge, but Størset, who was one of those who fought for the introduction of the sex purchase act in Norway, does not think it is needed.

‘We know a great deal about the harms of prostitution. Prostitutes are extremely vulnerable to both physical and mental violence, as shown in a large body of international research,’ she says.

Evaluations drawing criticism

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Both RFSU’ s report and the evaluation of the law in Norway have been heavily criticised. Both reports have been described as political and lacking trustworthiness.

Størset says that the political interest in the sex purchase act has been weaker in Norway than in Sweden. As a result, it has not been used to the same extent.

‘The law works best if it is used by the police to catch buyers of sex,’ she says.

She believes there are several reasons why the criminalisation of purchase of sex is a hot topic. Women teaming up to put constraints on men may be provocative, she says.

Some women and men voluntarily choose to sell sex. Isn’t there a risk the law puts constraints on them as well?
‘In policy-making you have to look at the big picture. This is a collective struggle to change the gender power structure. We believe that prostitution is harmful to the individual, but most of all it is harmful to society and the relation between women and men,’ says Størset.

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Nordic transgender policy changing http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-transgender-policy-changing/ Arja Voipio. Foto privat

Arja Voipio. Private photo

The new Finnish law bans discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.
‘It’s a very important law, but it has been pushed aside a bit,’ says Arja Voipio, co-chair of Transgender Europe.
Instead the attention is turned to another law. Today Finland requires trans persons wishing to change their legal gender to get sterilised.
‘The state shouldn’t make that kind of requirement. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice the possibility of having biological children in order to be recognised by the state,’ says Voipio.
The sterilisation requirement is being criticised in a current review of the law, but a change is not supported by the present government.
‘We’re in a deadlock despite the strong support for change. I guess Finland is not very eager to legislate on human rights,’ says Voipio.

‘We should have the right to our own bodies’

The sterilisation requirement has been on the political agenda in all Nordic countries in recent years. It has been removed in Sweden and Denmark but remains in Finland and Norway. Finland requires sterilisation through hormone therapy whereas Norway requires non-reversible surgical sterilisation. Luca Dalen Espseth, from the Norwegian organisation LLH, wants to see a change.
‘We should have the right to our own bodies and be recognised for who we are. It should be obvious,’ he says.
The gender recognition legislation is being reviewed in both Finland and Norway. Dalen Espseth hopes that the sterilisation requirement will be removed.
‘I’m looking forward to following the development this year. I hope and believe we’ll get a new law,’ he says.

The Danish legislation stands out

Lukas Romson. Foto: Carolina Hawranek

Lukas Romson. Foto: Carolina Hawranek

Out of the Nordic countries, Denmark has the newest gender recognition legislation. Only Denmark does not require a diagnosis or confirmation from a psychiatrist in order to change a person’s legal gender. Since last summer, all a person needs to do is send in an application and confirm the wish after a six-month waiting period. This makes the country a leader in a European perspective, says Swedish equality consultant Lukas Romson. Sweden removed the sterilisation requirement in 2013 but still requires a note from a psychiatrist – in practice a diagnosis – in order to change a person’s legal gender.
‘The entire LGBT movement is against this,’ he says.
The issue has been subject to review, and a proposal to revoke the diagnosis requirement was recently presented to the parliament. The review committee also questions the 18-year age limit for changes of legal gender. The Swedish trans-specific healthcare is also being reviewed and the National Board of Health and Welfare is expected to present new guidelines this spring,’ says Romson.

Dalen Espseth hopes that Norway will follow Denmark and stop requiring a diagnosis for changes of legal gender. He describes the Danish legislation as progressive but is critical to the country’s healthcare situation. Weaknesses in trans-specific healthcare are pointed out in all Nordic countries, but the problems are particularly severe in Denmark and Norway, says Dalen Espseth and explains that it takes a long time to process applications, the level of patient participation is low and there are strong expectations that the patient should undergo certain procedures. Up to 60-80 per cent of all transgender persons who seek medical care in Norway are denied.
‘That’s terrible. There can’t possibly be an acceptable reason for denying that many people treatment.’

‘Nobody wants to be worse than their neighbours’

Luca Dalen Espseth. Foto: Camilla Anderson

Luca Dalen Espseth. Photo: Camilla Anderson

The fact that several Nordic countries are now, almost at the same time, reviewing and changing their gender recognition legislation is hardly a coincidence, says Dalen Espseth. Politicians in the different countries are watching each other and this is leading the development in the right direction.
‘Nobody wants to be worse than their neighbours. The Danish legislation ended up better than the Swedish, and the Norwegian will probably be better than the Danish,’ he says.
At the same time, he sees issues being discussed in other parts of the world that are not on the Nordic political agenda at all. The possibility of introducing additional categories of legal gender is one example.
‘The Western world is stuck in the binary notion of gender. Some other parts of the world are more open to the idea that there are not only women and men,’ he says.

Back to Finland and the new antidiscrimination law: While the Swedish equivalent from 2009 refers to discrimination based on, directly translated, ‘gender-crossing’ identity or expression, both Arja Voipio and Lukas Romson are happy that Finland instead chose the formulation ‘discrimination based on gender identity and expression’.
‘It includes everybody. The Swedish formulation is based on the norm and points out certain individuals as crossing boundaries,’ says Romson.
Another advantage of the Finnish discrimination act is that it includes a requirement for preventive measures, which means that Finnish schools and employers now have to work actively against discrimination of trans persons. This can make a big difference, says Voipio.
Despite the setback with the Finnish gender recognition act, she believes that change is on its way in all Nordic countries.
‘A lot has happened in just the last five years. The human rights of trans persons have become a broadly discussed issue, so I’m hopeful,’ she says.

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’The Nordic countries need more Feminist Initiatives!’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/the-nordic-countries-need-more-feminist-initiatives/ Gudrun Schyman

Gudrun Schyman

Schyman, leader of the Swedish political party Feminist Initiatives, also criticised Finnish politicians for being too consensus-driven, saying it makes for toothless equality policy.

With reference to a panel discussion held earlier in the day, where representatives from eight parties participated, Schyman noted that the level of consensus was remarkably high. She also thought that the politicians on the panel had problems sticking to the core issue, which she said is typical when gender equality is discussed.

‘There’s a common notion that we all agree when it comes to gender equality and that we therefore don’t need to talk about it. At the same time it becomes evident how multifaceted the issue is. We need to rise up from the consensus soup!’

‘If the Finnish parties were as unanimous as they make it seem about the lack of gender equality being a problem, they would already have fixed it.’

 

Wants advanced discussion

According to Schyman, the Nordic countries should take advantage of their strong position and sophisticated welfare systems and instigate a more advanced discussion in the area of gender equality and equal treatment.

‘Politicising the gender equality issue is a way to move forward. Knowledge-transfer and organisation of effective opinion formation are also beneficial. The Nordic region needs more Feminist Initiatives,’ said Schyman, hoping that a Finnish party will take on the role as an explicitly feminist party in the parliamentary election this April.

‘The gender equality problem does not belong at the individual level. It has to do with social conflict. And the role of politics is to solve conflicts that are structural in nature, and not to create additional structures that cause problems,’ she said.

The resistance against true gender equality is according to Schyman related to coercive power patterns and structures in society that need to be made visible in all of our relationships, since they affect us from the cradle to the grave.

‘These key issues are often avoided. We need to ask ourselves who will benefit from things remaining as they are today.’

Violence against women – a disgrace

Several Finnish ministers attended Wednesday’s all-day seminar. Violence against women was described as a disgrace to the entire Nordic region.

‘The violence against women is an enormous problem. The money issue alone should be an incentive: It is estimated to cost Finland 90 million euro per year,’ said gender equality minister Susanna Huovinen.

She presented a final report of the current government’s gender equality policy 2012-2015. The report includes 66 measures to promote gender equality and eliminate gender-based discrimination in for example legislation, the labour market, education, citizen influence, economic matters, health and integration policy. The report also assesses the ministries’ success in reaching their targets. The assessment can be summarised as follows: Progress is being made. But far too slowly.

Justitieminister Anna-Maja Henriksson

Justitieminister Anna-Maja Henriksson

During her speech at the seminar, Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson proposed increased funding to crime victim support. She also proposed that a so-called crime victim fee be introduced. Such a fee would be mandatory for individuals found guilty of crimes that may result in jail time and would be used to fund support services for crime victims. She got the idea from the Crime Victim Fund in Sweden.

‘I cooperate a lot with my Nordic colleagues. Iceland and Sweden also have a model for parental leave that we need to look closer at and then try to create a flexible model that’s right for Finland,’ she said.

 

‘Gender equality – a matter of interpretation’

Finland differs from the other Nordic countries on several issues concerning the rights of same-sex couples and transgender persons. The country adopted a citizen initiative on gender-neutral marriage only last autumn. The final report on the Finnish government’s gender equality programme mentions increased equality for, among others, sexual and gender minorities as an important support measure to promote gender equality. Still, the Christian Democrats, one of the government parties, recently shot down a proposed new motherhood law that would have made it easier for same-sex female couples who would like to become parents.

The law would have made women in same-sex registered partnerships exempt from the internal adoption process. Also cohabiting two-mother couples would have been able to confirm the other parent’s motherhood when no father confirms fatherhood. Jouko Jääskeläinen, who represents the Christian Democrats in the parliament, thinks that the work to improve equality between women and men becomes more difficult when issues concerning sexual minorities and gender minorities are thrown into the equation.

‘As we see it, what to include in gender equality work is a matter of interpretation. Our opinion differs from the interpretation stipulated in the gender equality programme and in the proposed new motherhood and marriage legislations,’ he says.

Minister of Justice Henriksson regrets that the proposed new motherhood legislation did not go through. Now it is up to the next government to address the issue, ‘if there’s a will’.

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Many Cooks in the Gender Equality Kitchen http://www.nikk.no/en/news/many-cooks-in-the-gender-equality-kitchen/ NIKK spade symbolChallenges and opportunities within Nordic gender equality policy and in the practical gender equality work will be discussed at four seminars. Ulf Mellström, professor of gender studies at Karlstad University, is coordinating the network. He has witnessed the emergence of increasingly complex gender equality policy in the Nordic region.

In what way has it become more complex?
‘Gender equality used to be defined within a framework of state feminism and had close ties with the welfare state. What we see today is some type of market feminism, with new focus areas. In short, it can be described as a breakthrough for the more right-wing feminism. Today gender equality is embraced by more people and groups than in the past. Even far-right political parties are using gender equality in their defence of the nationalist project.’

Ulf Mellström. Pressbild

Ulf Mellström. Press photo

What are the consequences of this?
‘That’s hard to say. It depends on your political perspective. Some people think it’s good that the analysis reaches new areas. Others say that the concept of gender equality loses its meaning when more and more groups, such as the far-right Sweden Democrats, want to be part of defining what it is. From now on I think we can expect an increasing presence of the nationalist movement in the gender equality debate. This change is already noticeable in other parts of the world. Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan for example believes that it is the responsibility of each patriotic woman to give birth to 3-4 kids. These types of ideas for gender policy are gaining ground and may grow stronger also in the Nordic countries.’

What other challenges can be noted in relation to Nordic gender equality policy?
‘Nordic gender equality policy has traditionally been tailored to a white, heteronormative, middle class. Many political reforms have targeted the nuclear family. For example, parental allowance reforms, the marriage legislation and the income taxation system have all been designed with hetero families in mind. Not everybody has been included in the development of gender equality policy, so there are indeed some big challenges. We need to broaden the perspectives and recognise that there may be needs out there that are not given enough attention today.’

What effects are you hoping your project will have?
‘We want our results to be policy relevant. It should be possible to use them immediately in policy work. The project will include four seminars and we will also publish one or two books. In a best-case scenario, our work will result in an application for a major EU project so we can involve researchers from other European countries as well.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Cooperation Will Improve the Police Work Against Violence http://www.nikk.no/en/news/cooperation-will-improve-the-police-work-against-violence/ NIKK spade symbolDetective inspector Berglind Eyjólfsdóttir is chairing the network, which gathers police women from across the region. The network’s project Gendered Violence – Nordic-Baltic Dialogue aims to develop new methods for the police work.  The seminar tomorrow is part of the project and Eyjólfsdóttir hopes it will be an eye-opener.
‘We need to compare and improve the methods we use to combat human trafficking and all forms of gender-based violence,’ she says.

What do the Nordic and Baltic police have to gain from the cooperation?
‘Since our countries are neighbours in such a small area, we depend on good cooperation. Our investigations become so much more effective if we know each other. This is important in the work against human trafficking in particular, but also in other areas. The work against violence in close relationships can for example benefit a great deal from sharing of strategies and experiences across national boundaries.’

 

Berglind Eyjólfsdóttir

Berglind Eyjólfsdóttir. Press photo

What’s going on in the project at the moment?
‘We will meet in Copenhagen 3-4 February for a seminar on the work against gender based violence. We’re also planning next autumn’s final conference in Riga. It will gather police as well as other experts from the Nordic-Baltic region working daily to combat all forms of violence.’

How can the police work against human trafficking and violence in close relationships be improved?
‘Through more education. For a long time, violence within the family was considered a private matter, and the knowledge about it is still limited in many cases within the police. We need to understand the seriousness of these types of crimes and become better at identifying the victims.’

 

Shouldn’t this work be part of the regular police operations instead of a special project?
‘There is indeed ongoing police work in this area. Our project should be seen as a complement.  Nordic-Baltic Network of Policewomen helps emphasise issues that we believe should be given more attention. It may be about women’s situation within the police or, like in the case of this project, special issues that we feel should be addressed with greater force.’
What’s the biggest challenge in the work against gender-based violence?
‘There’re a great number of challenges. It’s particularly important to improve the cooperation between the police and other relevant actors, such as social services and healthcare. Our ability to discover these crimes at an early stage depends on co-operation with all actors combating gender-based violence including NGOs.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Denmark to Lead the Nordic Cooperation http://www.nikk.no/en/news/denmark-to-lead-the-nordic-cooperation/ Manu Sareen. Press photo

Manu Sareen. Press photo

‘The public space’ and ‘welfare and innovation’ are two central themes for the Nordic gender equality cooperation. Denmark is  heading the Nordic Council of Ministers during 2015 and will lead the work this year. The Danish Presidency has already planned a number of activities. For the theme welfare and innovation, one key objective is to reduce the strong gender patterns in adolescents’ educational and occupational choices. The plan is to find and share positive examples of how to encourage more young women to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and math.

‘Most Nordic boys and girls are still making educational choices along traditional gender lines. It is very unfortunate, both for the individuals themselves and for society at large, that their potential is not fully utilised,’ says Manu Sareen, Denmark’s minister for gender equality and social affairs.

Good examples in new handbook

Nordic higher education institutions are already trying to make more girls interested in the natural sciences. For example, Denmark has been successful with Girls’ Day in Science, an education fair targeting teenage girls who are about to decide which track to pursue at the upper secondary level. The fair enables the girls to meet representatives from different companies and learn about their work. They are also offered internships.

‘Our experience is that the girls’ attitudes often change when they discover what the companies really do. They become more prone to breaking away from traditional, gender-based expectations,’ says Sareen.

He emphasises that more educational institutions and actors need to address this problem. Denmark wants to carry out a larger research project where good examples are identified and documented. The plan is to ultimately publish a handbook in all Nordic languages.

Women are leaving the countryside

Another issue that falls under the welfare theme is the urbanisation trend, where a high proportion of young Nordic women leave rural areas to study at a university in a larger city. By contrast, men are less likely to move to the cities and if they do, they are more likely to return home after they get their degree. At the same time, however, the traditionally male-oriented job opportunities are becoming increasingly scarce in rural areas, leaving many men destined for unemployment.

‘This can lead to depopulation of some communities. Birth rates go down, homes deteriorate and the local life just kind of fades away. As there’s a clear connection between population flows and gender equality issues, we want to focus on this and discuss how the problems can be solved,’ says Sareen.

The Danish Presidency has appointed a research project to assess the challenges. Since the problem is substantial in the Faroe Islands and Greenland, a seminar for various actors will be held in Greenland in the summer. The results from the seminar, together with useful advice and positive experiences, will be documented and disbursed across the Nordic region.

Sexist remarks– a democracy problem

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

‘Gender equality in the public space’ is another key theme in the Nordic cooperation. 2015 marks the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in Denmark and Iceland. In Finland, women were allowed to vote already in 1906. This means that the Nordic countries have a long tradition of female representation in politics. However, the representation in the public space remains unequal. One example of this, according to Sareen, is the way women are discussed and treated in media and social networks.

‘We can see a growing trend where women who participate in the public debate increasingly have to endure sexist remarks, trash talk and direct threats. It’s totally unacceptable. Women and men should be able to participate in the public debate on equal terms. If they can’t, we have a serious democracy problem.’

‘Gender equality in the public space’ is a broad theme that covers both representation, sexism in everyday life, anti-feminism and gender equality in media. The exact focus issues will be decided at the meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers in May. The selected issues will then be addressed through expert seminars, which may result in the formulation of potential solutions.

‘There’s so much that can be done. I’m looking forward to talking to my Nordic colleagues about how we can improve gender equality in the public sphere,’ says Sareen.

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Opinion: Together we can eliminate gender stereotypes http://www.nikk.no/en/news/together-we-can-eliminate-gender-stereotypes/ Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Throughout the four decades of Nordic gender equality cooperation, there has been a continuous focus on equal rights and equal status for women and men in the labour market. Attention has been given to the gender pay gap and elimination of traditional gender roles in the labour market. The possibility to combine paid work and family life has been of critical importance in this work. Today equal sharing of parental responsibilities between mums and dads is increasingly taken for granted, and the high employment rate among Nordic women is contributing largely to the Nordic welfare model.

Many steps remain for the Nordic countries to achieve gender equality in the business sector. Their parliaments, however, have come farther. The Nordic countries share many views and objectives, but often choose different methods to get the work done. That is why they can learn so much from each other.

In the next few years, the Nordic gender equality cooperation will change gears somewhat. In the cooperation programme for 2015–2018, we want to give particular focus to gender equality in the public space – because democracy is not just a matter of having the right to vote, it’s also about being able to participate in the public debate.

Words contribute to form our reality, and when we begin to allow the use of belittling and disrespectful rhetoric and remarks, the practice soon becomes generally accepted. We simply don’t want to be part of such development, but instead work against it, in the same way as we have worked against for example domestic violence for many years. As we also know that gender equality contributes to sustainable growth, we want to give increased attention to gender equality as a driver of welfare and innovation in the Nordic countries.

Nordic gender equality policy has so far focused mostly on the situation of women in society, politics and the labour market. In order to eliminate the stubborn boundaries between so-called male- and female-oriented occupations and educational choices, the male perspective has to be included in the work. We need to find more methods to combat the stereotypical preconceptions that keep affecting the lives and life choices of women and men, boys and girls. In the coming years, we will therefore work hard to facilitate men’s and boys’ active participation in the gender equality work and the gender equality debate.

Manu Sareen. Pressbild

Manu Sareen. Press photo

The new programme for the gender equality sector in the Nordic governmental cooperation does not imply a change of direction of Nordic gender equality policy. It is our way to concretise the cooperation between the Nordic governments in the area of gender equality. The programme has been developed with the assistance of both theparliamentarians in the Nordic Council and gender equality actors from around the Nordic region, and is therefore broadly supported. Backed by this support, we are also sharing our experiences in the UN and other international arenas.

Gender equality themes addressed by the Nordic countries tend to spread and find their way to national agendas also outside the Nordic region. However, the good experiences and examples need to be spread in our own sphere as well – in politics, in the workplace and in people’s homes. By together letting the principles of gender equality guide the way we think and act, we – politicians and citizens – can bring our countries even closer to the ultimate goal of a just and democratic Nordic region.

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Dagfinn Høybråten, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers]]>
Nordic Women’s Network for Economic Gender Equality http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-womens-network-for-economic-gender-equality/ NIKK spade symbolWomen’s economic conditions have changed fundamentally in just a few decades, but the goal remains to be reached in the Nordic countries.
‘Economic equality is not some fringe problem. It’s actually a key factor if we want to get somewhere with the gender equality work,’ says Louise Lindfors, chair of the Fredrika-Bremer-Association.

Why did you start the project?
‘The economic issues are critical to the Nordic gender equality work. When the World Economic Forum measures gender equality in different countries (in the annual Global Gender Gap Report) the Nordic ones end up at the top of the list, but serious problems are also revealed. Our score for representation, for example in politics, is high, but when it comes to the economic domain our ranking is not nearly as high.’

Why are we ranked lower in that area?
‘In a nutshell, men tend to have more money to spend than women. There’re several reasons for this. One in three women work part time; for men it’s one in ten. Women take out 74 per cent of the parental leave and are also more likely to stay home from work with sick kids. And then of course there are the pay differentials – men’s work is assigned a higher value than women’s.’

What will it take for the Nordic countries to achieve economic equality?
‘We need to close the pay gap and reach a more gender equal distribution of family and household responsibilities. The introduction of a daddy month (one month of the total parental leave reserved for the father) is the single most important gender equality measure in Sweden. Everybody knows this, so it should be easy to realise that more work in this area can have a major impact. The politicians are afraid of telling people what to do, but it’s really a matter of communicating what’s expected. A shared parental leave policy would signal that equal sharing is the default way of doing it.’

You talk about economic vulnerability. Do the weaknesses in gender equality really have such serious economic consequences?

Louise Lindfors. Photo: Henrik Peel

Louise Lindfors. Photo: Henrik Peel

‘Yes. Look at our older people and you’ll find a particularly good example. In Sweden, about 225 000 senior citizens live below the EU poverty level. Most of them are women. The limit is set at a gross income of SEK 10 400 kronor and there are a large number of older people in Sweden who don’t come close to this level. A person’s economic situation depends on many factors, and gender is a big one. Sometimes we’re told the Nordic countries are close enough to perfect gender equality. We disagree, to say the least.’
Do you feel it’s difficult to reach out with these issues?
‘This is complex stuff so, yes, it’s a communicative challenge. We have some wild plans for how to explain things without coming across as dictating to people how they should live their lives. To reach out broadly I think we need to find ambassadors. At the Fredrika-Bremer-Association, we have for example worked together with the comedian Bianca Kronlöf. She can obviously reach out to people in a way that we at the Association simply can’t.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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The daddy quota – the most effective policy instrument http://www.nikk.no/en/news/the-daddy-quota-the-most-effective-policy-instrument/ Tine Rostgaard. Foto: Jørgen Poulsen

Tine Rostgaard. Photo: Jørgen Poulsen

The Nordic welfare model, where society actively supports gender-equal participation in both parenting and the labour market, continues to attract international attention. The five Nordic countries are generally considered to be rather homogenous and advanced in the area of social and family policy. However, new research presented in the book Fatherhood in the Nordic Welfare States shows that although the countries do share many features, there are also important differences. Professor Tine Rostgaard from Aalborg University wrote several chapters of the book and also edited the entire work together with Professor Gudný Björk Eydal, University of Iceland.

‘One thing that all Nordic countries have in common is that they have tried to make it easier for fathers to participate actively in family life. Denmark and Sweden are at opposite ends of the Nordic continuum. In some of the countries – Denmark in particular – the concept of gender equality is mostly of symbolic importance and not something that’s concretely implemented in national policy. By contrast, Sweden has worked actively for many years to promote gender equality and active fatherhood through policy and legislation. Iceland, in turn, has been extremely progressive when it comes to parental leave. In 2013, Iceland passed a law reserving 5 months for the mother, 5 months for the father and 2 months to share any way they want, putting them at the forefront in this area,’ says Rostgaard.

A new government has, however, reverted back to the previous policy of 3 months for each parent and 3 months to share. Finland and Norway place somewhere in the middle of the field, Rostgaard explains. Finland has a high share of women working full time in the labour market, while Norway has a more traditional model where a series of family policies give women opportunities to stay home with their children.

Daddy quotas: An effective policy instrument

Fathers’ access to paid parental leave, the so-called daddy quota, is one of the central areas addressed in the book. In all Nordic countries except Denmark, fathers are legally entitled to shorter or longer periods of the total parental leave granted for a child. Against the background of the extensive research results presented in the book, Rostgaard has no doubts: The daddy quota can strengthen fathers’ access to parental leave and also their paternal role.

‘If the goal is to get men to take out more parental leave, the daddy quota is the most effective policy instrument. A quota helps institutionalise important rights and affects all levels, including the workplace and family life,’ Rostgaard adds.

 

Groundbreaking fertility research among men

Men’s role in relation to fertility and the falling birth rates is one of the groundbreaking areas that the book explores by looking at men’s attitudes to family life and their view of when it is appropriate to have children.

‘The study shows that Nordic men are more tolerant regarding other men’s choice to postpone having children or to not have them at all. Based on the data we have access to, we can’t firmly say that tolerance means that people choose not to have kids. But our data does point in that direction. We therefore conclude that the greater tolerance affects whether you choose to have kids,’ Rostgaard explains.

At a time with a strong political focus on the falling birth rates, the book therefore underscores the importance of men’s attitudes when attempting to understand what determines fertility rates.

Family legislation treats mothers and fathers differently

Tine Rostgaard. Foto: Jørgen Poulsen

Tine Rostgaard. Photo: Jørgen Poulsen

Other topics covered in the over 400 page book include men’s use of time at home, the paternal role in different family constellations and how policies in the five countries support the possibility for fathers to care for their children, as well as whether the results correspond to the Nordic countries’ aims in the areas of gender equality and family life. An article by Hrefna Fridriksdóttir, associate professor at the University of Iceland, shows that there are significant differences in how mothers and fathers are treated in Nordic family legislation.

‘We’re doing this big “daddy project” in the Nordic countries, but the family legislation doesn’t support the project to the same extent in all countries. Hrefna Fridriksdóttir concludes that greater efforts should be made to ensure that the family legislation is at par with the progressive thoughts that the Nordic countries demonstrate in the area of equality between mothers and fathers,’ says Rostgaard.

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‘Sexual harassment is not part of the job!’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/sexual-harassment-is-not-part-of-the-job/ NIKK spade symbol‘This is a hidden problem, but we want to start a debate about it,’ says Drífa Snædal, general secretary of the Federation of General and Special Workers in Iceland.

How is the sexism noticeable in your sectors?
‘Drunk customers groping staff is one example. Some guests think they have paid for the privilege of harassing the workers. Occupational groups that are dependent on tips, such as waitresses and cleaning staff, are particularly vulnerable. Studies show that harassment is a widespread problem in our sectors. We can’t just close our eyes to it.’

Why is sexual harassment so common?
‘Our sectors are characterised by strong hierarchies, both among workers and in relation to customers. Young women are often found at the bottom of the hierarchies. Then add alcohol to this. Many people think that these are problems that come with the territory, so to speak – as if it’s part of the job to take crap from customers and co-workers. That’s obviously not right.’

What will it take to stop the harassment?

Drífa Snaedal. Photo Guðný Óskarsdóttir

Drífa Snaedal. Photo Guðný Óskarsdóttir

‘The ultimate responsibility lies with the employers, but the unions also have a responsibility. We need to deal with this once and for all and spread information about it so that the victims feel they can come to us. It’s time for us to include this issue as a natural part of our work.’

What do Nordic trade unions have to gain from cooperating?
‘Good ideas often emerge in several places at the same time. This was definitely the case for us. Everybody who’s involved in the project sees a need to act, but we need better knowledge. The Nordic countries are known for their gender equality and like this role, but it takes a lot of work.’

What results are you expecting from the project?
‘We want to see a serious debate in the Nordic countries. In a long-term perspective, we hope that our project will lead to more and larger gender equality projects being formed.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Sami-Greenlandic Project for Gender Equality http://www.nikk.no/en/news/sami-greenlandic-project-for-gender-equality/ NIKK spade symbolThe project is the first collaboration ever between Sami and Greenlandic women’s organisations.
‘It’s really exciting. We share so many experiences,’ says Gudrun Eriksen Lindi from Sami Women’s Forum.

What do you think you can learn from each other?
‘Greenland has dealt differently with the violence and addictions problems than we have. Where we’re from, these issues are still taboo. The problems are by no means unique to our communities, but since we live in small communities it’s often hard to talk about them. There’s this idea that these problems should be solved in the family, but that’s wrong.’

What will it take to break these taboos?
‘We have to talk about the problems, not least with our adolescents. We need to teach them where the limits are. We can’t tolerate that boys harass girls in school, we have to give a clear message from the beginning. Both the authorities and our communities have a responsibility. They need to disperse information and be prepared to deal with the problems. Individuals who come to them and ask for help must be taken seriously.’

Being a woman and belonging to the indigenous population, does it imply any particular challenges?

Gudrun Eriksen. Photo: private

Gudrun Eriksen. Photo: private

‘We have to fight for our rights both as women and as indigenous people. In our culture, women often have a special responsibility to take care of the family and to carry on traditions. That’s a rather heavy burden now when our communities are in crisis. We’re being exploited, for example through the opening of new mines. We’re fighting the mining companies at the same time as we’re fighting for our rights as women. This fight involves both the Sami parliaments and the states. One thing that makes it harder is that we don’t have access to all democratic arenas.’

In which way do you mean you’re excluded?
‘The Sami are sidelined in the Nordic work because we’re not recognised as an independent nation. We’re for example not represented in the work with the Nordic gender equality policy. Greenland gets to be part of it since they are recognised as independent, but not the Sami. I think that’s a big problem. There has got to be a way to give us some influence, too. Mankind has managed to put people on the moon, for heaven’s sake!’

What happens next in EAMI FEMI?
‘We’re just now starting to meet via Skype, and next year we’ll meet in Oslo to talk about our themes violence and addiction. At the end of the project we’ll tell others about our work through an exhibition.’

Bård: alla färger

This text is part of the article series Nordic Gender Equality Cooperation in Practice 2014, which presents the projects granted funding through the Nordic Funding Scheme 2014. SNF-Sámi NissonForum/Sami Women’s Forum received DKK 250 000 for the EAMI FEMI project. The project is administered in cooperation with a women’s organisation in Greenland and the organisation Samiska kvinnor i Norr in Sweden. The organisations will meet at a seminar in Oslo next year. The project will conclude with an exhibition that will be presented both physically and online.
EAMI is a Sami word that means original, indigenous etc.

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Making Change Towards Gender equality in the Media http://www.nikk.no/en/news/making-change-towards-gender-equality-in-the-media/ Making Change. Photo: Austėja Jakštaitė

Making Change. Photo: Austėja Jakštaitė

On 4th December in Vilnius, Nordicom, EIGE and Nordic Council of Ministers office in Lithuania hosted the final event of the project Nordic Gender & Media Forum: the launch of the anthology “Making Change. Nordic Examples of Working Towards Gender Equality in the Media”. The book presents good practices and a compilation of statistical data from Nordic private and public media companies and organisations. One of the editors of the book, Maria Edström, stressed that people in the media industry are aware of gender equality, they talk about it, but now it’s time to step up and make change. Experiences from the Nordic countries could therefore be one useful reference point about what has actually been done to address equality in the media. “The book is hopefully helpful and useful to a broad group of users. The media can promote gender equality or ridicule efforts towards gender equality. We have published it to create a dialogue and show that there are many ways to achieve gender equality. Both structural and individual initiatives can contribute to change. Sometimes you don’t even need money or funding, all you need is a good idea,” explained Maria Edström. “Our book will be available in the online archive of University of Gothenburg and on the Nordicom website, free of charge for everyone to get acquainted with and get inspired by the existing initiatives. It is divided into sections, so if you work in journalism, you will search for and read about the examples from that area. But the book can also be seen as a meeting point for a cross over discussion between different areas of the media sphere.”

The existence and quality of data varies

Ulrika Facht and Maria Edström. Photo: Austėja Jakštaitė

Ulrika Facht and Maria Edström. Photo: Austėja Jakštaitė

Ulrika Facht, analyst at Nordicom, who was responsible for data compilation, has gathered information from four types of media that are covered in the book: film, journalism, computer games and advertising. “The access to data on gender equality varies from industry to industry. We have found comparable data on film and journalism, whereas it has been difficult to find solid numbers on the balance between women and men in advertising and especially in the gaming industry. The gaming industry has not been so interested to say this is a problem. Although, with a few exceptions, the data compiled show that an industry can have as many women as men working within it, but men hold the majority of top level positions. Data from international studies on journalism show similar patterns between the Nordic and the Baltic countries.”

Industry best practice examples

The projects described in the book are there to promote various ways in which society and individuals can make a change towards more equality. Some initiatives have been successfully implemented in more than one country. “The example of the film industry from Sweden shows how a simple idea can spread rapidly”, said Maria Edström. “The A-rating is an initiative implemented by four Swedish cinemas based on three simple questions: Are there two or more women characters, do they have names? Do they talk to each other? Do they talk to each other about something besides men? If the answers are positive, the movie gets the A-rating (for Approved). Alison Bechdel formulated these three questions back in 1985 in the so called  Bechdel Test. Almost 30 years later, four Swedish cinemas created a huge debate about representation in film and got widespread media

Anita Frank Goth. Photo: Austėja Jakštaitė

Anita Frank Goth. Photo: Austėja Jakštaitė

coverage allover the world.” According to Anita Frank Goth, Head of Communications at KVINFO in Denmark, the society is not aware of the problem with women’s representation in media especially when it comes to journalism. It is a global problem which GMM’s report “Who Makes the News” also has showed since 1995. The first one from many extraordinary practices described in the book is KVINFO’s online expert database presenting 1178 profiles of Danish women. Here the journalists have an easy access to female experts from all areas of the society, including scientists and researchers, managers, politicians, and persons from the world of arts and culture.

Gender and age affect the gender of experts in media

“In 2013 a survey by EIGE shows that in Denmark 81 % of experts on television are men, and compared to 1982 where 86 % of the sources were men on the Danish news, you can conclude not much has happened in media,” said Anita Frank Goth. ”And with the gender problem follows also an age problem in media. Up to the age of 34, women and men are represented equally on television in Denmark. After 35, the number is decreasing. And after 50, only 23 percent of people appearing on television are women. And when it comes to experts people are often older than the age of 34, before they can call themselves an expert.” The Baltic countries were not included in the project. However, their good practices and ideas were given due attention at the seminar. Latvian children’s television analysis has revealed some worrying statistics. As it is the media that helps introduce kids to notions of gender, there is a great lack of representation of female characters (ratio 1:3). Estonia presented a promising commercial campaign mocking gender stereotypes. Inspired by Germany, the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs organizes non-typical career days for students to encourage uncommon career choices. Lithuanian representative Laima Kreivytė presented the feminist group “Cooltūristės” and their three-part exhibition “Postidea”. The concept of the initiative was not to complain, but to make a gesture using mainstream strategies. “Both radical feminist and political approaches are needed to achieve the objective,” Kreivytė, art critic and curator, said.

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Law and Order in Focus for new Gender Equality Project http://www.nikk.no/en/news/law-and-order-in-focus-for-new-gender-equality-project/ NIKK spade symbolSwedish and Norwegian politicians have been active in legislating gender equality. Their colleagues in Finland and Denmark have been more hesitant.

‘The Nordic countries differ in this respect,’ says Monica Burman, senior lecturer in criminal law at Umeå University.
Burman and her colleagues at Umeå Forum for Studies on Law and Society are the lead hosts of a Nordic conference on the role of the legal sector in the work for gender equality.

The conference will be held in the spring. How is the planning going?
‘We’re just about to start sending out the invitations, so we’re well underway. We’re going to have two Nordic panels featuring professors from different countries. All of them are researchers in law with a clear gender profile. I think we’re going to have some very interesting discussions.’

Can you describe the role of legislation in Nordic gender equality?
‘It actually plays a very important role. There are several examples of how politicians have used legislation to create or encourage gender equality. One is that all the Nordic countries have abolished joint taxation of married couples in order to promote women’s participation in the labour market. Sweden did it already in the 1970s, and at the time it was considered a very radical thing to do. Many EU countries still haven’t given up joint taxation.’

Monica Burman. Photo: Press image

Monica Burman. Photo: Press image

Can you tell us more about the differences between the Nordic countries?
‘The legislation on domestic violence is one example. It used to be that the police wouldn’t start an investigation unless the victim reported the perpetrator to the police. Sweden changed this in 1982 while Finland kept the old law much longer. There are many similar examples and it all comes down to the value the countries place on gender equality. To what extent do they believe legal intervention is required? Norway in particular has strong faith in legislation as a means to achieve gender equality. Their gender quotas for company boards are one expression of this.’

 

Which themes will be addressed at the conference?
‘That will partly depend on the abstracts we receive. We’ll have two international keynotes. Rosemary Hunter from Queen Mary University in the UK focuses on family law and domestic violence. Kathleen Lahey from Kingston University in Canada will talk about economic issues such as how we collect and distribute tax money. One of the panel discussions will also give special attention to gender and law in the Arctic.’

Why is it important to meet other Nordic researchers?
‘We need input from each other. That’s how we can advance the research in our different areas.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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New Network for Men’s Gender Equality Work http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-network-for-mens-gender-equality-work/ NIKK spade symbol

<strong”>Why is this cooperation needed?
‘We need to share ideas and strategies since a lot of our work is so new. What works and what doesn’t? That’s what we need to talk about. Men’s engagement in gender equality issues is completely new in many countries, but our organisation Men for Gender Equality Sweden was founded in 1993. We are one of the oldest – if not the oldest – organisation in the world that focuses on men and gender equality. Our partner organisations in the other Nordic countries have also worked in the field for a long time and are therefore important to us. We have a lot in common and stand out internationally. Just looking at other EU countries makes you realise that the view of gender and gender equality can be so fundamentally different.’

Are there differences also among the Nordic countries?

Tomas Agnemo. Foto: Män för jämställdhet

Tomas Agnemo. Photo: Män för jämställdhet

‘We agree on a lot of things but the progress made differs in many areas. The countries have prioritised different topics, to some extent. For example, Iceland has pushed the issue of parental leave more aggressively than others while other countries have focused more on violence.’

The network consists of four organisations. How similar are they?
‘Like I said, we have a lot in common but there are also differences. We for example have different views on the role of men in the feminist movement. In Men for Gender Equality Sweden, we refer to ourselves as a feminist organisation while others prefer to say they are pro-feminist. As long as we live in a patriarchy it is important that men are aware of their power position in society and that we team up with the women’s movement and feminism without taking up too much space, so to speak.’

In Men for Gender Equality you take a norm critical approach to men and masculinities. Can you describe this work?
‘At our workshops we talk a lot about “stepping out of the man-box” and discovering the full range of humanity. Men are for example often lonely and have a hard time asking for help if they’re not doing well. This has to do with masculinity norms. Stepping out of the man-box means leaving your comfort zone, which can be really hard. We need to support and help each other as it may be difficult to do it alone.’

What’s the goal with the new network?
‘We hope the network is the start of permanent cooperation where we can share experiences and project ideas. Maybe we can even launch projects together.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Nordic Network Strengthening Gender Equality in Municipalities http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-network-strengthening-gender-equality-in-municipalities/ NIKK spade symbolA Nordic workshop on gender mainstreaming at the local level was arranged 6-7 November in Helsinki. The aim of the workshop, which was the second of its kind, was to strengthen a Nordic network and share experiences at municipal level between the Nordic countries.

According to Sinikka Mikola, gender equality expert at the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, the network is aiming for long-term development that will continue also after the completion of shorter projects.

‘One important purpose of the workshops is to share knowledge about gender equality and gender equality policy across the Nordic borders. We talk a lot about sustainable arguments and compare experiences,’ says Mikola.

There are both similarities and differences among the Nordic countries, according to Mikola.

‘For example, in Sweden they talk more explicitly about gender equality whereas here in Finland there is a primary focus on economic aspects and budgets, in particular in bad economic times. A common Finnish counterargument is that we already have gender equality or that gender equality is a women’s issue.’

Nima Mäki, researcher and administrator for the network, says that it is important to present gender equality as a democracy issue.

‘In the end, gender equality is a matter of human rights and therefore a matter of quality for the people living in the municipalities. You can’t really talk about quality in municipal services unless all citizens are treated and given access to resources equally.’

One of the network’s workshops showed how the mayor of Kristiansand, Norway, wanted to test what it is like to have a disability and roamed the city in a wheelchair for a whole day.

‘This was filmed and when the result was shown to the people who live there, both they and the mayor came to realise how the city is designed for a certain group of people. When you make a gender equality problem visible, you usually also make a gender equality perspective visible,’ says Mikola.

Urban planning is a central aspect of municipal gender equality work. During one of the workshops, Mäki talked about the connection between gender equality and city planning. Sensible city planning results in a city where for example women can feel safe. Today most cities are planned in a way that gives rise to areas where women feel unsafe.

‘Many women feel unsafe in the city environment. They avoid parks and dark areas and often have strategies for where and how they can move around in it. Maybe they carry keys in their hands to use as a weapon. Men don’t feel unsafe like that. It’s important that everybody in a democracy feels safe,’ says Mäki. ‘So it’s important that those who design the cities have this awareness, all the way from the urban planning committee to the planning architect.’

Throughout the workshop there was a focus on learning processes rather than concrete goals. Mäki discussed the importance of defining and formulating the problems municipalities come across in order to find effective solutions for them.

Mäki mentioned that he has looked at how other countries in the world have worked to increase the share of men in preschool education. In Australia it was stated that male preschool teachers lead to boys performing better. This leads to the question of what it is about the presence of men that makes the boys’ results go up, and why female preschool teachers don’t have the same effect.

‘Our conclusion is that men have to be part of the gender equality work. Gender equality is not just a women’s issue. But it is important to discuss and be clear about what the men are supposed to contribute so that stereotypes about what’s masculine and feminine are not reinforced,’ says Mäki.

Another issue discussed at the workshop was whether social workers treat women and men the same.

‘It’s all about staying clear of norms based on gender stereotypes.’

A gender equality perspective must be integrated in all processes, according to Mäki.

 

Resources and enthusiasts

Ann-Charlott Callerstig from Örebro University talked about her research and implementation of gender equality work in the public sector. She chose to focus on some practical results and commonly observed problems within the municipalities.

‘One challenge is that gender equality work doesn’t have enough resources and that it is advanced by “enthusiasts”. Another common problem is that many organisations have gender equality programmes and policies that are never actually implemented. There are also policies that lack implementable solutions. Many municipalities have identified aims but not the exact guidelines for how to achieve them,’ says Callerstig.

According to Callerstig, municipalities often  initiate projects without having enough economic resources to implement them properly.

‘The projects just kind of fizzle out, ending in nothing, and then a few years later new projects are started. I’m interested in how gender equality projects can be integrated with a long-term perspective as in the regular daily municipal work.

Nima Mäki och Sinikka Mikola. Foto: Jeanette Öhman

Nima Mäki and Sinikka Mikola. Photo: Jeanette Öhman

One important purpose of the projects is to give the municipal workers the tools they need to implement a gender equality perspective. Callerstig pointed out that all gender equality projects should include relevant training for those assigned to work with it.

‘At the same time we must remember that training has not always led to concrete interventions. Just think about driving a car: Although we know it’s bad for the environment, we keep choosing to do it.’

Callerstig said it is all about changing our behaviour and therefore also our values and thoughts.

‘Another example is the introduction of gender quotas for board members in Norway. At first people were against it, but once it had been implemented much of the resistance faded. Today the quotas are pretty much taken for granted,’ says Callerstig.

 

Reach out in the community

About 30 politicians and municipal officials attended last year’s workshop. This year the number increased to 40. Sinikka Mikola and Nima Mäki agree that it is very important to support the Nordic cooperation and the gender equality network.

‘It does take some work to get the participants together and because of the poor financial situation of many municipalities I was concerned about the Finnish participation this year. Something as seemingly minor as travel expenses led to many municipal representatives not being able to come,’ says Mikola.

Mäki and Mikola believe that a strong political willingness is a necessity in the municipal gender equality work. Next year’s network meeting will be held in Oslo 1-22 May 2015.

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Supporting Women in Prostitution Through Nordic-Baltic Cooperation http://www.nikk.no/en/news/supporting-women-in-prostitution-through-nordic-baltic-cooperation/ NIKK spade symbol

‘Women in prostitution who want help need somebody to contact,’ says Tanja Auvinen from the Finnish organisation Exit Prostitution.
Internationally, many organisations support women in prostitution through so-called exit programmes. In the Nordic-Baltic region, these programmes can only be found in Norway and Denmark.
‘We want to start an exit programme in Finland, but first we need to learn more about it,’ says Auvinen.

How do the exit programmes work?
‘If a person is motivated to leave the sex industry, we need to be available to help out. The work can take many forms. It’s a type of social work where the personal encounter is important. Women who want to enter a programme get to meet somebody who can offer support and guidance. The programmes are based on the notion that sex work is harmful to both the individual and society.’
How is the sex industry harmful, in your opinion?
‘There is strong evidence that many women in the sex industry have been exposed to sexual violence. We also know that commercial sex has psychological consequences for the seller. At a societal level, approval of prostitution signals that it is ok to buy women’s bodies.’

Whether or not commercial sex should be permitted is a controversial issue. How do you feel about the debate?

Tanja Auvinen. Photo: private

Tanja Auvinen. Photo: private

‘It’s true that this issue is subject to intense debate, but you don’t see the same polarisation in the practical work. There are organisations that work to improve the conditions for women in the sex industry without taking a stance for or against the existence of the industry. We don’t think their approach is wrong, but the aim of the exit programmes is clear: this industry must be eliminated.’

What’s going on in the project at the moment?
‘We just came back from a workshop in London where we learned a lot from other organisations involved in exit programmes. Next year we’ll arrange a seminar in Helsinki to gather and disseminate knowledge.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Women’s Occupations Valued Lower than Men’s http://www.nikk.no/en/news/womens-occupations-valued-lower-than-mens/ Paneldiskussion. Photo: Bosse Parbring

Panel. Photo: Bosse Parbring

The conference was arranged on 13 November in Reykjavik by the Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, a Nordic working group for equal pay and a committee working for equal pay in Iceland.

Bergholm said that economists tend to believe that only the export industry is important and that the service sector is a parasite and a burden for trade and industry.

‘In reality it’s the service sector that’s growing, both the private and the public. We should value how we organise society in the Nordic countries and see to it that we also value it economically.

Thorsteinn Víglundsson, Director General of the Confederation of Icelandic Employers, agreed that different sectors are valued differently.
‘Is it unfair? It’s not a matter of fairness. It’s an economic reality we’re facing.’

Gender-equal pay has been a central aim of Nordic gender equality policy for a long time. Yet the progress has been slow and in the last decade the differences in pay between men and women have decreased only marginally. How can equal pay be achieved? Is legislation and other forms of state intervention the right way to go or should we rely on negotiations between the social partners in the labour market? These types of questions were discussed at the Nordic conference.

 

Valued differently

Like other European countries, the Nordic labour markets are highly gender segregated, and one effect of this is that men and women are valued differently in terms of pay. This was concluded by Daniela Bankier, Head of the Unit for Gender Equality in the Directorate-General Justice of the European Commission.

‘The gender pay gap is a reflection of all inequalities women are facing in the labour market.’

Direct wage discrimination is no longer common, according to Bankier, as there are laws against it. Part-time work among women is, however, and affects not only their income but also their wage level.

‘Part-time work can be good in certain phases of life as it makes it easier to combine work and family life, but we also see problems with it. It is concentrated to certain occupations and limits the workers’ opportunities for education and a career.’

 

Women work in low-paying occupations

In our gender-segregated labour market, women work mainly in care and education while men are found in the manufacturing industry.

‘It’s very problematic and linked to the roles of women and men in society,’ said Bankier.

Lisbeth Pedersen. Photo: Bosse Parbring

Lisbeth Pedersen. Photo: Bosse Parbring

‘The biggest problem is that women work in low-paid sectors,’ said Lisbeth Pedersen, researcher from the Danish National Centre for Social Research. ‘We don’t talk about why we have these low-paid occupations. The salaries were set at low levels when women entered these sectors 40-50 years ago, because back then women weren’t primary breadwinners but instead were in charge of taking care of their kids. This pay structure hasn’t changed.’

 

Don’t want to wait 70 years

It is going to take more than legislation to tackle the pay gap, said Bankier. It is difficult to take legal action since it may lead to layoffs. Wage transparency may be one way to go. Individual employees should be able to know how much other workers make. It is also important to work with businesses to make them receptive to the issue of equal pay. Most of them don’t want the government to regulate the wage setting but instead believe that wages should be negotiated between the social partners in the labour market.

‘Collective agreements may be a powerful tool in the work for equal pay, but it can also be used to maintain status quo,’ said Bankier.

Every year, the European Commission arranges the European Equal Pay Day and seminars on for example part-time work, career interruptions, childcare and the involvement of fathers. The aim of these efforts is to put the issue of part-time work higher on the agenda.

‘At the present pace it will take 70 years to achieve equal pay and we don’t want to wait that long,’ said Bankier.

 

Splitting parental leave in three parts a good idea

Iceland was held as a role model in two areas related to gender equality in the labour market: the splitting of parental leave into three parts, which was introduced in the beginning of the millennium, and gender quotas for company boards, inspired by Norwegian legislation.

‘We would normally not advocate quotas for company boards, but it has turned out to be very successful,’ said Thorsteinn Víglundsson. ‘We have made great progress in a short time. The tripartite parental leave has also been good. We didn’t want parents’ sharing of parental leave to be determined based on income. But we ruined the system a little during the financial crisis. We reduced the maximum level of compensation and once again the sharing became an economic issue.’

Halldor Grönvold. Photo: Bosse Parbring

Halldor Grönvold. Photo: Bosse Parbring

‘There was no ceiling from the beginning,’ said Halldor Grönvold, Deputy General Secretary of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour. ‘This meant that men used the parental leave actively for three months. We know from research that it has meant a lot. Employers could no longer assume who was staying home. There was a proposition to extend the parental leave to five months for each parent and two months that the parents can share any way they want. But the government that took office in 2013 didn’t go for it, unfortunately.’

 

Endure the pain

The Icelandic government and the social partners in the labour market have agreed on a standard for equal pay. Everybody who joins the agreement must work actively for an equal pay structure. The purpose is to put pressure on the parties participating in the standard. Halldor Grönvold said that a lot can be done to make the negotiation system better apt to handle the equal pay issue.

‘It’s a matter of changing the prevailing culture. The negotiation system was created by men. We have to revise it gradually and the trade unions have to raise their expectations.’

Tapio Bergholm called for organisation and persistent, hard work since nothing worthwhile happens by itself, but also concluded what several others also conveyed:

‘We have to endure the pain of the slow transition since changes in pay structures tend to occur very slowly.’

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Part-time Work is Women’s Response to Unhealthy Conditions http://www.nikk.no/en/news/part-time-work-is-womens-response-to-unhealthy-conditions/ The minister pointed out though that the labour market remains gender segregated. Women have more household and family responsibility and men work longer days away from home. Equal participation in the labour market is an important factor on the path to gender equality, as is equal sharing of household duties.

 

Complex interaction between many factors

Nordic women are more likely than men to work part time, which has economic consequences. This was concluded in a report titled Part-Time Work in the Nordic Region, presented by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) in Stockholm last year.

The reasons why women are more likely to choose to work part time are discussed in the second part of the report, which was presented at the conference in Reykjavik. It turns out that the pattern is the result of complex interactions between many factors, including health, family and labour market.

A group of experts, politicians, labour market representatives and others participated in the conference. The aim was to learn from each other’s experiences regarding how to deal with the problem, and working groups at the conference discussed which changes are needed in order to reduce the negative effects on gender equality.

 

Let us broaden the horizons

Work session. Foto: Bosse Parbring

Work session. Photo: Bosse Parbring

‘Society misses out on women’s valuable education and training when so many of them work part time,’ says Bosse Parbring, administrator of the NIKK project with the same name as the report. Everybody should have the opportunity to work full time. Women and immigrants are in the same situation in this respect and are in a weak position in relation to employers.

Parbring says he is happy with how the conference turned out. Working in small groups gave the participants new perspectives on the problems discussed. He says that the format led to intense discussions, as all participants had expert knowledge and relevant experiences and everybody had something to add to the debate. It is important that experts and labour market parties get together and discuss what can be done to turn the development around.

 

Part time is not a bad idea

Part-time work can be defined as women’s way to handle unhealthy conditions, say the authors of the report. This includes both the conflict between paid work and family life and health-related factors.

Forskarna Cathrine Egeland och Ida Drange. Foto: Bosse Parbring

Researchers Cathrine Egeland and Ida Drange. Photo: Bosse Parbring

Norwegian researcher Cathrine Egeland, who wrote the second part of the report together with Ida Drange, says that the uneven representation of women and men in part-time work is nothing new. Just look at their economic independence and pensions. ‘But I believe it would be good to approach the issue from a different angle and address it in a broader context,’ she said in an interview with NIKK. ‘Part-time work is not a bad idea, if men also saw it as an opportunity. In Norway, all labour market parties agree that this is a big problem and fear a shortage of labour in the future. Women are at the same time pressured to work even harder at home, and maybe the real problem lies in this dual message to men and women about how things should be organised.’

 

Men should work part time

Ingólfur V. Gíslason. Foto: Bosse Parbring

Ingólfur V. Gíslason. Photo: Bosse Parbring

Ingólfur V. Gislason, senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Iceland, agrees with Egeland and says that as long as the majority of part-time workers are women, it is a problem. If the same number of men were in the same situation, it would not be a problem. ‘Women earn less money, and the potential for change in this respect is small as long as this situation remains. The most radical and best way to reduce this problem and at the same time contribute to gender equality in society and the wellbeing of children would be to shorten the workweek for both women and men to about 35 hours,’ he tells NIKK.

 

Do women have a choice?

The most common reasons why women work part time have to do with their family and private life. However, the share of women who work part time because they cannot find a full-time job is also relatively large, in particular in Iceland and Denmark. There is also a growing group of individuals who say they work part time due to illness.

Drifa Snaedal, general secretary of the Federation of General and Special Workers in Iceland, says there should be a discussion about what full-time work really means. Part-time work is very common in for example healthcare. ‘In some traditionally female-dominated jobs in the public sector, the stress level is so high nobody can work more than 80 per cent of full time, especially if shift work is involved,’ says Snaedal to NIKK. ‘Research also shows that women choose part-time work more often. We need to look closer at this and find out how voluntary this choice is in the cases where women also have to care for children, old people and those with health problems because the welfare system has failed. The unions can’t solve this problem alone, and nor can the employers. The labour market parties and governments have to work together and seriously discuss whether everybody involved may benefit from redefining the workweek.’

 

Flexibility required

Magnus Lindström from the Swedish employers’ association KFO was also happy with the conference. He has been part of Swedish working group that has looked at the possibilities of creating more full-time jobs in the retail sector. He says that both the employers and employees agree that workers who wish to work full time should be accommodated. ‘The priorities vary, though.

Hvad er de reelle problemer? Foto: Bosse Parbring

What are the real problems with part-time? Photo: Bosse Parbring

The worker side would like to see solutions involving legislation and collective agreements. The final answer is nowhere in sight. The law says it’s ok to keep shops open 24 hours a day seven days a week. The employers don’t want any changes and would like to keep the system flexible in order to make their scheduling easier. The working group is an attempt to solve the problem, either technically or through collective negotiations without having to change any rules or laws.’

 

Paternal leave – a step forward

Euygló Hardardóttir pointed out that sometimes progress is not possible without legislative change. ‘The Icelandic law that granted fathers the right to paternal leave was important in this context. Young men’s attitudes have changed. Today it’s cool to be a family man with domestic responsibilities.’

Ingólfur V. Gislason says that when Icelandic men were granted the right to paternal leave in 2000, it affected the struggle for gender equality positively, and today men are more involved in the care of their children. ‘Women return to work sooner after having a baby, and the number of hours of paid work is more equal today than in the past,’ he says. ‘So women are working more and men are working correspondingly less and want to spend more time at home. This is far from enough, however. The leave is too short and the period between the end of parental leave and the beginning of preschool is too long. Women are much more likely than men to bridge this gap.’

Bosse Parbring says that although Iceland has not achieved gender equality in this area, the paternal leave has led to positive change – something that of course is receiving attention in the other Nordic countries.’

 

Shorter shifts in female-dominated jobs

Work session. Foto: Bosse Parbring

Work session. Photo: Bosse Parbring

Majbritt Mohr from Faroe Islands’ healthcare association says that the conference was great and that it was interesting to hear about all the things that the Nordic countries have in common. Yet it became very clear during the discussions that the situation is complicated and that there are no easy solutions.

Mohr says that a strong tradition of women working part time has been formed in the Faroe Islands. ‘The men used to be at sea and therefore away from home for extended periods. Although many of them no longer work at sea, some have found work in the Norwegian oil industry in the last five years and have to be gone from their families for long periods,’ she tells NIKK.

‘Twenty per cent of Faroese women would like to work more hours per week than currently possible. The women who are sole breadwinners can’t make ends meet with a part-time salary,’ she says.

‘The employers have to organise the work differently to enable women to work full time. Instead they have moved in the opposite direction by reducing the shifts in healthcare to six hours, rather than making them longer. They could also shorten the workweek, but right now they are instead making it very difficult for women.’

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New minister: the Nordic region is a central actor in the international arena http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-minister-the-nordic-region-is-a-central-actor-in-the-international-arena/ Åsa Regnér. Foto: Sören Andersson/Regeringskansliet

Åsa Regnér. Foto: Sören Andersson/Regeringskansliet

Regnér sees the Nordic gender equality cooperation as very important. Not only to enable the countries to learn from each other but also so they can put their foot down internationally and facilitate change. Major international conferences will be held next year, both in relation to the Beijing platform and the UN development goals. One controversial issue on the agenda is women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

‘The world community has turned more conservative in recent years and it is very difficult to move forward in these areas. I believe the Nordic countries have a great deal of responsibility here. The rates of maternal death remain high in many places, and this is because the issue has been neglected, often intentionally,’ says Regnér, who prior to becoming minister served as UN Women country representative in Bolivia.

Regnér has already met with the other Nordic gender equality ministers. She feels that the countries have many interesting experiences regarding the role of men in the gender equality work and would like to see a stronger focus in this area.

‘We should concretise this work more, move on to the next phase and talk about what works and what we want to achieve.’

Wants to learn from Norway

When it comes to learning from other Nordic countries, Regnér mentions Norway’s work with gender quota requirements for company boards. Norway introduced the first law on gender quotas in 2003, requiring all boards of state-owned and public companies to reserve at least 40 per cent of their seats for women. Evaluations have shown that the women who were recruited in response to the new legislation have helped boost the average level of education in Norwegian corporate boards significantly.

‘I think Norway’s experiences in this area are very interesting.’

Regnér is also looking forward to hearing more about Norway’s work to involve men in the prevention of violence against women. The Norwegian research and treatment centre Alternative to Violence is a forerunner in the area.

‘They’re using some interesting methods to help men to see their own behaviour and that the pattern can be broken. The latter is particularly important,’ says Regnér.

Measuring gender equality objectives

So what changes can be expected in Swedish gender equality policy? Regnér wants to review and update the country’s gender equality objectives. Yet exactly how this will be done is too early to say, she says.

Rodd. Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

‘But there must be a difference between a feminist government and another government. We have to be able to measure that we indeed make conscious decisions to promote equality between women and men.’

Several inquiries concerning for example domestic violence, gender equality policy and gender equality indicators are underway or have just been completed. Regnér says that the outcome of the inquiries will help inform the government’s updated gender equality policy.

‘I’m looking forward to reading the reports. The Swedish gender equality objectives are almost 10 years old, and the new information will give us a good idea of how we should move forward.’

The gender mainstreaming continues

Gender mainstreaming is the Swedish government’s primary strategy to achieve the country’s gender equality objectives. In simple terms, gender mainstreaming means that a gender equality perspective must be employed in all political decisions. The previous centre-right government gave a lot of attention to gender mainstreaming, for example through the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) and the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research. What will the future look like in this respect?

‘The government statement provides that the gender mainstreaming will continue and be further intensified. I see this as an important tool in the work of a feminist government,’ says Regnér.

She says that the good experiences that have been gathered must be linked to tools and to the ambition to be a feminist government. But she is not ready to share the specifics of this work quite yet.

‘My idea is that this should be a long-term effort that ought to be more measurable than it is today. I’ll share more details about this as soon as I can.’

What will happen with the JIM project (gender mainstreaming in public agencies) after it concludes at the end of this year?
We’ll most likely expand that work. My ambition is clear: I want it to be long term and not ad hoc, and I want it to lead to increased gender equality in a number of areas. It’s going to take a lot of effort, so we must figure out a good format for the work,’ says Regnér.

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Nordic Cooperation for Young Feminists http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-cooperation-for-young-feminists/ NIKK spade symbolThe aim of the project A Gender Equal Nordic Region is to enable students to learn about the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Platform for Action.
‘These documents may sound a bit dry, but once you read them you’ll see that there is some good stuff in there,‘ says Stéphanie Thögersen, programme manager at the Swedish Women’s Lobby.

The project is run by three organisations from Sweden, Denmark and Iceland and will result in new computer-based teaching material consisting of information, exercises and a teacher’s guide.

Why did you start the project?
‘The project is actually an extension of the Nordic Forum, which gathered 30 000 participants in Malmö, Sweden. We want to take advantage of the engagement and experiences from that weekend. One aim of the Forum was to get young people involved, and that’s what we want to keep building on. We want to spread knowledge to adolescents, along with the final document from the Nordic Forum.’

In what ways do young people lack knowledge?
‘There’s strong engagement in feminist issues, but they don’t know much about women’s rights and the commitments that the Nordic countries have made for gender equality. The Nordic governments have signed both the UN Women’s Convention and the Beijing Platform, so they have some important responsibilities to live up to. That’s good to know because the UN documents can be used as a tool to put pressure on the politicians.’

Are there any issues that are of particular importance to young people?
‘The teaching material will be based on the 12 themes of the Beijing Platform. We haven’t yet decided which topics to focus on, but some themes definitely seem more important to young people. We have for example witnessed a recent revolution against sexist advertisements in this group. We’re also seeing strong engagement against rape. Older feminists may get upset that their younger counterparts are not showing a stronger interest in equal pay and pensions, but there’s really nothing strange about it. Most people feel strongly about whatever issues are directly relevant to their lives. It’s our aim is to broaden the knowledge and increase the engagement in a number of issues related to women’s rights.’

Why do you want to run the project as a Nordic collaboration?

Stephanie Tögersen. Foto: privat

Stephanie Tögersen. Foto: privat

‘We think the development in the area of women’s rights has lost momentum, both internationally and in the Nordic countries, so we need to make a joint effort to get the ball rolling again. This was the leading idea behind the Nordic Forum and this is how we want to keep working. The Nordic countries can learn a lot from each other. For example, Iceland has introduced gender studies in over half of all upper-secondary schools, which has led to a surge of feminist engagement among young people. I think the rest of us have something to learn from that.’

The project sprang from the Nordic Forum. What did the Forum teach us?
‘A lot about it was unique. It was so incredibly big. The Nordic Forum showed that there’s strong engagement in these issues. It also showed how important it is with meetings involving all ages and actors in society. We feel strongly that we need more interaction between activists, organisations, public agencies, municipalities, businesses and politicians.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Better Mentors With a New Nordic Network http://www.nikk.no/en/news/better-mentors-with-a-new-nordic-network/ NIKK spade symbolYou are starting a Nordic network. Why?
‘Because we have a lot to learn from each other. The network will enable the members to share experiences and together refine the methods used. We want to inspire each other but also promote the use of mentoring and show others how useful the method is.’

Mentoring – how can it be used?
‘Mentoring programmes targeting women in leading positions are fairly common. New executives may benefit from talking to somebody with more experience and a larger network. Mentors can for the same reasons offer important support to people with problems entering the labour market. That’s how we have used the method at the Centre for Equality. We for example launched a very successful mentoring programme targeting women who are new in Norway.’

How were the mentors helpful in that programme?
‘They offered encouragement and helped the women strengthen their self-esteem. Women who have immigrated to Norway often face a special set of problems in the labour market. If you apply for a large number of jobs and then have to endure a steady flow of negative responses, it’s going to slowly break you down. The mentors helped the women focus on their competence and became important contact points in their new society.’

Goro Ree-Lingstad-Goro Ree-Lindstad. Foto: Likestillingssenteret

Goro Ree-Lingstad-Goro Ree-Lindstad. Foto: Likestillingssenteret

What do you think the members can learn from each other?
‘Bunches! The Danes in particular are big on mentoring, and they have a lot of knowledge that will benefit the other countries. There are numerous mentoring schemes targeting all sorts of groups across the Nordic region. There are for example mentors for people with disabilities and projects targeting adolescents. The programmes can be tailored to the needs at hand and can be designed in any shape or form. That’s one thing that makes the work so exciting, but also difficult. You really have to think about what needs there are and what you want to accomplish. You can’t just copy somebody else’s programme.’

What happens next in the project?
We will hold our first meeting in connection with this autumn’s meeting of the European mentoring network. At the top of the agenda is the planning of a Nordic conference next spring.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Nordic Network for Gender Equality Certification in Education http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-network-for-gender-equality-certification-in-education/ NIKK spade symbol

Experts from Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden will work together to develop criteria for the proposed gender equality certification. A joint Nordic certification is initiated by Cecilie Nørgaard, a member of the group. The first step will be to identify successful examples from Nordic schools and preschools.
‘We need to get a better understanding of which methods work and have proved successful,’ says Mervi Heikkinen, researcher at the University of Oulu.

Can you tell us about a successful example?
‘Sure, there are many. In Finland, for example, the government has introduced an amendment to a gender equality act consisting an obligation for compulsory schools to draft a gender equality action plan. One important feature of the plan is that the children and adolescents are supposed to be involved in the entire process of change. Together with the teachers, they are expected to point out problems, set goals and ponder over how to achieve them. This teaches the children to talk about gender and gender equality. The kids have come up with many different issues that need attention. They have for example pointed to problems concerning girls’ and boys’ access to toys in preschool.’

Why do we need a gender equality certification for schools and preschools?

Mervi Heikkinen. Foto: privat

Mervi Heikkinen. Photo: private

‘We see the certification network as an important policy tool. The Nordic countries are world leading in gender equality, but we aren’t done yet. The gender equality work in education is not systematic enough. These are the types of innovative methods we need to reach the next level.’

The politicians still haven’t decided whether there will actually be a Nordic gender certification. Where do we stand at the moment?
‘It looks like we’ll have to start at the national level. We hope that it will lead to a Nordic certification down the road. The politicians are afraid that a certification system will get too big and expensive. Maybe we can convince them with our project that it won’t.’

What can the Nordic countries gain from cooperating?
‘We’re facing similar challenges and can benefit greatly from each other’s knowledge. The Nordic countries have taken important steps forward together in recent decades and that’s how we can reach even further. We need to challenge and inspire each other.’

What happens next in the network?
‘We’ve been able to gather a good group of researchers and teachers but are still looking for experts from Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. We’re also planning a seminar on successful examples from Nordic schools and preschools. The work will also result in a report on key features of successful practices on gender equality promotion in education.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Women and Men Must Decide the Future of the Arctic Together http://www.nikk.no/en/news/women-and-men-must-decide-the-future-of-the-arctic-together/ Halonen pointed out that the countries with the highest levels of gender equality are also the ones with the best living conditions.

‘It makes good economic sense to use the capacity of both women and men,’ she said and reminded the audience that because of the tough conditions in the Arctic, it has always been necessary for both genders to contribute.

Focus on the Arctic

International experts, leaders from the private sector, politicians and representatives from the countries in the Arctic Council (USA, Russia, Canada and the Nordic countries) met at the conference in Iceland to discuss Arctic concerns. In light of the climate change problem and issues related to security and natural resources, there is an increasing focus on the region.

The Arctic Council is the only institution that can make decisions that lead to direct action in the eight Arctic states. At the conference, the group discussed the Arctic region and issues such as gender equality, gender representation in politics, resource management and climate change.

Gender equality lagging

Eva Maria Svensson. Foto: Þóra Kristín Ásgeirsdóttir

Eva Maria Svensson. Photo: Þóra Kristín Ásgeirsdóttir

Eva Maria Svensson, professor at the University of Gothenburg and the University of the Arctic, stressed that the position of the genders varies across the countries in the Arctic countries. Gender equality has come a long way in the Nordic countries, which implies significant challenges for Canada, USA and Russia.

The gender equality in all public administration in the northern regions is falling behind, despite the gender equality legislation in place.

A number of indigenous organisations are also part of the Arctic Council. Sami member of parliament Gunn-Britt Retter spoke on behalf of the indigenous groups. She said that although the Nordic countries share both weather and spirit, it is the shared experience of the indigenous groups that is a key factor in the cooperation – and how they can ensure that their concerns remain on the agenda in the international community.

Masculine politics

Gunn-Britt Retter said that now, when all eyes are turned to the North, it can be seen that the policy developed for the area seems to be very male oriented. One can imagine what the Arctic would be like if all these men could have it their way. The Sami have relied on fishing and reindeers for their survival for thousands of years and therefore possess a unique understanding of life in the far North. Norway and Sweden are focusing on mining and do not believe in the viability of developing the traditional industries, like developing sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture and fisheries. Retter also said that it is certainly possible to develop opportunities for mining to some extent, but that it is also important to consider the business opportunities inherent in old traditions. The mining will probably be profitable for the first, say, 20 years, but then what?

Ownership of knowledge

‘There is a major difference in the proportions of men and women in different areas of these countries,’ said Unnur Brá Konrádsdóttir, vice chair of the West Nordic Council, in a discussion with Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) about what northern regions have in common in the area of gender equality.

‘Women move away, get a university degree, but because of the lack of opportunities in the labour market they never return.’

She says that businesses in industry and mining should be encouraged to target women in particular when recruiting workers, and also to consider the needs of women when planning the workweek.

Kriss Rokkan Iversen earned a PhD and then returned to Lofoten – a remote archipelago off the coast of Norway above the Arctic Circle – and started a business named Salt together with another woman. The company operates far from the academic world and sells specialised products related to the marine environment.

She pointed out in her speech that the farther north you go, the fewer university graduates you come across. However, women are better off in this regard, since considerably more women than men get a university degree. She said that ownership of knowledge is an important factor in discussions about the right to the northern areas, and that both genders can get a stake in the future by retaining the knowledge in the local communities.

Climate change and gender equality

Climate change and increased traffic and resource exploitation form a threat to the natural conditions, security and sustainable environment for all people in the northern regions and also in the rest of the world. It is therefore important that the eight countries in the Arctic Council base their discussions on common sense and sustainability, and that both women and men can participate in the decision making.

Tarja Halonen. Foto: Eva Maria Svensson. Foto: Þóra Kristín Ásgeirsdóttir

Tarja Halonen. Photo: Þóra Kristín Ásgeirsdóttir

Tarja Halonen said that the climate change, environmental protection and right to land issues in the North have to be addressed with a gender equality perspective. Equal rights to the legal system for everybody – men, women, indigenous groups and others – must be ensured.

Eva Maria Svensson agreed and reminded that the economic development in the North did not happen by itself, but is rather the result of the present policies. It is important to include gender equality on the agenda in order to ensure public participation in decisions regarding the future of the Arctic region.

Audur H. Ingólfsdóttir, assistant professor at Bifröst University, discussed the problem from a feminist perspective. She said that the debate on the Arctic region has been highly masculine, in particular in the last few years. Those with the strongest financial interests have become increasingly interested in the region as they are seeing a great potential for profitable oil production and mining. She also said she has noticed how some things cannot be said in the open, critical questions cannot be asked and demands for sustainability and environmental protection are not appreciated.

Ingólfsdóttir said that there are many signs that the two genders have different outlooks on these issues, and that female participation could give soft values more attention and increase diversity.

Information is lacking

‘We need more data,’ said Unnur Brá Konrádsdóttir, vice chair of the West Nordic Council. ‘Information is the key to change.’

Eva Maria Svensson agreed and said that we need more research on the position of the genders and a better analysis of women’s participation in the far north areas that belong to the countries in the Arctic Council.

Kristín Ástgeirsdóttir, head of the Centre for Gender Equality Iceland, agreed. She suggested that a gender equality barometer be created for the Arctic, as there is currently no data illustrating the status of the different regions.

‘After listening to the discussions here at the conference, I think that type of comparison could be interesting,’ said Ástgeirsdóttir in an interview with NIKK. ‘It’s important to have a clear view of regional problems.’

Kristín Ástgeirsdóttir. Foto: Þóra Kristín Ásgeirsdóttir

Kristín Ástgeirsdóttir. Photo: Þóra Kristín Ásgeirsdóttir

Ástgeirsdóttir also said that since Iceland and the other Nordic countries have come farther, they can share their experiences from gender equality work with other countries. As Iceland does not have any indigenous groups, the country does not have to consider the consequences of age-old oppression and colonialism.

‘There are many common traits across the Arctic region,’ said Ástgeirsdóttir. ‘Lots of women moving away, differences in educational attainment and lack of diversity in the labour market, in addition to the effects of climate change and the large corporations’ demand for natural resources. In the end, it’s a question of which kind of society we want in this part of the world.’

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Male Perspectives on Gender Equality http://www.nikk.no/en/news/male-perspectives-on-gender-equality/
rom the left: Michael Kristensen (Greenland), State Secretary Ulla-Maija Rajakangas (Finland), Solveig Horne (Norway), chair Eygló Harðardóttir (Iceland), Åsa Regnér (Sweden) and Manu Sareen (Denmark). Photo from norden.org

rom the left: Michael Kristensen (Greenland), State Secretary Ulla-Maija Rajakangas (Finland), Solveig Horne (Norway), chair Eygló Harðardóttir (Iceland), Åsa Regnér (Sweden) and Manu Sareen (Denmark). Photo from norden.org

The ministers debated the theme of men, boys and equality at a meeting in Copenhagen on Monday.

“After years of positive conferences, meetings and research, we need tangible proposals that will lead to even better results in the Nordic Region. For example, we need to look at legislation – is it enough merely to achieve the targets set for male involvement in gender-equality work?” asks Eygló Harðardóttir (Iceland), chair of the Council of Ministers for Gender Equality 2014.

Long-term priority

The male perspective is a recurring thread in every aspect of the new Nordic programme for gender equality 2015–2018, which was adopted at the Council of the Nordic Session in Stockholm on 29 October.

“Interestingly, men aren’t just over-represented in society’s upper echelons, but also at the bottom – in the prison statistics, for example. This is something I think we should look at,” said Manu Sareen (Denmark), who takes over as chair of the ministerial council in 2015.

“Not only do we need to try and engage men and boys in the struggle for gender equality, we need to engage more women too. In Denmark, the debate is highly polarised. For example, more women need to participate in the discussion about the right of fathers to have access to their children after a divorce, something that is becoming more and more common. It’s a far more complex issue than it might first appear,” Sareen adds.

From women’s struggle to specific challenges faced by men

The ministers also noted that the focus had shifted in work on men and gender – from men participating in women’s struggles for equality to gender-related challenges faced by men in specific areas such as health and welfare, education, fatherhood and marginalisation.

“Sharing the responsibility for care within families more equally is good for women who want to work, and for men who want to play a greater role as fathers. Men who take jobs in sectors traditionally dominated by women help to break the pattern of segregation, something that is beneficial to both genders in terms of career and job opportunities. One positive side effect is a decrease in the pay gap between women and men,” Eygló Harðardóttir points out.

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New Report: the Nordic Countries Still Leading the Way in Gender Equality http://www.nikk.no/en/news/new-report-the-nordic-countries-still-leading-the-way-in-gender-equality/ The Global Gender Gap Report has been presented by the World Economic Forum every year since 2006 and measures gender differences in four categories: economy, political representation, health and education. This year 142 countries are included in the review.

Only Nordic counties are found in the top five (last year’s ranking in parentheses):

Iceland (1)

Finland (2)

Norway (3)

Sweden (4)

Denmark (8)

The Nordic countries are leading the way in gender equality.  Illustration: Global Gender Gap 2014 by WEF

The Nordic countries are leading the way in gender equality. Illustration: Global Gender Gap 2014 by WEF

Investments in gender-equal health and education is a key factor behind the Nordic success, says the report. These investments also help reduce the gender gaps in the other categories: Nordic women show strong participation in the labour market and politics, too. Worth noting is that the report does not consider in which political fields women are represented. We know from before that women show higher representation rates in traditionally ‘female’ areas such as the domains of health and care, whereas their participation in male-dominated areas such as national defence and transportation is much lower.

The Nordic countries generally offer ample opportunities for childcare and generous amounts of parental leave. These are two factors with a positive impact on women’s political and economic participation. Well-educated and healthy women also tend to transfer these traits to their children, which affects the development of society positively, not least in an economic perspective, according to the report.

The report points out that many other countries have also reduced the gender gaps in health and education, but their gender differences in the other two categories remain substantial. This means that once women enter the labour market, the gender differences increase again. The Nordic countries are identified as international role models in this regard and remain world leaders in the work for gender equality.

Overall, the Global Gender Gap Report 2014 concludes that at the current global pace, gender equality in the workplace won’t be achieved until the year 2095.

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Nordic Voices in Gender Research http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-voices-in-gender-research/ NIKK spade symbol

Gender researchers in different countries have a lot to learn from each other, says Jo Krøjer, researcher at Roskilde University. Krøjer is the coordinator of the conference Voices in Nordic Gender Research scheduled for 5-7 November.
‘Our goal is for the conference to offer many exciting discussions and new meetings,’ she says.

Can you tell us more about which themes will be discussed at the conference?
‘We’ll focus on seven themes, all of which are described on the conference website. We are for example going to have round-table discussions on structural racism and Nordic identity. The biggest theme, in terms of the number of papers received, is The Gain and Pain. Life in Welfare Societies. Here researchers are going to discuss the feminist progress made in the Nordic region, but also the price we have paid for it.’

What do you mean when you say that the feminist progress has come at price?
‘We see for example that women’s ability to participate in the labour market has improved thanks to the positive developments within child and elderly care in recent decades. Now we can ask ourselves whether the development in the welfare institutions in the last few years, with economic and structural changes, has put the wellbeing of children and old people at risk. The salaries and working conditions are not always good at these institutions, so the price is also paid by those who work there.’

Why do we need a Nordic gender research conference?
‘Since the countries are fairly similar, the research results in one country are meaningful also for the other countries. We need to get better at seeing what researchers in the other countries are doing. We are to some degree focusing on different things. For example, Sweden has come a long way within gender equality research, while the Danish research has a strong focus on the development of methods.’

Who will be at the conference?

Jo Krøjer. Photo: private

Jo Krøjer. Photo: private

‘150 people have registered. Most of them are researchers but there will also be some practitioners. All Nordic countries, except Greenland, will be represented and we will also have guests from the Baltic States, South Africa, Australia and the U.S. The participation will be broader than expected although some countries are underrepresented. Finland is one example. We hope the conference will be a recurring event, and that Finland can host it next year. That would make it easier for Finnish researchers to participate.’

What effects do you hope the conference will have?
‘This is NORA’s first Nordic gender research conference, but we hope there will be many more! We hope the participants will meet researchers and practitioners who they haven’t had the opportunity to talk to before. Maybe the conference will lead to more Nordic research projects being launched in the future. This is of course only something we can wish for, but at least the conference increases the chances for cooperation.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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Men’s Issues in Gender Equality Actualised in Finnish Report http://www.nikk.no/en/news/mens-issues-in-gender-equality-actualised-in-finnish-report/ Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

When the working group was set up, its tasks were to identify new gender equality issues relating to men and specify issues already known, expedite measures concerning men under the Government Action Plan for Gender Equality, develop interaction between ministry officials and men’s organisations, and organise a seminar on men and gender equality.

The working group’s goals included that of enabling men and women to feel that equality is something that is common to both genders and that gender equality policy is a policy that is also common to both genders and policy measures to promote gender equality, but also to resolve men’s problems and to make space for men’s diversity.

The working group consists of representatives of men’s organisations, youth work with boys and young men, Seta LGBT rights in Finland, the Council for Gender Equality and four ministries. The working group’s term of office ended on 15/10/2014.

In February 2014, the working group published an interim report containing background information and statistics on men’s issues in greater depth than in the final report and a description of the historical development of men’s issues in Finland. It was decided to keep the final report compact, containing just the working group’s proposals and their arguments for them. The final report was compiled based on discussions among the working group, and an attempt was made to include the views of everyone, although compromises were made and certain framings were put in place.

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The Nordic Countries Stand United Against Violence http://www.nikk.no/en/news/the-nordic-countries-stand-united-against-violence/ Foto: Colourbox

Foto: Colourbox

Under the banner Zero Tolerance: Seminar on Actions to Prevent Gender-based Violence, eleven speakers talked about successful examples from the Nordic countries. The Istanbul Convention served as an important springboard for the conference: there was a strong focus on strategies to prevent and combat violence, to protect victims and to prosecute the perpetrators. (Read more about the Convention to the right on this page).

‘Patriarchal structures behind the violence’

José Mendes Bota, the Council of Europe’s Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, was one of the first speakers at the conference. When talking about the underlying reasons for the violence, he showed no hesitation:

‘Men’s violence against women is ultimately a result of patriarchal structures. All men bear a responsibility for the violence women have to endure. Even if the majority of all men do not engage in violence, we all have a responsibility to work against it, to say no.’

One-third of all women victimised

Another issue that received attention was the large number of unreported cases. A new prevalence study by FRA – the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights – was presented at the conference. The study, based on interviews with 42 000 women in 28 EU countries, shows that one-third of the women had been the victim of physical or sexual violence after turning 15 years old.

The women in the EU study were also asked about the consequences of the violence. Many of them, especially those who had experienced sexual violence, talked about feelings of guilt and shame and an unwillingness to report the crimes to the police. Only a small fraction of the victims end up reporting them or requesting support.

Talking about the violence helps

The healthcare system is the primary channel through which victims of violence are reached. Development of routines to detect violence and adequate knowledge among healthcare staff are therefore of central importance. Helena Ewalds from Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare presented the work in her country to routinely ask patients questions about violence:

‘The best way to prevent violence is to talk about it. Routinely asking questions about violence in the healthcare system can mean increased security for both patients and staff. It may initiate a process in the patient, which in turn can lead to the victim receiving the support he or she needs.’

Carin Götblad. Photo: Ulrika Helldén

Carin Götblad. Photo: Ulrika Helldén

Carin Götblad, Sweden’s national coordinator against violence in intimate relationships, had similar thoughts. Last spring, she submitted 50 propositions to the Swedish Government, including that healthcare and social service providers should routinely ask questions about violence.

‘Asking questions about violence is controversial, but the results show that we have a lot to gain from it. We need to ask in a non-accusing way. Let’s compare it to how we already are asking questions about smoking and drinking,’ he said.

Another strategy to improve the care of victims is to talk to them in their own homes. María Gunnarsdóttir presented ‘keeping the window open’ – a method that has proved successful in Iceland.

‘When the police get to a crime scene where there is suspicion of domestic violence, they have noticed that the victims are more open to receiving help. So therefore there are social workers present to guide the victims to healthcare providers and other support functions.’

Women’s shelters – for whom?

The issue of shelters for abused women caused intense debate. Many of the conference participants agreed that the state needs to accept greater responsibility, as also pointed out in the Istanbul Convention. Finland recently passed a law providing that the national government must offer and pay for shelters for victims of violence. Norwegian legislation places this responsibility on the municipalities. José Mendes Bota agreed that society should do more, but said that the discussion is misdirected.

‘We need temporary shelters for the perpetrators, not their victims. It’s important that the victims get to stay in their home environment.’

Some countries – for example parts of Iceland – have laws providing that the perpetrator must leave the home. However, this does not solve the problem for abused women who want to exit a relationship without contacting the police or other authorities.

Successful cooperation

Dag Simen Grøtterud coordinates the work of the Oslo police against violence in intimate relationships. He said that all police officers in Oslo have received training both on risk assessments of perpetrators and on how to best deal with victims. The Norwegian police’s use of SARA and MARAC, risk assessment manuals that are also used in the other Nordic countries, were presented as ‘best practice’.

The conference showed clearly that all Nordic countries agree that prevention, early detection, structured risk analyses and broad cooperation are all key to combating men’s violence against women. The intergovernmental Nordic cooperation appeared successful.

Eygló-Harðardóttir. Photo: Ulrika Helldén

Eygló-Harðardóttir. Photo: Ulrika Helldén

Iceland’s gender equality minister Eygló Harðardóttir closed the conference.

‘Focusing on prevention work with men who commit violence against women and children is crucial. It is also important to gather statistics, work together and support research on abused women and children.’

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Sure Boys can Write! http://www.nikk.no/en/news/sure-boys-can-write/ Foto: Colourbox

Foto: Colourbox

Katharina Andersson’s doctoral thesis in pedagogy is based on 900 texts written by 231 boys within the framework of the mandatory national test in Swedish for third graders.

‘The boys turned out to be good at intertextuality, at tailoring their texts to the receiver and at adapting their language to the expectations they faced,’ she says.

The key concepts in her thesis are boys, writing skills and assessments. In her work, she used for example Norwegian professor Kjell Lars Berge’s research on assessment of writing skills. Berge problematises how texts should be assessed and points to the difficulties of designing an assessment that assesses the right things. He also concludes that Norwegian school children are much better at writing narrative texts than discursive texts.

Andersson also uses Finnish professor Ria Heilä-Ylikallio’s research on boys’ writing and their attitudes to reading and writing. Heilä-Ylikallio was also Andersson’s supervisor throughout her work to complete the thesis.

Andersson concludes that all Nordic countries present their national results based on sex and compare boys and girls. Girls always perform better than boys.

Borrowing doesn’t mean lack of imagination

Katharina Andersson works as a teacher trainer at the University of Gävle, Sweden, but presented her doctoral thesis at Åbo Akademi University in Vasa, Finland. She says that writing her thesis in another Nordic country gave her many new insights and thoughts about national identity and language.

Andersson has a degree in elementary education and has often reflected over how boys and girls are always put against each other. For a while she taught a class with only boys, and during this period it became particularly evident that individuals are so much more than just their sex.

‘It became clearer that the kids were in fact a group of individuals, full of differences. Dividing kids by gender alone is so stereotypical,’ she says.

Reading the boys’ texts, Andersson looked for signs that the author understood how to write. She saw that they were good at using the texts they had been given for the task, but also that they were good at implicitly inserting stories from folktales, children’s literature, TV, film, computer games and news. She mentions a boy who wrote his own version of Hansel and Gretel – without Gretel – with great diligence.

Many researchers see borrowing as a sign of lack of imagination, but just think of Pär Lagerkvist’s Barabbas. Lagerkvist wrote his own version of a Bible story and won the Nobel Prize in Literature. This practice should be thought of as intertextuality when kids do it, too.’

The national tests trick the children

The national tests in Swedish assess children’s skills too narrowly, says Andersson. She is afraid that the emphasis on the boys’ weaknesses can lead to boys giving up writing, and would like to see a stronger focus on reinforcing what the boys are good at.

‘Getting them to dare using their language is important for democracy. Everybody needs to be able to express thoughts and opinions, and boys need to know that they are needed, too. Otherwise society will suffer,’ she says and points to the risk that those who cannot express themselves verbally may instead choose to use their fists.

The themes of the 2009 national tests in Swedish – the focus of Andersson’s analyses – were ‘fear’ for the narrative texts and ‘animal communication’ for the factual texts. When the teachers assess the national tests, they look at the children’s ability to write complete sentences with proper capitalisation and punctuation. They also look at the spelling and whether the texts are structured well with a clear beginning and a clear ending. The teacher counts the number of points scored and then determines whether the child should be assigned a passing grade or not.

‘The children think they need to put a lot of effort into the content of the texts, while in fact they are assessed based on more technical aspects of writing. This way we end up missing many competencies and that’s unfair to the kids,’ she says.

Politicians should ask other questions

Andersson wants to see better test instructions and broader assessments.

‘The assessment criteria should be made clearer to the children, and we should consider more competencies. Positive feedback makes people grow, and it also makes them better able to accept negative feedback.’

The designer of the tests, the Swedish National Agency for Education, is already recommending teachers to mark passages that are written well so that the children can see what they are good at. However, this was uncommon in the texts analysed by Andersson, maybe because the good aspects of the texts were often not subject to direct assessment according to Agency guidelines.

She also wishes that the national tests would be used more as a basis for formative assessments.

‘Today the kids take the tests in the spring semester of third grade, which doesn’t leave much time to reflect on the outcome before the summer.’

Andersson hopes that teachers and teacher candidates will read her thesis and that it will help change their views on how to read and assess a text. She would also like her results to reach the politicians to help them understand that the test results do not convey the whole truth but are rather a reflection of the rather narrow assessment questions asked.

‘Sometimes we need to ask other questions.’

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Dagfinn Høybråten: Together we can fight trafficking more effectively http://www.nikk.no/en/news/dagfinn-hoybraten-together-we-can-fight-trafficking-more-effectively/ Dagfinn Høybråten with the Justice Minister of Denmark, Karen Hækkerup, who was the host of the meeting. Photo: Norden.org

Dagfinn Høybråten with the Justice Minister of Denmark, Karen Hækkerup, who was the host of the meeting. Photo: Norden.org

In an increasingly globalised world, more and more crime is committed across country borders. Combating trafficking demands both cross-sectoral and international co-operation, and the Secretary General believes, therefore, that there is much to be won by common initiatives in the Nordic and Baltic Regions.

“I can see that co-operation between international and regional organisations can be strengthened in the future. The same applies to co-operation across policy sectors, and between authorities and NGOs. It is also important to ask oneself whether legislation can be improved to ensure the rights of victims of trafficking”, said Dagfinn Høybråten in his speech at the meeting.

More experience exchange, skills and co-operation

Earlier this year the Nordic Council of Ministers launched an initiative for a smarter, faster and more effective fight against trafficking. The purpose of this initiative is to increase exchange of experience, skills and co-operation in specific cases.

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From Part Time to Full Time – Conference for Gender Equality in the Nordic Region http://www.nikk.no/en/news/from-part-time-to-full-time-conference-for-gender-equality-in-the-nordic-region/ The Nordic countries share many features. One is that many part-time workers in the different countries would rather work full time. Another is that a majority of the countries’ part-time workers are women. The Nordic gender equality ministers see this as a gender equality problem and have commissioned NIKK to investigate the situation further.
A research report on why more women than men work part time will be presented this autumn. NIKK is asking how change can best be achieved and are therefore inviting experts, researchers, politicians, trade unions, employer and practitioners in the fields of gender equality and the labour market – to a participative conference.
The idea is to share knowledge and participate in creative dialogue and experience exchange, help create a shared platform with recommendations to policy-makers and employers.

Bose Parbring

Bosse Parbring. Photo: Anneli Tillberg

“Our hopes are that the conference can convey input to the Nordic Council of Ministers and the labour market parties, which will contribute to change and a gender equal labour market. We also hope that the participants’ exchange of experience will inspire them to new ways to work in their respective organisations”, says Bosse Parbring, head of NIKK:s project Part Time Work in the Nordic Region.

The conference is arranged in cooperation with the Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, which will also host a conference on equal pay on 13 November 2014.

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Conference on Best Practice in Gender Mainstreaming http://www.nikk.no/en/news/conference-on-best-practice-in-gender-mainstreaming/ Rodd. Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Illustration: Emma Hanquist

The occasion is the presentation of the results of a cross-Nordic study on good practice and the effects of municipalities’ work with gender mainstreaming. At the conference the study will be presented along with recommendations on how the municipalities in the Nordic countries can work with gender mainstreaming. Five good practice-cases from the study will be presented by practitioners and put into a broader perspective on gender equality and public service by professors or persons of relevant knowledge. The public service areas in focus at the conference are urban planning, employment, healthcare, children’s daycare and care for the elderly.

The conference targets leaders and employees in the public sectors in the Nordic region, who work with, or are interested in, gender mainstreaming. The conference also targets leaders and employers who want tools for documenting the effects of gender mainstreaming.

The conference will be held in the Scandinavian anguages. There will be interpretation from the Scandinavian languages to English in all program events in plenum and in session 1 (urban planning) and 3 (healthcare).

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Nordic Gender Equality Projects Granted Funding http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-gender-equality-projects-granted-funding/ NIKK spade symbol

These activities will share a total of 2.7 million Danish Krone from the Nordic Council of Minister’s funding scheme of 2014. These activities are chosen because they aim to further Nordic gender equality.

Via the funding scheme, the Nordic Council of Ministers want to promote Nordic cooperation for gender equality. NIKK has been administering the funding scheme since 2013. This year’s activities will start up during the autumn of 2014 and will be completed some time during 2015.

The activities involve all of the Nordic countries, the Nordic self-governing regions and the Baltic states. The projects are:

  • Mapping Promising Nordic Practices in Gender Equality Promotion at Basic Education and Kindergartens
  • Gendered Violence- Nordic-Baltic Dialogue
  • Network for Comparative Studies of the Nordic Model
  • Building and Developing the Gender Equal Nordic Region
  • NKMV conference 2014
  • EAMI FEMI – The Society of Nordic Indigenous Women
  • Establishing a Nordic Mentoring Network
  • Nordic Women’s Economic Citizenship
  • Nordic Conference on Sexism and Sexual Harassment in the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Trades
  • MenEngage Network Nordic
  • Law: The Court and Practising Gender Equality
  • NORA conference: Voices in Nordic Gender Research
  • Exit prostitution work in the Nordic-Baltic region

 

More information on the various activities will come; NIKK will follow and report on the projects starting the autumn of 2014.

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The Same Challenges Remain After 40 Years http://www.nikk.no/en/news/the-same-challenges-remain-after-40-years/ The Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers arranged the conference in Reykjavík on 26 August.

Panelsamtal med Margot Wallström, tidigare EU-kommissionär, Eygló Harðardóttir, Islands jämställdhetsminister, och Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Islands tidigare president.

Margot Wallström, former EU commissioner, Eygló Harðardóttir, Iceland’s Minister for Gender Equality, and Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former president of Iceland.

‘We can be proud of being world leaders in gender equality,’ said Iceland’s Minister for Gender Equality Eygló Harðardóttir when she opened the conference.

In most Nordic countries, the representation of women and men has evened out considerably since 1974. Women’s entry into higher education and the expanded provision of childcare and parental insurance have led to more Nordic women entering the workforce than elsewhere in Europe. However, the labour market remains strongly gender segregated and corporate management continues to be dominated by men.

The list of speakers at the conference included Margot Wallström, former EU commissioner and UN representative for the monitoring of women in war zones. In the 1990s, Wallström served as minister in several social democratic governments in Sweden.

Major changes in views of manhood

‘I recognise a lot of today’s challenges from my years as a minister. Back then, we focused on political representation, the labour market, education and men’s participation in the gender equality work. The role of men is probably the area that has seen the most change over the 40 years. There has been a “men’s liberation” perspective that has changed the view of what it’s like to be a man.’

Iceland’s former president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, noted that there were more men at the conference than at similar conferences 20 years ago.

‘We used to ask, “Where are the men?” So, we would like to thank all of you men who are here today.’

But she also pointed out that women’s access to power and influence is undermined because they lack access to the media, are expected to spend a lot of time making themselves look good and carry the primary responsibility for family and household work.

‘Women and men don’t have the same opportunities to exercise their citizens’ rights.’

Wallström noted that women continue to stay at home with young children more than their men despite focused efforts in the Nordic countries to even out the balance.

‘The parental insurance in the Nordic countries is very generous, but men don’t take advantage of it nearly as much as we would like them to. There are economic reasons for this, but it’s also a matter of attitudes. So how can we achieve change? Through legislation, change in attitudes, tax and insurance reforms and positive discrimination. Sometimes the implementation of quotas is necessary to achieve change that otherwise would take decades to materialise, if ever.’

No miracle cure

Iceland has pushed the issue of parental leave quotas further than any other Nordic country: one-third is reserved for the father, one-third for the mother, and the parents are free to decide what to do with the remaining third. Sociologist Ingólfur V. Gíslason has followed the effects of the Icelandic work and concludes that men have developed closer relationships with their children and take more responsibility for their families and households than in the past. However, women continue to struggle in the labour market.

Sociolog Ingólfur V. Gíslason

Ingólfur Gíslason

‘We still can’t see that the quotas have led to any improvements in the salary gap. Women are still taking out a vast majority of the parental leave days, so it hasn’t been a miracle cure by any means.’

Kerstin Alnebratt, director of the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research, discussed the focus on men in the gender equality work in a new perspective.

‘We say that we want the men on board and get frustrated when they don’t understand that. Of course both women and men should be involved. But there is a risk that the focus on men diverts attention from the fact that the great development we have seen would not have been possible without the hard and persistent work of our strong women’s organisations.’

Need for knowledge

All Nordic countries have institutions that document and distribute research-based knowledge related to gender equality. This, said Auður Styrkársdóttir, director of the Icelandic women’s history archives, is a great asset in the Nordic gender equality cooperation.

‘I believe we would not be where we are today without this research. And for the Nordic cooperation to keep making an impact, we need continued research.’

Nina Groes, director of KVINFO in Denmark, agreed.

‘The issue of gender equality tends to stir up emotions, since it often gets to people at a personal level. It is therefore important that we have knowledge that puts things in a context. Research per se isn’t enough – we need research that is communicated and made accessible.’

‘We need research-based knowledge, but we also need politicians who are willing to implement it. We’re trying to achieve this by inviting them to various events,’ said Minna Kelhä, development manager at Minna – Centre for Gender Equality Information in Finland.

Does the cooperation exist?

The need for engagement at the political level and the necessity of breaking the Nordic consensus culture  were two themes addressed by several conference participants. Kerstin Alnebratt pointed out that one important role of research is to offer a critical perspective, even if it may generate tension.

Panel med representanter från insitutioner i Norden som förmedlar forskning om jämställdhet.

Discussion between institutions that convey information on gender equality research: Auður Styrkársdóttir, Women’s History Archives, Iceland, Kerstin Alnebratt, Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research, Sweden, Linda Marie Rustad, KILDEN, Norway, Minna Kelhä, Minna – Center for Gender Equality Information, Finland, and Nina Groes, KVINFO, Danmark.

‘We keep discussing the Nordic gender equality cooperation as if it really exists. But does it really? We only have one gender equality minister here today. It’s remarkable that we still after 40 years know so little about each other. We have changed our focus to the European cooperation. And the Nordic countries have chosen some different paths. We just assume that the Nordic cooperation is something we agree on, but we don’t talk about it.’

Hege Skjeie, professor in political science at the University of Oslo, said that clear differences may lead us forward.

‘The stronger the consensus about gender equality policy, the more we lose momentum. When the parties have to compete about defining the gender equality policy, it leads to progress and has a mobilising effect. We can see this happening in Sweden around the Feminist Initiative party.’

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Full-time Work Too Overwhelming? http://www.nikk.no/en/news/full-time-work-too-overwhelming/ arbetande kvinna stress

Poto: Colourbox

They choose to work part time after having kids, as they prioritise family life over the career ladder. And then they get used to working part time and rarely go back to working full time after the kids have grown up.

This is a classic explanation to why more women than men work part time – not least in the public sector. But is this the whole truth?

No, according to some recent studies.

For example, figures from the YS Employment Outlook Survey from 2012, conducted by the Norwegian Work Research Institute, show that many Norwegian women work part time primarily for health reasons.

”So automatically linking women’s part-time work to family considerations can be misleading, since there are usually other factors involved,” says Norwegian working life researcher Cathrine Egeland.

Egeland is involved in NIKK’s project Part-Time Work in the Nordic Region and is right now systematising the most important reasons why women and men in the Nordic countries choose to work part time.

A large Danish research project on part-time work in the Danish regions reached the same conclusion in 2012. The project was started by the Danish regions in cooperation with a number of Danish trade unions and showed that personal conditions and high workloads are main reasons why for example hospital and eldercare workers choose to work part time.

The work environment is stressful, the report found – in particular for workers who are in direct contact with citizens, such as nurses, teachers and social workers. Most of those who participated in the study were pessimistic about the thought of working full time – even if it would benefit them financially.

Thus, the findings indicate that the work environment should be kept in mind when discussing women’s preference for part-time work. But exactly which problems do they encounter at work?

Harmful eldercare

When the Danish Working Environment Authority in 2009 decided to look closer at the work environment in the Danish eldercare sector, it made major headlines in Danish media.

More than one-third of the nursing homes and eldercare centres were reprimanded for significant weaknesses in the psychological work environment. The time pressure was too great, the workload too heavy and the demands too overwhelming, the study found.

Foto: Colourbox

Photo: Colourbox

A home care assistant working the evening shift could for example say that she had up to 52 home visits scheduled from 3 to 11 pm. During this time, she was expected to help some clients use the toilet, treat painful bedsores and keep dying individuals company. In addition to the driving, of course.

Eldercare is one of the sectors in Denmark and the rest of the Nordic region with a large proportion of female workers. And many of them work part time. It is also a sector with a relatively high rate of sick leave – and this may not be surprising.

Because in a job where you do not feel you are in control, there is a risk you will get physically ill. This was found in a large Finnish research project.

In the project, researchers studied the relationships between health, sick leave and the feeling of control over one’s work time among about 25 000 public employees in 10 Finnish communities.

‘Lack of control over one’s work time may lead to frustration with one’s work situation. Poor predictability can lead to stress and anxiety and may increase the risk for health problems such as cardiovascular disease, inflammatory reactions and mental problems. Both problems may lead to increased sick leave,’ says Ari Väänenen, geriatrics researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, which coordinated the study.

‘Voluntary’ part-time work?

The high-pressure work environment in the health and human care field is nothing new. But why do the predominantly female workers in these fields choose to work part time while workers in other equally demanding sectors do not?

‘Health and human care jobs in the municipal sector are often used as an example of this. But the work conditions in some male-dominated sectors can also be stressful and demanding – without a high rate of part-time workers,’ says Egeland.

One explanation, according to many researchers and practitioners, has to do with gender roles and how men and women share responsibilities in the private sphere.

For example, the Danish study on part-time work in different regions clearly indicated that the demanding work conditions that the female part-time workers experienced were closely linked to the sharing of responsibilities in the household.

‘When women work part time, they often do it because they already work full time at home. So it’s not because they’re lazy. On the contrary. One problem with this is that it helps maintain women’s lower salaries, and their pension accounts of course also suffer,’ said Grete Christensen, head of the Danish health worker confederation Sundhedskartellet, when the report was presented in 2012.

So, if you work full time in the private sphere, you will probably choose a part-time paid job.

A recurring theme in the debate on part-time work among women is how ‘voluntary’ their work really is.

It is not just a matter of how the work is distributed between the genders, it is also about how society is organised, says Anna-Karin Wall from at the Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union.

‘About 30 per cent of the labour force work evenings and weekends, but less than half of all Swedish municipalities offer childcare during these hours,’ she says.

An interview survey from the Swedish Trade Union Confederation shows that one parent in four cannot work full time due to the hours preschools are open – and that this was a bigger problem for mothers than fathers.

‘I think it’s difficult to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary part-time work. Is it voluntary when a woman with irregular work hours has to work part time due to lack of childcare? Is it voluntary when she feels forced to work part time because her parents’ eldercare is not working well?’ she asks.

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Maria Grönroos Elected to Board of Atgender http://www.nikk.no/en/news/maria-gronroos-elected-to-board-of-atgender/ Maria Grönroos. Foto: Ragnhild Fjellro

Maria Grönroos. Foto: Ragnhild Fjellro

How does it feel?
‘It feels great! I’ve been engaged in Nordic and European cooperation around gender research for a long time, and I see Atgender as the leading European organisation for anybody involved in gender research, knowledge-based activism, policy making and gender equality work.’

How would you describe the role of Atgender?
‘The main purpose of Atgender is to gather feminist actors and voices in Europe around issues related to research and education, but also policy making and gender equality work. There are a large number of actors out there, but they are usually pretty small in their respective national contexts. It is therefore important that we gather our forces and share our knowledge and experiences with each other. At last week’s conference in Barcelona, both researchers and bureaucrats pointed to important weaknesses in Europe. They mentioned xenophobic forces that are also anti-feminist, as well as EU policy that is turning back the clock in a feminist perspective. Examples include the abortion issue, discussions about positive action and making individuals solely responsible for their salaries, care burden and work situation in the name of freedom of choice.’

What are your responsibilities as a board member?
‘A number of tasks have already been assigned to the members. I will be in charge of economic issues, together with two tax experts, and I will also work with member communication and the journal subscriptions that are available to members.’

What do you think Atgender should focus more on?
‘Atgender should focus more on recruitment of members – also among bureaucrats and activists. That way we could achieve the critical mass needed to attract more funding to gender researcher and to reach out with education beyond academia. I also think it’s important that we together build an infrastructure of contacts, networks and communication that will enable more cooperation between countries.

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‘Nordic co-operation key to gender equality’ http://www.nikk.no/en/news/nordic-co-operation-key-to-gender-equality/ Eygló Harðardóttir. Pressbild

Eygló Harðardóttir. Press photo

‘No other part of the world can show the same progress in gender equality as the Nordic region. We place in the top 10 in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings. And Iceland has in fact topped the list ever since they started making it. We have a lot to be proud of and it’s important that we also participate actively outside the Nordic boundaries. We do this through our UN representatives and our contributions to various UN organisations, such as UN Women.’

The Nordic Council of Ministers decided already in 1974 that each Nordic government should appoint a person to