NIKK - RSS – news – NIKK Tue, 17 Sep 2019 17:04:13 +0000 en-US Warning: Use of undefined constant DESC - assumed 'DESC' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /storage/content/01/180101/ on line 29 #MeToo Moving forward: International conference on combatting sexual harassment Since the #MeToo movement gained traction in 2017 millions of people have used the hashtag #MeToo on social media across the world. Anonymously or not, they have revealed epidemic levels of harassment, violence and everyday sexism. They have called upon people in position of power to act and to help bring an end to gender inequality and systematic sexism. In some countries the impact of #MeToo has been minimal while in others the movement has led to a robust review of structural inequalities, within specific sectors or in society at large. The impact of #MeToo has been significantly different amongst the Nordic countries, which normally rank high on gender equality indexes.

The conference will explore the #MeToo movement in an international context. Why did the movement gain such momentum in 2017 and what was the different impact on sectors, societies and countries? What does #MeToo tell us about the intersections of gender, sex, race, class, religion, ethnicity, age, disability and sexualities? What impact will #MeToo have on gender equality in the Nordic countries and beyond?

Scholars, politicians and activists from all around the world will gather for the conference in Reykjavik. Speakers include high-level representation from politics as well as research and the civil society. The well-known professors and feminist writers Angela Davis and Cynthia Enloe are some of the many speakers and all of the Nordic ministers for gender equality will be gathered for a panel discussion.

#MeToo Moving forward is a part of the Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2019. The conference is free of charge and open to the public, but registration is necessary. Registration closes on 10 September 2019.

Register and see the full programme here.

Focus on men and gender equality in Tórshavn in June A barbershop event entitled Mobilizing Men and Boys for Gender Equality will be held on 11 June, and the West Nordic conference Equality at Home and at Work on 12 June. The conference will be opened by the Faroe Islands Prime Minister Aksel V. Johannesen and many of the Faroe Islands ministers are listed in the conference programme.

Gary Barker, psychologist and founder of the international organisation Promundo, will also be one of the keynote speakers. Promundo works to counter destructive masculinity norms by engaging men and boys in efforts for gender equality. The programme also features a number of researchers focusing on the West Nordic area, as well as policymakers and actors from the private sector, who will present lessons learned and examples from their work for gender equality in Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

West Nordic cooperation is important for gender equality efforts

The conference has taken its cue from the Nordic Prime Ministers’ initiative, the Nordic Gender Effect, which demonstrates the importance of well-functioning social infrastructure to achieving gender equality. The Faroe Islands are facing similar challenges in relation to gender equality as the rest of the Nordic region. However, Jeanette Ellefsen Blaasvaer, Senior Adviser to the Ministry for Social Affairs in the Faroe Islands and one of the organisers of the conference, believes that traditional gender roles are particularly marked in the Faroe Islands. Men earn two thirds of the Faroe Islands’ total salaries, women largely work part-time, and few men take parental leave.

“It’s important that everyone understands the value of a society where there is gender equality – on the individual plane as well as in the society as a whole. We want to engage men in these efforts and make it clear to them that gender equality has benefits for all. We need to change the way people think about gender roles and norms,” says Jeanette.

Iceland and the Faroe Islands have cooperated closely for a long time. These two societies are similar in many ways and, according to Jeanette, the exchange with Iceland is important to gender equality efforts in the Faroe Islands.

“Gender equality efforts have progressed further in Iceland and there are many lessons to be learned from there. For example, regarding how Iceland has worked on issues such as equal pay and shared parental insurance, there’s a lot we can learn and be inspired by.”

Equal pay for equal work and equal rights to care and work are some of the issues that will be discussed in Tórshavn in June, along with themes such as gender segregation in the labour market and the norms surrounding gender roles.

Nordic focus on the gender effect of parental leave at CSW63 The sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women, CSW63, will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, starting March 11. This year CSW examines how countries can incorporate gender equality into their social protection infrastructures – a precondition for ensuring women and men’s equal rights. NIKK will be there following the debates and The Nordic ministers are hosting several events.

Social infrastructure plays a crucial role

How a country’s social infrastructure is built up is crucial for gender equality. The Nordic countries can evidence the results of decades of investment in childcare, care for the elderly, and parental leave. It is, among other things, greater participation of women in the labor market, more men taking parental leave that anywhere else in the world, and a substantial boost to the growth in GDP.

“Generous shared parental leave and universal childcare are investments that can help to ensure a better future for all of us”, says Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland, the country which has topped the Global Gender Gap Index for ten consecutive years.

Economic equality requires equality at home

Although the Nordic region has advanced infrastructure for gender equality, even Nordic moms are affected by “the motherhood penalty” – women’s economic loss through becoming a parent. The right to paid parental leave is important, but especially if this is shared equally between parents. Women and men need to #SharetheCare. Closing the gender pay gap between parents requires an equal distribution of responsibility for children, unpaid housework, and family responsibility, as indicated by research. This will be the topic of the Nordic ministers for gender equality’s debate at the UN on 12 March. With particular emphasis on men and fathers, the ministers will debate which political instruments are required to achieve full gender equality. The debate will be livestreamed by UN Web TV.

On March 13 a Nordic panel of experts will also discuss solutions to the pension gap between men and women. The Nordic governments are also preparing to give a joint statement at this year’s CSW to mark their commitment to and active support of the gender equality goal in the UN Agenda 2030.

The world of work tomorrow the focus at Future of Work conference in Reykjavik During the conference, gender equality and the roles of social actors in the labour market will be discussed in relation to the future of work. The focus will be on how a changing world of work is impacting the Nordic countries and their labour market models, as well as the measures needed to be able to achieve gender equality and sustainability in the world of work. The issue of equal pay regardless of sex will also be a key theme.

In 2016, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the ILO began cooperating on gender equality in the world of work in the future as part of the ILO’s Women at Work centenary initiative. It is one of the seven initiatives for social justice that the ILO and all its member states are to work with and specifically address in connection with the ILO’s centenary this year.

As a response to both Women at Work and Future of Work, both of which are ILO centenary initiatives, an extensive research project on what working life in the Nordic Countries might be like around 2030 was launched by the Nordic countries’ ministers for employment. It involves a large number of Nordic researchers under the leadership of the Norwegian social science research foundation Fafo. During the conference in Reykjavik, the findings from the research project Future of Work: Opportunities and Challenges for the Nordic Models will be presented and serve as the basis for discussions on policy measures, the role of ILO and other international organisations in the world of work in the future, and on how the Nordic model can respond to a changing world of work.

Three previous conferences on gender equality in working life have been held in the Nordic countries as part of the ILO centenary initiative by Finland, Norway and Sweden, at the time when each country held the rotating presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. These previous conferences focused on issues such as employment relationships, international standards and parental leave.

Applications for funding from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund Would your gender equality work benefit from a Nordic dimension? Or could your Nordic cooperation include gender equality work? Then you can apply for funding from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

Shared knowledge effects change. The Fund finances cooperation projects involving at least three organisations from at least three Nordic countries, of which the Faroe Islands, Greenland or the Aaland Islands may constitute one; or at least two of the Nordic countries and at least one organisation from Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, or north-west Russia. Projects that aim to respond in various ways to the problems of gender inequality, contribute new knowledge and promote exchanges of experience, or which manifest and develop Nordic cooperation, can apply for grants from the Fund.

The Nordic Gender Equality Fund addresses a broad target group and is open to applications for funding from volunteer organisations, networks, public sector activities, other non-commercial actors, small businesses, and more. The Fund finances activities of various kinds including events, inquiries/investigations, network-building activities, and activity projects.

In NIKK’s guide you will find all details needed for applying for funding from the fund. Would you like to know more about projects that have previously received funding from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund? NIKK’s database contains information on the 50+ projects that have so far received funding. Previously funded projects cover a broad range of areas – everything from networks combating haters and sexual harassment on the Internet, to projects focusing on economic equality between men and women and the gender-segregated labour market.

Direction of gender equality efforts identified in new programme The Nordic region is at the forefront in gender equality in the world, but major challenges for gender equality remain. This is particularly evident in the MeToo movement, which has borne witness to sexual harassment, violence and abuse in various parts of the community.

“It is of course a source of pride that our region is a frontrunner in international comparisons. Nonetheless it is important to note that none of the Nordic countries is an equality heaven,” says Rósa Guðrún Erlingsdóttir, gender equality expert and Senior Adviser at the Ministry of Welfare in Iceland.

The new cooperation programme highlights four priority areas in particular for gender equality efforts: “future of work and economic growth”, “welfare, health and quality of life”, “power and influence” and “gender equality work with focus on men and masculinities”.

The area of “welfare, health and quality of life” emphasises that men and women should having equal access to good health, medical care and social care. There are clear health inequalities linked to gender in the Nordic region and on the whole, women feel that their health is worse than men’s. In addition, young women are over-represented in mental health statistics, while suicide is more common among men.

In the area “future of work and economic growth”, the programme stresses that men and women should have equal opportunities in the workplace and that gendered career and education choices should be countered. The gender perspective in preschools and schools is also a focus, and is seen as key in giving all children and young people the same development opportunities.

Iceland holds the presidency in 2019

The four-year programme identifies the overall direction of Nordic cooperation in the area of gender equality, but it is up to the countries holding the presidency to decide what activities to conduct. Iceland will hold the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2019 and is thus the first Nordic country to work on the basis of the new programme.

Rósa Guðrún Erlingsdóttir is pleased that the new cooperation programme highlights the importance of involving men in efforts to promote gender equality.

“I believe that we need to address men and boys as a part of the solution and demonstrate that gender equality means better quality of life for all. Negative masculinities can be brought to the surface by engaging men and boys in discussions on gender equality issues,” she says.

That gender equality concerns men too has been emphasised more and more in Nordic gender equality efforts. But gender equality efforts targeting men and boys have often been short-lived and project-based. By making “gender equality work with focus on men and masculinities” a priority area, the Nordic Council of Ministers aims to highlight the need for long-term action.

However, it is important that getting men involved in gender equality is done thoughtfully according to Rósa Guðrún Erlingsdóttir.

“Women have been leading the movement for gender equality for decades, and it is essential that men are involved in ways that support women’s existing efforts and leadership,” she says.

During 2019, based on the Cooperation programme, the Icelandic Presidency will hold a Nordic Me Too conference in Reykjavik. During the year, Iceland will also have a particular focus on gender equality in the western Nordic countries and the Arctic, with a conference on men and gender equality in Torshavn for example. The conference will be held in collaboration with Almannamálaráðið, the Ministry of Social Affairs in the Faroe Islands.



Strong focus on Me Too movement during Sweden’s Presidency year After the Me Too call to action, the Swedish Presidency decided that gender equality issues and sexual harassment in particular would have extra focus in 2018.  This resulted in the Nordic countries’ gender equality ministers, and even the ministers for culture and justice for example, having put issues related to the Me Too movement on their agendas.

“I think it’s great that we have been able to embrace the Me Too movement in our Nordic cooperation and profile these issues as strongly as we have done,” says Karin Bengtson, who has coordinated these efforts in gender equality during the Swedish Presidency.

She explains that efforts in the Nordic countries to counteract and prevent sexual harassment have led to a number of concrete initiatives. For example, a Me Too manual for the Nordic countries’ justice systems is due to be published and the Nordic ministers for culture have initiated training aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the cultural sector. In November, NIKK also held a Me Too seminar in Stockholm on behalf of the Swedish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers with participants from the Nordic and the Baltic countries. These countries have also raised these issues at the national level, and tightened the legislation in this area. For example, Sweden and Iceland have introduced consent laws and Denmark has tightened its legislation aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the digital world.

Masculinity questions a priority area

Aside from the Me Too movement, over the past year the Nordic countries’ efforts in relation to gender equality have had special focuses on gender mainstreaming, men’s violence against women, and men’s participation in gender equality efforts. During the spring, Sweden hosted the International Conference on Men and Equal Opportunities (ICMEO), and in connection with this conference the Nordic Council of Ministers held several meetings and seminars on Nordic themes. One of these focused on the roles of men and boys in combating prostitution and the sex trade. Another was about strategies for the prevention of gender-based violence.

The new focus this year for gender mainstreaming of the organisation of the Nordic Council of Ministers has been on the Presidency itself. Everyone who works with Nordic cooperation issues at the Government Offices of Sweden have been offered gender equality training.

“We wanted to make absolutely sure that everyone participating in the Swedish Presidency was knowledgeable about and able to work with these issues,” says Karin Bengtson.

Wants to see more focus on working life

Sweden’s Minister for Gender Equality Lena Hallengren is pleased that gender equality issues have received so much attention in Nordic cooperation over the course of the past year.

“The focus we have had on gender equality in general in the Nordic Council of Ministers as a whole is what I am most proud of,” she says.

At the end of the year, Sweden will hand over the Presidency to Iceland, and Lena Hallengren has highlighted gender equality in working life as a particularly important issue to continue working with.

“The Me Too movement pinpointed problems that exist generally in the labour market and we have much more work to do. Iceland is a forerunner in the area, in particular when it comes to equal pay. I think they can take the matter further and develop efforts in the Nordic countries to make the workplace safer and a place where more people will dare to speak out,” she says.

Like other important questions for the future, she highlights the challenges arising from the Nordic countries having an ageing population and from the conditions in female-dominated occupations in the public sector.

“Without decent conditions in these occupations, we will find it difficult to offer the standard of welfare that we are used to in the Nordic region. We must ensure that these occupational groups can live on their salaries and pensions,” she says.

New Nordic programme for gender equality

It’s not just the Presidency that will change at the turn of the year. The Nordic cooperation’s gender equality programme will also be replaced by a new programme for the period 2019-2022, which will set the terms of reference for the Nordic cooperation on gender equality during that time.

The new programme will focus on health and men and gender equality as two new sub-goals.

“We have worked with both of these areas previously but our aim is to put even more focus on them by making them sub-goals. In the case of health, we can see for example that men are over-represented in the suicide statistics and that women suffer more frequently from mental health problems than men. So these are important areas for gender equality,” says Karin Bengtson.

The new Nordic cooperation programme stresses that gender equality efforts must assume that men and women are not homogeneous groups. The programme also makes it clear that perspectives other than gender are important in promoting gender equality and these include background, functional capacity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

“It’s important to jointly stand up for gender equality efforts” 

Lena Hallengren believes that the Nordic countries have a lot to gain from cooperating and learning from each other in the area of gender equality.

“Our countries are very similar even though we don’t always do things the same way. We are also quite small, so we get a lot out of exchanging experience and building networks,” she says.

She also thinks that in the future, it will be especially important for the Nordic countries to jointly stand up for gender equality as a positive global force.

“Internationally, in Europe and in the rest of the world, we are seeing gender equality issues being perceived as provocative. So I think that it will become even more important that we stick together and jointly stand up for gender equality efforts,” she says.

Initiatives and action in the wake of the Me Too movement In autumn 2017, the Me Too movement went viral across the world. Women from many different industries shared their experiences of sexual harassment and united call for action. Women’s testimonies were given more space in the media and generated debate. In the Nordic and Baltic countries, the Me Too movement became part of the national political agenda, but what happened afterwards?

The new survey “One year after Me Too – Initiatives and action in the Nordic and Baltic countries” was developed on the initiative of the Swedish presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2018. The material was compiled by NIKK and is based on data from these countries and supplemental interviews with key individuals.

Four areas in particular have emerged from the survey in which these countries have acted based on Me Too: New and updated legislation, mission and organisation, requirements for employers, and surveys and spreading knowledge.
In the Nordic countries, sexual harassment is prohibited in the workplace and in the community at large. Legislation in each of these countries regulates this in working life. There is also criminal law legislation which makes it clear that sexual harassment is a crime that must be reported to the police. But the legislation are not always entirely clear and need to be supplemented and developed further. In the wake of Me Too, many countries in the Nordic and Baltic regions, have strengthened their legislation concerning abuse, harassment and sexual violence against women.

Another key issue has been ensuring compliance with the legislation. In the Nordic countries, employers have a responsibility to create a work environment that is free from sexual harassment. In connection with Me Too, various steps have been taken to strengthen and expand the remit of the supervisory authorities, with the aim of empowering them to ensure that employers know about the legislation and shoulder their responsibilities under it. In several countries, the chain of justice has also been discussed and steps have been taken to strengthen the judicial follow-up of sexual harassment.

But to put a stop to sexual harassment, you need more than just political will: decisions must be well anchored, and abuses must be prevented and combated at every turn – at work, at school and in the public domain. This requires broad cooperation and dialogue between social institutions and other parties. In the wake of Me Too, broad-scale information campaigns have been initiated targeting employers as well as other civil society actors. Several countries have also initiated surveys and investigations aimed at gathering facts and knowledge on which to base ongoing efforts to put a stop to sexual harassment.

NIKK’s survey of initiatives and action was presented at a seminar in Stockholm in November. It was attended by government representatives from the Nordic and Baltic countries, as well as stakeholders from civil society, the Nordic Association, and the international arena. One of the speakers was Åsa Regnér. When the Me Too campaign was gathering momentum, she was serving as the Minister for Gender Equality in Sweden. Today, she is the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.
“When the Me Too movement began, in my role as the Minister for Gender Equality I felt immediately  that I wanted to act. But what struck me was that in Sweden we already had the regulatory framework in place. It was clear what the employer and the trade unions were to do, but almost nobody was doing anything! It was a shock.”
In her view, a positive aspect of the campaign in Sweden was that it really was a wake-up call which led to additional political action. On the global stage, Åsa Regnér has seen how Me Too is continuing as an ongoing, live debate. But she also expresses concern over an ongoing backlash against gender equality and questions related to sexual and reproductive health.

NIKK’s survey highlights various initiatives that have been taken in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Estonia amended in its criminal law legislation in 2017 to introduce sexual harassment as a separate category of offence. One of the participants at the conference was Kadi Viik, editor of the feminist platform and Internet magazine Feministeerium, which published the Me too manifesto in Estonia. In her opinion, the campaign has had a huge impact in Estonia and been discussed at many levels.

According to Kadi Viik, the political response in the wake of Me Too in Estonia has been mixed. She believes that one of the reasons for this is the influence of conservative forces on current politics.
“The government is so afraid of extremists gaining more power that they are being accommodating,” she says.

Read NIKK’s survey “One year after Me Too – Initiatives and action in the Nordic and Baltic countries” here.

“Managers must take responsibility when sexual harassment occurs” In recent years, several studies have shown that employees in the hotel and restaurant industry experience more sexual harassment than in most other industries. The #MeToo movement helped to further define what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace and how employees perceive it. But what about those who are responsible for ensuring employees’ safety? Little is known about how management deals with sexual harassment, but a new report, “Sexual harassment in the Scandinavian hotel industry: Experiences from three hotels in Denmark, Norway and Sweden”, provides some answers.

“We need more knowledge from the employer’s perspective about sexual harassment. How does the management view it and how do they prevent it? This is why we took the initiative on this report,” says Rønnaug M. Retterås, Senior Adviser at the Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombudsman (LDO) and project manager for the initiative. LDO has also collaborated with its Nordic sister institutions: the Equality Ombudsman in Sweden and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

“Must create more transparency”

In the report, the managers of three large hotel chains from each of the three Nordic countries were interviewed about their understanding and handling of sexual harassment.

“The lack of transparency around the topic makes it difficult for management in the industry to bring such cases to light, even though the #MeToo movement may have led to greater openness,” says Mona Bråten, a researcher at the Fafo Research Foundation who is responsible for the report along with her colleague Beate Sletvold Øistad. The research has been funded by the Nordic Gender Equality Fund, which is administered by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) under the Nordic Council of Ministers.

“One of the most important things we can do to prevent sexual harassment is to create a positive psychosocial working environment where difficult topics can be discussed,” says Bråten. This means, for example, including questions about sexual harassment in employee surveys. This is seldom done today.

But the large hotel chains often have their own sexual harassment policies.

“However, the report shows that there are complex aspects of the working environment that are not easy to regulate in detail. The solution is to handle the cases in the context in which they occur,” Bråten explains.

Worse with colleagues than guests

If a guest harasses an employee, the guest can be asked to leave the hotel. But it is more complicated to find a solution when an employee harasses a colleague. According to the researchers, the lack of a clear definition of sexual harassment, as well situations that fall into a grey zone, mean that managers find it difficult to deal with such cases.

It seems as if employers are not fully aware of the alternatives for dealing with sexual harassment when it occurs, Retterås of LDO believes.

“Firing people or getting them to resign is not the only option. It’s understandable that a manager is reluctant to get involved in the case, but there are a variety of measures that can be used. The report shows that these must be clarified better,” she says, and mentions that managers can call the parties into a meeting or issue a reprimand. In this case, it is critical that the managers have done their homework.

“The management and the employees must try to agree on some boundaries for what is acceptable behaviour. Then the managers have a guidepost for holding such a meeting and it can be easier to get people to change direction. You could say, for example: ‘We agreed that is was not appropriate to send naked photos to each other, but now that you’ve done it, what do you think about it?” Retterås recommends.

Aims to be the best

The report was recently presented at a seminar on preventing and handling sexual harassment in the hotel and restaurant industry in Oslo, which was attended by public authorities, employer organizations and labour unions from Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

“Sexual harassment, together with gender equality, is the most difficult topic for employers in the tourism industry,” said Kristin Krohn Devold, Managing Director of the Norwegian Hospitality Association.

“This is why it’s even more important that the management speaks loudly and clearly. The objective is that tourism will be an attractive industry for women. We aim to be the best at dealing with sexual harassment,” said Krohn Devold.

New law in Denmark

Several of the participants discussed the cooperation between employer and employee organizations to fight sexual harassment. Lina Tidell of the Swedish employers’ organization Visita and Annica Hedbrant of the labour organization Unionen talked about the online course “Everyday fairness”, which provides training on the organizational and social working environment for employees and management.

“The training works well precisely because it addresses specific types of behaviour, and doesn’t talk only in vague terms about sexual harassment. Everyone must take responsibility and it must be worked on all the time. The management cannot just have a policy, but must actively support and model the culture they want to implement,” said Annica Hedbrant of the labour organization Unionen.

Peter Breum, a labour rights expert from Denmark, agreed that managers must take responsibility for the company culture. But it is often said that the social atmosphere in the industry is tough and that employees must therefore tolerate more than in other industries. A new Danish law contradicts this notion.

“If the atmosphere in the industry is rough, should you tolerate it? No. The employer must set the parameters for how it is acceptable to act,” said Breum.

What happens after #MeToo?

The report on sexual harassment in the hotel and tourism industry should actually have resulted in a handbook for the industry. But due to the #MeToo movement, the work to prepare the handbook was accelerated and was completed in August. The handbook, called “Draw the line”, presents six measures that can be used to prevent and deal with sexual harassment. In Sweden, a similar handbook is in the final phase of completion.

Towards the end of the seminar, several participants pointed out how the efforts to prevent sexual harassment have been affected by the #MeToo movement.

“Suddenly the spotlight has shifted from the victim to the perpetrator, and requires that they actually do something about it. The work to prevent sexual harassment has taken a huge leap forward,” said Agneta Broberg, the Swedish Equality Ombudsman.

“But the work against sexual harassment must also continue after the lights from #MeToo fade, because the problem is not so easy to solve,” said Arve Semb Christophersen, Regional Director at the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority.

Number of men in Norwegian childcare has risen fivefold Norway’s success can be attributed to persistent political efforts nationally, regionally and locally. The first national action plan to increase the number of men working in childcare was presented in 1997, and in 1998 it became legal for employers to hire a man instead of a woman in cases of equal, or almost equal, qualifications.

From 2000 to 2010, Norwegian childcare services were dramatically expanded, creating a surge in the demand for childcare workers. County administrations developed action plans specifying how more male workers could be recruited, and regional conferences on gender equality and men in childcare were arranged. Special contests were advertised, where childcare operations involving at least 20 per cent male employees were recognised. Special model childcare centres were also appointed and provided resources to advise other centres on how to recruit and retain more men.

The Norwegian campaign has also involved efforts to make more boys interested in a career as a preschool teacher. In many counties, municipalities have the opportunity to invite boys in lower secondary school to work in childcare. The boys are paid for their work. The idea is for the boys to gain a positive experience of childcare and that this ultimately will reduce the prevalence of gendered career choices.

One goal of Norway’s efforts to increase the number of men in childcare is to make the labour market less gender-segregated. A gender balance is considered important for the children, for the work environment and for gender equality. But more than anything, the efforts are meant to change the traditional view of men’s gender roles. More men in childcare means more role models showing that men, too, can provide nurturing care.

Banking on Involved Fathers in the Finance Sector All Danish trade unions have negotiated generous terms of parental leave in their collective agreements and continuous efforts are being made to further improve the conditions. The Financial Sector Union is the most progressive trade union in the country, and has negotiated the right to 16 weeks of paid parental leave for fathers.

The Financial Sector Union has about 40,000 members, all of whom work in banking and finance. Approximately 50 per cent of the members are men.

‘On average, our male members take 9.6 weeks of parental leave, which is much better than the average Danish man. Here at the Financial Sector Union, we have made continuous improvements in the area. For example, parents can take the leave either as one long, uninterrupted period or as several shorter periods,’ says Linda Fauerholm, senior adviser at the Financial Services Union.

The Nordic gender effect goes international Five countries and 50 years of reforms have slowly but surely strengthened women’s rights and opportunities in the labour market – all this is now summarised in 50 pages in a ‘knowledge hub’ issued by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Five briefs, produced by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK), describe the most important components in ‘The Nordic Gender Effect’, which has led to almost three-quarters of women now being in paid work.

Family-friendly policies boost growth

The first four parts are ‘Shared and paid parental leave’, ‘Subsidised childcare for all’, ‘Flexible work arrangements’ and ‘Leadership and equal opportunities’. The fifth part places gender equality policy in a wider historical context – the growth of the welfare state and the Nordic labour market model.

One important point made in the ‘knowledge hub’ is that the Nordic countries have not always proceeded at the same rate or made the same political choices. However, for the Nordic region as a whole, the steady increase in the number of women in the labour market has played a major role in helping to boost economic growth in the past 50 years.

Easily available to policy-makers

The material has been well-received by international organisations, such as the ILO, International Labour Organization, the ITUC, International Trade Union Confederation and the UN’s gender equality organisation, UN Women.

 Investing in gender equality not only benefits individual women and girls, it boosts entire communities by fostering employment, family wellbeing, and broader economic growth. The Nordic hub presents a compelling case for this through a collection of legal, institutional and innovative instruments that can be applied at country level and are easily available to all policy-makers. I hope that, with time, such strategies to support gender equality will be the Nordic countries’ greatest export, says Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women.

A practical tool to bring about change

Dagfinn Høybråten, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, has observed strong demand for Nordic experiences in general, and Nordic gender equality policies in particular.

 We have chosen to meet this demand by summarising the five Nordic countries’ policies on gender equality over five decades, policies that have proved to be very successful. I hope the material will be used as a practical tool to bring about change, all over the world, he says.

The knowledge hub has been produced as part of the Nordic Prime Ministers’ Initiative, ‘Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges’, which was launched in 2017. The initiative is the Nordic region’s joint contribution toward the global Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2030.


Several Project Proposals Submitted in the Wake of MeToo Last spring, the Nordic Gender Equality Fund accepted requests for funding of Nordic gender equality projects for a sixth straight year. Nine requests were granted.

A project titled Exporting Nordic Models of Fatherhood, Gender Egalitarianism and Parental Leave will explore how the Nordic model of parental insurance and so-called ‘daddy months’ has worked out in other countries that have experimented with it, such as Japan, Slovenia and Germany.

‘We know a great deal about how the parental insurance has been debated, changed and not least used in the Nordic countries, and we know that there is a widespread interest in Nordic family policy internationally. Now we want to study how it’s been received and how the concepts of male and female parenting have been discussed’, says Ann-Zofie Duvander, project leader and professor at the Stockholm University.

Another project will look into how the gender equality can be strengthened in isolated regions with limited job opportunities. Select areas of the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Denmark will be studied. A third project aims to increase the gender equality among reindeer-herding Sami:

‘Previous research has identified structures that cause gender disparity in traditional Sami reindeer-herding communities. It’s important to collect existing knowledge and create a holistic understanding of structural gender inequality and promote gender equality in the reindeer-herding communities. How do structures causing gender inequality interfere with or prevent women’s access to reindeer herding as a source of income, and how does this affect Sami women’s ability to enjoy their human rights?’, says Kamrul Hossain, project leader and professor at the University of Lapland in Finland.

The MeToo movement seems to have inspired many applications for funding.

‘The strong impact of the MeToo movement in the Nordic countries clearly seems to have affected the submission of funding requests this year. Many proposed projects have focused on sexual harassment. The granted projects include one dealing with what Nordic municipalities are doing to fight sexual harassment in the healthcare sector. This is an important topic, as sexual harassment is a big problem in this specific occupational domain,’ says Elin Engström, head of operations of Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK), which is the unit administering the Nordic Gender Equality Fund on behalf of Nordic Council of Ministers.

The Nordic Gender Equality Fund was launched by the Nordic gender equality ministers to stimulate research, initiatives and collaborations in the field of gender equality.

‘It’s great to see the tremendous diversity among the organisations that apply for funding. This year’s applicants include several universities, but also national emergency services and organisations specialising in family planning,’ says Engström.

Major challenges await Greenland’s new minister for gender equality Greenland’s left-wing government survived the early election in late April. The two largest political parties, social-democratic Siumut and leftist IA (Inuit Atagatigiit), performed weaker than in the previous election but still gained 52.7 per cent of the votes, according to the Utrikesmagasinet online journal. The name of the new gender equality minister is Doris J Jensen (Siumut). She is in charge of the ministry for research and health, to which the gender equality issues have been transferred.

Inge Olsvig Brandt is head of secretariat at Greenland’s gender equality council, which provides consultation and disseminates information in the field of gender equality. She cannot say exactly how the ministerial transfer and the change of the gender equality minister will affect the country’s gender equality policy.

‘At first after the election, we didn’t know what ministry was in charge of gender equality issues. The staff at the gender equality council still have not met with the new minister and therefore don’t know what issues she will focus on,’ she says.

Autonomy and fishing dominated the agenda

The recent Greenlandic early election was a result of a conflict about fishing quotas – an issue that also dominated the previous election campaign. The conflict concerned whether fishing quotas should continue to be concentrated to big trawlers or be distributed with greater consideration of the smaller local vessels in the small coastal communities. A bigger issue that was simmering in the background was the expectation of full autonomy from Denmark. The debate about gender equality was not as intense.

‘However, the parties have talked a bit about equal treatment. In the last 10 years, the people in Greenland have talked about the remains of the colonial past, about the Danish influence on our culture, language and politics. When the politicians in Greenland talk about these things, it is my impression that equal treatment and gender equality issues are not discussed and treated separately,’ says Olsvig Brandt.

Gender roles need to be challenged to achieve change

Paternal leave was one concrete gender equality issue that was addressed during the election campaign. At present, women in Greenland are entitled to 17 weeks of parental leave whereas men get 3 weeks. Couples cannot share the weeks, as in other Nordic countries.

‘All political parties agree that this needs to change. They say that a new law is under way, which is badly needed,’ says Olsvig Brandt.

The widespread gender-related violence in Greenland is another challenge for the politicians. During the election campaign, there was talk about establishing a crisis centre for men, but according to Olsvig Brandt, that was mostly a strategic move to gain votes.

‘That’s how they talk before an election, but I don’t think men’s violence gets nearly the attention it should in politics. There should be much bigger investments in preventive work. The violence against women is a national catastrophe that’s not being taken seriously enough.’

According to Inge Olsvig Brandt, there needs to be more discussion about gender roles, and not least the role of men, in Greenland. Today, Greenland is characterised by a gender-segregated labour market where men make more money than women, at the same time as women take more responsibility for the care of children and other family members. Statistics show that a majority of students in higher education are women. They also show that suicide, violence, crime and homelessness are more common among men. When former gender equality minister Martha Lund Olsen was in office, an initiative to form men’s groups was taken and had positive effects.

‘A male representative from the gender equality council has visited smaller communities along the entire coast and started men’s groups where these types of issues are discussed,’ says Olsvig Brandt.

She continues to say that Greenland’s sheer size and infrastructure pose important challenges for the gender equality work. The country is twice the size of Sweden, Norway and Finland combined, but only about 56 000 people live there, almost exclusively along the coast.

‘What we do in Nuuk is one thing, but what does it look like in the more rural areas? We see it as very important to change the way people think when it comes to gender roles and gender equality.’

Call for new legislation

Greenland does not have an equal treatment or anti-discrimination law, and citizens have nowhere to turn if they want to report discrimination for example based on ethnicity. However, there is a children’s ombudsman and a disability ombudsman, both of whom have some authority in their respective fields. There is also an advisory body for human rights, but neither this body nor the gender equality council can register complaints or pursue reported cases.

‘We really need an equal treatment law and legislation against discrimination. In 2018, we and the other organisations will push hard for this change and begin actively discussing it with policymakers,’ says Olsvig Brandt.

She believes there is a need for broad dissemination of information about equal treatment, everybody’s equal value and gender equality in Greenlandic society.

‘We need to incorporate the concepts in the Greenlandic language and explain clearly what the words mean. That the point is that all people have equal value whether they are from Greenland or Denmark, whether they speak Greenlandic or Danish and whether they are women or men,’ she says.

According to Olsvig Brandt, the relationship between Greenlanders and Danes is a matter of justice and fairness that people feel stronger about than the gender equality issue. When it comes to the latter, people’s level of knowledge is generally much lower.

‘The gender equality work started only 17 years ago in Greenland, which means that we are about 20–30 years behind the Nordic countries. The point of our work is largely to spread awareness – to make people truly understand the meaning of gender equality.’



Unequal distribution of part-time work and family responsibilities in the Nordic countries The Nordic countries have higher female employment rates than the EU average, yet part-time work is much more common among women than men, which affects women’s economic independence. The gender difference in number of hours worked per week is an expression of the different conditions women and men face in the labour market and society at large. The unequal distribution of part-time employment is therefore a key aspect in the work to achieve gender equality in the labour market.

About 30 per cent of the women in Norway, Iceland and Sweden work part time. In Denmark, the figure is 35,3 per cent, and in Finland only 20,5 per cent of the women work part time. Finland’s low rate is partly due to part-time jobs being more marginalised and more concentrated to low-skill occupations in that country. Yet there are also some historical explanations. Women’s participation in the labour market rose earlier in Finland, which has influenced the employment rate.

Women in the Faroe Islands and Åland have higher part-time employment rates than women elsewhere in the Nordic region – 49 % and 45.9 %, respectively. These are high rates even when compared with countries in the rest of Europe. In fact, only Switzerland and the Netherlands have higher rates. In Greenland, there is no significant difference in part-time employment rates between women and men. The Greenlandic part-time employment rates vary more between urban and rural areas than between women and men, as those who live in the countryside are more likely to work part time than people in urban areas.

Part-time employment is significantly less common among men in the Nordic countries, although the rate is rising. In all Nordic countries, women with low levels of education are more likely to work part time than women with more education.

Domestic work and care reasons for part-time work

Part-time employment is more common among women for several reasons, including greater family responsibilities, health issues and the organisation of workplaces. Women’s part-time employment is strongly linked to the fact that women tend to carry a heavier load than men when it comes to family and care responsibilities. There are norms and values prescribing that women should experience a conflict between being employed and taking care of their homes and families, which makes them apt to engage less in paid work. Another reason is that a part-time culture has emerged in female-dominated sectors such as child and elderly care in the Nordic countries. This culture leads to an expectation, and acceptance, of part-time employment among women. Foreign-born women and women with low levels of education are particularly likely to work part time involuntarily.

Health problems and disabilities are other reasons women work part time instead of full time. Health problems can in some cases arise from attempts to combine full-time employment with family life, or they can be caused by the way work is often organised in the female-dominated health and care sectors. Research shows that women’s experiences of insufficiency in both the labour market and the family domain are important causes of part-time employment and reduced health.

Finances and pension

Part-time employment affects women’s financial situations both immediately and in the long term. One immediate consequence is less money to spend, and in the longer term the women may end up with flatter salary trajectories and lower pensions.

An extended period of part-time employment may affect a person’s future pension, but the effect differs between the Nordic countries. A comparison shows that the difference in future pension between part-time and full-time work is small in Denmark and Norway. In these countries, having worked full time for most of one’s career has a greater effect on the pension than having worked part-time for a period. In addition, the pension systems in Denmark and Norway compensate people for time they have spent at home raising children. In Denmark, parts of the pension system also compensate people for lower incomes. In Finland, Iceland and Sweden, a woman’s pension is 4–6 per cent lower if she has worked part time for 10 years. In these countries, there is a stronger correlation between pensions and the life-time number of hours worked in life.

To increase the opportunities for women to work full time, there is a need for structural solutions, such as an expansion of child and elderly care services. Experts also say that women’s part-time employment is closely linked to men’s high rates of full-time employment. Focusing only on women’s part-time work will not help solve the underlying problem. Instead, there should be a focus on the distribution of part-time employment and family responsibilities, as well as a discussion for example about a general reduction of work hours for both men and women.




Nordic initiatives made impact at conference on men and gender equality Issues related to men and gender equality are assigned key importance in Nordic gender equality policy, with the main point being that men need to take greater responsibility and be included more in the gender equality work. Gender attitudes that affect and restrict women have an impact on men, too. Restrictive masculinity norms influence the roles of men and the conditions they face. A large number of initiatives have been launched in the area, aimed for example to end men’s involvement in violence both as perpetrators and victims, find ways for men to balance work and family life and challenge destructive masculinity norms.

ICMEO stands for International Conference on Men and Equal Opportunities, and the diverse conference programme included everything from keynotes on Arab masculinities to minister panels and workshops on norm-critical work in the school environment. Hosted by the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, the Swedish Gender Equality Agency and the Nordic Council of Ministers, the event was part of the Swedish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers and attracted a wide range of actors in the gender equality field, including researchers, policy makers and representatives from government agencies and the civil society. 

Focus on Violence Prevention in the Nordic Countries

One workshop, organised by Lina Lundborg from the Swedish Gender Equality Agency, focused on what the Nordic countries are doing to prevent violence among young men, including honour-related violence. According to Lundborg, the event was a continuation of the violence prevention work carried out within the framework of the Nordic co-operation. During the Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2016, a report on the violence prevention methods used was written. Last year, the Norwegian Presidency added to the efforts by carrying out a study of how the Nordic countries are implementing the so-called Istanbul Convention.

‘We wanted to continue building on the previous work. The reason for the focus on violence prevention among young people in particular is that it is important to prevent violence at the earliest possible stage, to change norms when people are still young. Research shows that a norm-critical approach is what yields the best results,’ says Lundborg.

Mentor Programme Reducing Violence in Stockholm Suburb

The workshop presented several methods and experiences from the Nordic countries, including a violence prevention programme titled Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) and carried out in Botkyrka municipality south of Stockholm. The Swedish police have identified Botkyrka as a high-priority area, and to reduce the violence, the local schools, the municipal social services and the police have started to deal with the problems together instead of separately. The municipality has a systematic approach in place, reaching all the way from individual to municipal level, and the interventions targeting children and young people are central components of it.

‘The work begins already at preschool level, with preschool staff receiving training on violence in close relationships. There is a focus on the adult world around the kids and on being sensitive to indications that children are being violated,’ says Pernilla Junior Vera, municipal head of security.

The violence prevention work continues throughout primary school and lower-secondary school, where the MVP mentor programme is introduced. The programme consists of 11 lectures where the pupils reflect on ways to act against violence in everyday life and talk about various aspects of violence, such as bullying, racism and honour-related oppression. The 9th graders serve as mentors to 6th graders.

Mashury Mirza and Mmesoma Ezekiel are in 9th grade at Karsby International School in Botkyrka and participate in the MVP programme. They say that the fighting and other problems in the school hallways have decreased since the mentor programme started.

‘There is much less psychological violence and harassment at school. We don’t laugh and say mean things to each other as much as we used to,’ says Ezekiel.

As mentors, their task is to support the 6th graders.

‘It works because we talk the same language as the 6th graders. We can reach them better. And our work has a snowball effect, as it affects not only the school environment but also everyone the pupils interact with at home and in society,’ says Mirza.

Broad-based Approach to Stop Intimate Partner Violence

The workshop also included a presentation of a project titled Stopp Kjærestevolden (stop intimate partner violence) by Hedda Hakvåg from the Norwegian organisation Reform. Stopp Kjærestevolden is an education programme for young people. So far, more than 3500 adolescents have participated in the programme, which primarily aims to prevent intimate partner violence through information and discussions about violence, values and sexual boundaries.

‘We try to keep the gender roles open and don’t talk about men as perpetrators and women as victims. We target young people, people who are in the process of negotiating masculinity and femininity and who don’t want to reproduce gender norms,’ says Hakvåg.

She adds that a perspective where men are always made out to be perpetrators brings about a sense of passivity and a defensive attitude. It may also remove the attention from male victims. The emphasis in that discourse is also often placed on heterosexual relationships, which may make queer relationships invisible.

‘We talk more about what than who. The goal is to open up for a broader discussion in the area. At the same time, though, it is necessary to talk about gender and the fact that the violence tends to be gendered, and we do this at a later stage,’ she says.

Hakvåg also says that she sees a lot of good violence prevention work in the Nordic countries, not least by grassroot organisations.

‘The performance at this workshop is a good sign of this. But the problem is that the work is not long-term oriented. My hope is that this will become a hot political topic, because today it is not.’

The Importance of Safe Spaces for Men

The discussion around how masculinity norms and the prevalent male gender role can be changed was an overarching theme of the ICMEO conference. A debate involving representatives from all Nordic countries focused on the MeToo campaign and what men have to do with it. The participants included Harry Lunabba, senior lecturer who has done research on the topic of boys in school at University of Helsinki. According to Lunabba, there is a need for safe, gender-sensitive spaces where men can be vulnerable in a way that is not possible today.

‘MeToo is a great platform where we have been able to listen to women’s stories. For men, however, talking about personal shortcomings on social media is a risky thing to do. Instead, there is a need for safe institutions where men are allowed to look weak and foolish and where we are not held accountable for everything some men do,’ says Lunabba.

He sees a need for an intersectional perspective in order to understand the complexity of issues concerning boys and men. In his PhD thesis, Lunabba wrote about boys in school and what happens in the face-to-face interaction between adults and the boys. In the public debate, girls are often portrayed as the well-adjusted winners in the school environment, while boys are thought of as noisy, disruptive and underperforming. According to Lunabba, this is a grossly simplified view.

‘Most boys perform at the level of girls in school. It’s just a small share of all boys who don’t do well. When you listen to the debate, it is easy to start believing that boys are loud and annoying by nature. They as a group are viewed as a problem in the classroom,’ says Lunabba.

Instead, he says, there is a need for sensitive tentacles in order to understand why some boys cause problems in the classroom. He calls for a greater understanding of masculine vulnerability.

‘Many people get really mad at boys and men, when instead it would be wiser to treat them with love and empathy. Boys who cause problems at school don’t do better by being moved somewhere else – they need individual attention.’

New OECD report: Nordic gender equality boosts GDP growth Almost three out of four women in the Nordic region work. This does not only make the Nordics the most gender-equal region in the world, but also an economic powerhouse.

Since the 1960s, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have actively pursued policies to ensure that both women and men can participate fully in the labour market.

Investing in working parents pays off

Extensive access to childcare, paid parental leave for mums and dads and flexible workplaces, have helped reduce gender gaps in employment so that they are now the smallest in the OECD – at about 4 percentage points compared to the OECD average of 12 percentage points.

In a new report, commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the OECD looks at the effects of these work-life policies on Nordic economic growth, as well as potential gains from closing remaining gender gaps in the future.

Comparing with Canada and the US

In the report, the economic gains of women’s employment growth in the Nordic countries are put side by side with those in other OECD countries, like Canada, Germany, Japan, and the US.

 Most OECD countries have made little progress in getting closer to gender equality goals in recent years, but we do have some champions leading the way. The Nordics have a long-standing commitment to gender equality, and this has significantly benefitted their economies, says Ángel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD.

The Nordics still have to complete the last mile

However, there are still issues to iron out – and the potential for further economic gains.

The OECD points out that the Nordic region still has some way to go when it comes to increasing the share of women in management positions. The region is still grappling with occupational segregation in the labour market, the gender pay gap, as well as gender inequalities in working hours.

Large potential future gains

According to the report, encouraging women to increase their paid working hours so that gender gaps in both participation and working hours disappear completely by 2040, would boost the economy by an additional 15-30 per cent GDP per capita growth in the Nordic countries.

Nordic potential gains are large indeed, but small compared with some other OECD-countries:

Foto: Nordiska ministerrådet

“The conference is key to help us find ways to incorporate men in the gender equality work”

Hi there, Tryggvi Hallgrímsson from the Centre for Gender Equality in Iceland! You will attend the ICMEO conference on men and gender equality in Stockholm. Can you tell us more about it?

‘Yes, I’m going to Stockholm together with three other persons from Iceland: one young politician, one teacher and one representative from an education and counselling centre for survivors of sexual violence. The aim of the conference is to help us find ways to incorporate men in the gender equality work. The Nordic co-operation and experience in the area make us stronger.’

You will participate in a seminar titled “#metoo – What do men have to do with it? Experiences, responses and perspectives from Nordic Civil Society”. So, what do men have to do with #metoo?

‘The #metoo movement and all the testimonies have given men a chance to step aside and listen. It has been an alarm clock and an opportunity for men to reflect on their own position and gender role. Many men are aware that society is full of sexual harassment and sexual violence, but not in the same way as women who carry these experiences with them. It’s important that men don’t diminish their stories. In Iceland, I think men have responded positively.’

The #metoo movement is still in full swing in Iceland. What’s the latest?

‘We have had a series of campaigns filled with testimonies from various groups of women. The most recent have come from women with a migration background. Their testimonies are the strongest so far. The stories, which are full of both racism and sexism, serve as perfect examples of power structures. These are issues that need to be given more attention.’

What are you doing at the Centre for Gender Equality to change things in the wake of #metoo?

‘We have a very broad mandate when it comes to gender equality issues. One of our roles is to advise the government on possible measures in the area of gender equality. The Icelandic government has been active and has instructed several committees to look into how sexual harassment can be stopped. Today we do have laws and rules against sexual harassment, but the anti-harassment work in the workplace needs to be organised better and carried out more systematically. The Centre for Gender Equality is also in charge of monitoring the employers’ gender equality plans, and that’s an area where we have become stricter. All the attention around #metoo has given us a good tailwind, which is positive.’

What changes are needed?

‘It’s a complex problem because the gendered power hierarchy has so many impacts. We need to get a broad discussion going about gender roles and relations. Today, school are given this responsibility, but that’s not enough. The work to create real change needs to take place elsewhere in society as well – in the workplace, in politics.’

What’s your view of men’s involvement in these issues?

‘Men’s participation and engagement are important. Men need to be included in the work but must at the same time not be held accountable for everything men do. I think we have done this quite well in the Nordic countries. One successful factor has been that we have been able to discuss power structures and the patriarchy, which are things that affect the lives of men, too.’

Iceland Discussing Stronger Anti-Discrimination Laws Iceland’s lack of anti-discrimination laws that protect minorities sets the country apart from its Nordic neighbours. The possible introduction of anti-discrimination legislation in line with the other Nordic countries has been discussed many times, and a dialogue on the topic is currently underway at the government level.

‘This issue has been on the agenda for over a decade, but it still has not resulted in new legislation,’ says Hjaltadóttir.

All Nordic countries have some form of anti-discrimination laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender in place, yet their exact design varies. Most countries have also outlawed discrimination on grounds such as ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation, but again, some important differences between the countries can be noted.

Lacking a Discrimination Ombudsperson
The lack of discrimination legislation in Iceland makes it difficult for victims to take action. The Icelandic constitution offers some protection by providing that all people have the same human rights. There is also a law prohibiting agitation against ethnic or national groups, and another giving individuals with disabilities the right to be able to access public buildings.

‘There are a whole bunch of gaps in the legislation and many forms of discrimination remain unregulated. Theoretically, you can take a discrimination case to court, but it’s going to cost you a lot of money. Nobody ever does it,’ says Hjaltadóttir.

In contrast to the other Nordic countries, Iceland does not have a state discrimination ombudsperson who helps victims take discrimination cases to court. The country’s Centre for Gender Equality only deals with gender-related discrimination, and victims of workplace discrimination may in a best-case scenario count on the support of their trade unions. Special-interest organisations for example within the LGBTQ movement have also occasionally addressed the issue, but generally lack the resources necessary to take cases to court.

‘We know there are victims who have nowhere to go. They call us, hoping we will be able to help them, but all we can do is tell them who to contact next. So, we know there’s a need for legislation,’ says Hjaltadóttir.

Norwegian Legislative Change Met Resistance
The Norwegian discrimination laws were recently changed, and since January this year, all discrimination grounds are covered under the same act. As a result of the change, the gender equality act no longer exists, and this has stirred up a storm of protests in the women’s movement. The first Norwegian gender equality act was adopted in 1978 – one year before the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination was established in 1979 and two years before Norway’s ratification of it.

‘Many women’s organisations wanted to keep the gender equality act because it was the fruit of many years of hard work, was very well known and signalled that women are not a minority group in society,’ says Anne Hellum, professor at the Department of Public and International Law, University of Oslo.

Supporters of the new law say it is more user friendly and makes it easier to deal with cases involving multiple grounds of discrimination. Some also point to the benefit of not treating minorities separately and instead placing all types of discrimination under the same umbrella. Hellum stresses that compound discrimination was prohibited also under the old legislation. She thinks that overall, the new law is more difficult to interpret.

‘All discrimination grounds are unique in some ways, and it’s obvious in the work that led up to the new law that they had problems concretely defining them. Instead, they had to settle for an abstract level, which makes it difficult for those who are actually going to use the law in practice,’ she says.

She also points out that the new legislation has changed the way discrimination cases are handled. Overall, it has become more difficult to get one’s case reviewed, she says.

‘The Norwegian Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud can no longer process individual cases, and the resources needed to give people advice have been reduced.’

In addition, the new discrimination board, which handles all discrimination cases since the turn of the year, only accepts written reports of discrimination. In the past, people could report discrimination verbally, Hellum continues.

‘Overall, we are seeing a neoliberal liberalisation reform where the handling of individual rights and the responsibilities of private and public actors have been dramatically weakened,’ she says.

Gender Discrimination in Denmark and Finland
While Norway and also Sweden are now handling all grounds of discrimination under one and the same law, Finland and Denmark have separate laws against discrimination based on gender.

Although gender is handled separately in Danish law, the same discrimination board deals with all complaints regardless of type of discrimination. The board can, in theory, handle several types of discrimination at the same time, although this has turned out to be difficult in practice, says Rebekka Mahler from Danish KVINFO.

‘If you for example are a woman with immigration background, it is not easy to pursue a case that combines both discrimination grounds,’ she says.

The Danish anti-discrimination protection is generally not as extensive as the laws in Finland, Norway and Sweden. For example, Danish law does not require employers to actively prevent discrimination, nor does it explicitly prohibit discrimination of trans persons, in contrast to Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish law.

‘Reporting a Violation Really Doesn’t Make You a Whiner’
The Icelandic government is currently discussing how a national anti-discrimination act could be designed. It has for example been suggested that the law should only apply to the labour market and the workplace, while others have proposed that it should also cover other parts of society. The other Nordic countries have chosen somewhat different paths in this respect. In Finland, Norway and Sweden, the anti-discrimination laws apply in many different domains, including in school, in the housing market, at restaurants and in shops. In Denmark, only discrimination based on gender and ethnicity is prohibited in all areas of society. For the other discrimination grounds, the laws only apply in the labour market and the workplace.

‘What’s most important right now is that we finalise this law so that Iceland, too, will have an anti-discrimination act in place,’ says Hjaltadóttir.

Besides legislation, she also sees a need for efforts to change the prevailing views of discrimination in both Iceland and the other Nordic countries.

‘There is a culture that encourages victims to bite the bullet and just keep going, but reporting a violation really doesn’t make you a whiner,’ she says.




Migrant Women and Jobs in Focus Sweden is heading the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2018 and has identified gender equality in the labour market as a key issue for the year. A conference on the entry of immigrants into the labour market, with a particular focus on women, was arranged in mid-April. Sweden’s minister for employment and integration, Ylva Johansson, opened the event by bringing up the issue of discrimination and the view of foreign-born women.

‘I recently met a Somali woman who grew up in Uppsala, Sweden. She told me that in Uppsala, she was a lawyer, but in Husby, an immigrant-dense Stockholm suburb, she became a Somalian. This was just another indication that we tend to define people based on ethnicity rather than competence, and I suspect that this is a problem that affects women more than men,’ she says.

The purpose of the conference was to present the latest research in the area and discuss challenges and appropriate policy changes. A new OECD report was presented by Stefano Scarpetta from the Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs at the OECD. Among other things, the report addresses what the refugee flows to the Nordic countries as well as the employment rates for immigrant women and men have looked like in recent years.

‘The Nordic countries are facing a more difficult challenge than other OECD countries since you are accepting more migrants. A lot of work is being done, but more measures are needed as a large share of these individuals remain unemployed,’ he says.

Scarpetta’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion where the Nordic labour market ministers as well as Åland’s deputy head of government talked about political solutions to the problem.

All Nordic countries have a larger female share of the workforce than the EU average. At the same time, a large portion of the foreign-born women are unemployed. The conference also included a presentation of a recently published report about the entry of newly arrived women into the labour market. The report was written by Oxford Research at the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers and gives an overview of the support newly arrived women are offered to facilitate their transition into paid work in the Nordic countries as well as experiences regarding the effectiveness of these tools.

The Nordic co-operation was a central theme at the conference. Towards the end of the day, the conference guests listened to a presentation of a project titled Enhancing Labour Opportunities for Women in the Nordic Countries and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ gender equality fund, which is administered by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK). The project is a collaboration between the University of Akureyri in Iceland, the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland, and Nordregio in Sweden. The aim of the project is to carry out a comparative study and share examples of best practice in order to improve the integration of migrant women in the labour market.

‘A study we did in Akureyri shows that many migrant women end up in low-status jobs that don’t correspond to their level of education. This can partly be attributed to a lack of support, which in turn is partly due to the fact that Iceland lacks a tradition of immigration,’ says Markus Meckl, professor at the University of Akureyri.

According to Meckl, the Nordic co-operation in the project is important, not least in order to learn from each other. The marginalisation problem is not unique to Iceland. Meckl feels that being both a woman and a migrant in the Icelandic labour market implies a double disadvantage.

‘Iceland, with its shorter history of migration, can learn from Sweden’s experiences. I think it is also good that we are creating networks and raising the public’s awareness about these issues,’ he says.

Sweden arranges conference on men and gender equality

After being hosted by Germany, Austria and Luxemburg, Sweden is now to run with the ball. The 4th ICMEO conference in Stockholm focuses on change of social norms and stereotypes as ways to strengthen focus on men and boys and their role in gender equality politics and efforts. What are the best ways to engage men and boys for gender equality?

ICMEO is organized in cooperation with Swedish Agency for Gender Equality, which is also responsible for one of the six seminars. The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, the Swedish National Agency for Education, The Public Health Agency of Sweden and MÄN are also organizing one seminar each.

This year’s ICMEO theme is “Masculinity and norm critical approaches: Gender equality work with boys and young men”. Challenging norms for masculinity promotes gender equality and better opportunities for all, and is especially important in work with youth. How do social norms change, and what are the best ways to engage men and boys for gender equality, and a lifestyle with opportunities which reach beyond stereotypical norms?

Day one, May 15, will have an international perspective, and parts of day two more of a Nordic profile, as Sweden holds the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers during 2018.

Lena Ag, Director General of Swedish Gender Equality Agency, is participating in a panel discussion on how to turn boys and young men into actors of change using a norm-critical approach. Swedish Gender Equality Agency is also arranging a workshop on Nordic work with violence prevention among young men, including honour-related violence.

Strategies to prevent violence shared across borders All Nordic countries have signed the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence, and all, with the exception of Iceland, have so far ratified the convention and made it legally binding. The report The Istanbul Convention: the Nordic Way focuses on selected articles in the Convention and how well different countries address them, with a focus on data collection and research, education and awareness.

To summarise, the Nordic countries work on local, regional and national levels against violence, often in close cooperation with NGOs. However, when it comes to data collection and research into specific contexts, the authors lack a more inclusive, intersectional approach. They argue that by discussing violence beyond gender and including other power dimensions that could be as important, an even greater understanding of the problem could be reached and it would be possible to produce better-targeted efforts.

“We know, for example, that people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable in intimate relationships, and women with disabilities contest with a “double” vulnerability. More can be done to understand the issues and more efforts can be taken towards prevention,” says Mari Helenedatter Aarbakke, Senior Adviser at KUN, and one of the authors of the report.

Focus on similarities instead of differences

The authors also point to the risk of stigmatising or disparaging specific groups of victims. Honour-based violence is, for example, a hotly debated issue in several Nordic countries. Meanwhile, violence in national minority communities and among indigenous peoples does not receive the same levels of attention.

“Honour-based violence or shaming-violence as well as controlling behaviour are not necessarily limited to a few ethnic minorities in the Nordic countries and we can decide to have a more open debate about these phenomena. We need to focus on similarities instead of differences, since these are important issues in all cultures: how are women and men restricted by norms of gender and sexuality? And how do these norms promote abuse of power, violence and oppression? A discussion on honour-based violence can provide answers to many challenges revealed during the Western #metoo campaign and vice versa,” said Helenedatter Aarbakke.

The report also highlights a number of strong examples of preventive work in the various countries. Several of the representatives from both NGO’s and the public sector also spoke at KUN’s conference in Oslo on 8 March, Preventing Violence Against Women in the Nordic Countries, when the report was presented.

The Nordic paradox

Although the Nordic countries have among the highest levels of gender equality in the world and take a zero tolerance approach to men’s violence against women as well as domestic violence, a high proportion of women there are subjected to abuse, a phenomena which is often referred to as “the Nordic paradox”.

“The largest challenge to overcoming men’s violence against women as well as domestic violence is to work with and challenge our deep-rooted stereotypes about this violence,” says Dr. Marceline Naudi, President of Grevio, Council of Europe’s expert group, which also oversees countries’ commitments in relation to the Istanbul Convention.

Historically, prevention work for domestic violence has been based on heterosexual relationships and on the assumption that women are victims and men are perpetrators. However, several Nordic countries are now working with special measures to include other relationships and sexual orientations as well as to adopt the perspective that even girls and women can be perpetrators and boys and men can be victims.

The follow-up to the Istanbul Convention is important in order to ensure a continuous effort to prevent gender-based violence.


Lack of gender equality in rural areas the theme during this year’s CSW This week marks the start of CSW62, the sixty-second session of United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York, USA. The theme of this year’s meeting is women and girls in rural areas.

For ten days, representatives from participating countries are meeting to review the progress being made on gender equality, identify challenges and formulate strategies.

NIKK has produced a film that illustrates problems and offers possible solutions based on the Nordic context. This film will be followed by a discussion, organised by the Nordic Council of Ministers, by a panel of experts on the first day of the conference. The purpose of the discussion is to explore possible solutions to the issues facing rural communities, namely women and men moving from rural areas, partly due to the lack of opportunities in education, employment and influence. As part of the film, maps have been produced by the Nordic institution Nordregio that show migration flows, access to jobs, education and care in the Nordic region, and how these affect the rural population.

Among other things, these maps show that it is mostly young people moving from rural areas to cities. This has consequences in terms of welfare, since an ageing population makes welfare difficult to maintain in the long term. This primarily affects women, who take on most of the responsibility of caring for children and the elderly when the public sector falls short. Mothers and children are also affected by the long distances to childbirth centres.

These maps also highlight the fact that it is primarily young women moving to cities. These women often move to cities for their studies due to the lack of educational opportunities closer to home. The dearth of skilled jobs in rural areas also means that more women choose to stay in cities after they finish their degrees. Access to education also affects men living rurally. Where there is access to higher education, more men also pursue higher levels of education.

Possible strategies for getting more people to live in rural areas or to encourage them to move to them include investments in local education institutions, as well as reducing gender segregation in the labour market in order to create more job opportunities.

“When women join forces, then they can’t be ignored” Feminists demanding change across national boundaries is hardly a new phenomenon. However, the emergence of social media has made collaboration easier and the potential impact stronger. According to Emma Severinsson, PhD student in history at Lund University, Sweden, the testimonies and calls for action connected with the #MeToo campaign are classic features of how the feminist movement has operated throughout history.
‘It has always been risky to make these types of accusations in public. That’s why women join forces, then they can’t be ignored. But the sheer number of women involved this time hasn’t been seen for a very long time,’ she says.
Sweden is the Nordic country where the #MeToo has had the greatest impact. Well-known TV and radio show hosts, journalists and politicians have been publicly accused and fired. More than 60 000 women have come together and demanded change in their respective sectors. The biggest call for action, #utantystnadsplikt, gathered more than 10 000 female doctors. Severinsson believes that the impact of the campaign has been particularly strong in Sweden because there was already an infrastructure in place.
‘The gender equality work in Sweden has benefitted from broad political support for the last 15 years. We have a feminist political party that has put pressure on all the other parties to increase their focus on feminist issues. In addition, gender research holds a relatively strong position in Sweden, compared with for example Denmark,’ she says.
According to Severinsson, the culture of silence in the feminist movement had already been eliminated. The #MeToo campaign has been about eliminating the culture of silence in the rest of society, too. What she finds most remarkable about the campaign is its magnitude, or the fact that it has become so widespread and has engaged such a large number of women who had never been involved in the past.
‘I think this is because the campaign in Sweden has been so strongly connected to the workplace, as this makes it possible to hold specific individuals and employers accountable,’ says Severinsson.

Iceland: Call for Action by Women with Migrant Backgrounds

In Iceland, the #MeToo campaign is still in full swing. Fourteen calls for actions have been made in various sectors, and more are coming, according to Fríða Rós Valdimarsdóttir, who works at Iceland’s Centre for Gender Equality. First out were more than 400 female politicians who listed violations they had had to endure as active politicians, including rape threats. The cultural workers soon followed suit.
‘The calls for action have made front page news. They have also led to the firing of many perpetrators,’ says Fríða Rós Valdimarsdóttir. She is part of a network for the administrators of calls for actions as the chair of Iceland’s largest women’s rights organisation. The network was created to, help facilitate sharing of experiences and support and to nurture the solitarity that has been enforced with the #metoo movement.
In contrast to other Nordic countries, women with migrant backgrounds have published their own manifesto in Iceland. Testimonies combine both sexism and racism.
‘Their stories make the deepest impression. One woman described being attacked from behind while working as a cleaner. A man stuffed a rag in her mouth and then raped her. Afterward, he left her a envelope with money and a note saying that he had always wanted to have sex with a foreign woman.’

Representatives from the migrant group have also been invited to Iceland’s most popular prime time talk show and participated at Iceland’s feminist forum. Fríða Rós Valdimarsdóttir says that the calls for action have had a dramatic impact on Icelandic society.
‘#MeToo has changed everything. Because of the campaign, sexual harassment is now taken seriously in Iceland.’

She also says that the campaign has had political effects. Because of #MeToo, Iceland’s government has invested money in strengthening the legal security in connection with sex crimes. The minister of health has issued guidelines for how organisations and government agencies should handle cases of sexual harassment.
‘Ministers are also discussing with each other how the system for dealing with sexual harassment can be reinforced.’

Denmark: Vast Media Coverage

In Denmark, the #MeToo campaign really took off in connection with reports of misconduct by film producer Peter Aalback Jensen at Zentropa film company. His treatment of some colleagues has attracted a lot of attention. In a next step, calls for action were published where female classical singers, female academics and women in the film and performing arts sector joined forces and presented testimonies of a culture of violations. In the words of the classical singers, ‘Male star soloists, conductors and instructors are declared geniuses and their unwelcome advances, violations and lude remarks downplayed and whitewashed in Denmark, too.

According to Christian Groes, associate professor at Roskilde University’s Centre for Gender, Power and Diversity, the #MeToo campaign has received an enormous amount of media attention in Denmark, although there have been relatively few concrete calls for action. He says that the campaign has divided Danish men into two camps: those who ridicule and those who support the initiative. For example, three Danish comedians mocked the female classical singers who had come forward by making up what they called their #hetoo campaign and talking on primetime TV about being molested by young women who had wanted their bodies.

‘But the testimonies have been a wakeup call to many men. They’ve been shocked by the women’s stories. The fact that many men are silent may mean that they are listening,’ he says.

In Denmark, there have been discussions about whether or not it is okay to publish the names of alleged perpetrators. According to Groes, there has been a tendency for men to want to protect other men. Personally, he believes that the publication of names fills an important function.
‘It helps transfer the stigma from the victim to the offender. If it doesn’t cost anything to sexually harass somebody, things will never change. Men have to become afraid of the consequences.’

It is important that the discussion continues, says Groes.
‘Now we men need to move on, think and talk about what we can do.’

Finland: Linking to Power Structures

In Finland, the media have unveiled the behaviour of several individuals in high places. There too, some men were quick to ridicule the campaign and testimonies. But according to Katju Aro, chair of Finland’s Feminist Party, the campaign soon regained its momentum and has contributed to substantial change in Finnish society.
‘People in Finland have become more aware of the situation. There is a before and an after #MeToo, and it’s not over yet.’

She says that the #MeToo in Finland has gone through several phases. The first comprised the sharing of personal testimonies, then came the ridiculing and the last phase consisted of the calls for action and the linking to power structures. According to Aro, something happened to the debate when the first call for action was published. In a call titled #dammenbrister, more than 6 000 Finland-Swedes shared experiences of sexual harassment. Several other calls for action soon followed, including a broad Finnish #MeToo that gathered all types of testimonies. This will now be turned into a book.
‘The difference between Finland and Sweden is that we don’t talk much about the workplace. The debate has a stronger focus on sexual harassment in the public space, such as at bars, and within couples.’

In Finland, the #MeToo campaign has contributed to a legislative proposal on a consent law has moved forward. It has also been debated in the Finnish parliament how the systems should be changed in order to prevent sexual harassment. However, Aro is missing a discussion about the consequences that should be imposed on men who sexually harass women. At present, there is a focus on the perpetrator’s perspective, on whether it really is right to make the identity of these individuals public.
‘But when we discuss this issue, we must not forget the damage that the offenders have inflicted on their victims. The victims may have dropped out of their studies or careers because of the harassment. The violations may have lifelong effects on them,’ says Aro.

Norway: Scandals in Politics

In Norway, #MeToo scandals have caused a big stir in politics. Cases of sexual harassment have been revealed in all political parties, with the biggest problems found in the Labour Party. But testimonies of violations have also surfaced in the Conservative Party and the Progress Party.
‘There has been a strong focus on individuals, but also on the handling of cases by the party managements. When it comes to the Labour Party, it has also been discussed how this will affect the party,’ says Helga Eggebø, sociologist and public debater.
The #MeToo campaign has been a big discussion topic, with several calls for action and testimonies that have shaken up various sectors. In late October, women demonstrated in front of the parliament in Oslo. According to a survey by media analysis company Retriever, the #MeToo campaign was the subject of 1 700 newspaper articles published over the course of just over a month, in October–November.

Eggebø is surprised by the impact of the campaign. At the same time, she thinks there is too little talk about what to do next. There has been a lot of engagement from underneath, but the support from above has been lacking, she says. According to Eggebø, this may be because the politicians lack tools, or a structure, for implementing gender equality policy.
‘The willingness to acknowledge #MeToo as a structural problem and talk about revisions of laws and structures hasn’t really been there. One example of this is our Minister of Fisheries, who voiced the opinion that women just need to slap the perpetrator!’

Overall, however, Eggebø is thrilled about the enormous mobilisation that has taken place.
‘Who would have thought that something like this could happen in this day and age?’

New Project about Young People’s Experiences of prostitution Young people’s experiences of prostitution are often gained well out of sight and usually outside the traditional arenas for prostitution. Existing support measures do not seem to reach this group and there is an urgent need to learn more about young people’s experiences of having sex for money, for example to be able to prevent sexual exploitation. At the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers, NIKK will now shed light on the situation in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway. The project will be coordinated by Charlotta Holmström, sociologist who has done research on topics such as prostitution policy and sexual vulnerability at the Centre for Sexology and Sexuality Studies, Malmö University.

‘The project aims to compile existing knowledge about young people who have had sex for money. Another aim is to bring clarity to which actors in society are acknowledging and working with this issue, and what the legislation looks like in the different Nordic countries. Previous research shows among other things that the first experiences of selling sex are often gained during the teenage years, and that young people who engage in this behaviour belong to a vulnerable and risk-taking group. The experiences of sex for pay can at the same time vary depending on context, continuity and reasons for selling sex. Previous research also shows that young people’s experiences of selling sex are not always gained in traditional arenas for sex trade, and the provision of sexual services is often part of a bartering arrangement.

Young people rarely refer to their experiences of selling sex as prostitution. According to Holmström, this calls for particular sensitivity both from professionals who work with young people and from researchers in the field.

‘It affects the research on young people who sell sex because it makes it difficult to reach the group and gain knowledge about their experiences. It is therefore of particular importance to be careful with the concepts and perspectives that are used and applied in the research in this area. First and foremost, it is important to be sensitive and perceptive regarding the experiences adolescents gain and how they describe these experiences.’

Important Knowledge for Many Nordic Actors

In 2008, NIKK carried out a project called Prostitution in the Nordic Region, which compiled and analysed knowledge about social and legal interventions as well as attitudes to and experiences of sex for pay in the Nordic countries. Among other things, the project showed how the digital development and also the changed migration and mobility patterns have affected arenas and contact paths. The new project has a new focus, but Holmström believes that the same changes in society can be expected to play a central role this time as well.

‘The new project has a somewhat different focus than the project in 2008, as this time we will focus on adolescents specifically. I believe, though, that these aspects still have a strong impact on the arenas and the way contacts are made. Previous research shows this, too. It is particularly interesting to determine to what extent adolescents’ vulnerability and experiences of selling sex can be related to the digital development, but also to migration and mobility patterns.’

Wants to Identify Differences and Similarities

The project started in February this year, and NIKK will present a report compiling and analysing the available knowledge on young people’s experiences of prostitution in the autumn of 2019. The report is expected to contribute important knowledge for many different Nordic actors.

‘Nordic actors can benefit from the results as we will now be able to compile and present the available knowledge on young people who sell sex in all Nordic countries. We want to shed light on differences and similarities based on the existing knowledge, but also recognise which social interventions are offered to this group and how the legislation concerning young people who sell sex is designed and applied in the different Nordic countries. This is important knowledge for actors who interact with young people in their work, for example in social work, healthcare, law enforcement and the school system, but also for actors involved in policy development,’ says Holmström.

Knowledge and a Long-Term Approach Keys to Gender-Equal Nordic Cooperation The core task of Nordic Information on Gender, which usually goes by its Nordic acronym NIKK, is to gather and disseminate research, policy, knowledge and practice in the area of gender equality in the Nordic region.

‘Over the years, NIKK has proven to be a strong cooperative body with far-reaching expertise in the areas of gender equality and gender equality work in the Nordic countries. By extending the assignment, we want to contribute to an even more long-term approach that will make a difference and bring us closer to the goal of gender-equal Nordic cooperation,’ says Julia Fäldt Wahengo, senior adviser at the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Next, the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research and the Nordic Council of Ministers will initiate a dialogue regarding the most effective plan for the next four years. A new programme for the Nordic gender equality cooperation will also be developed this year and go into effect in 2019.

‘The cooperation programme will be drawn up for the next four years, so we also want to enable the central role of NIKK in the implementation of the programme and contribute in a more long-term way than would have been possible with a shorter assignment contract,’ says Fäldt Wahengo.

‘The Nordic cooperation is fun and exciting. The Secretariat has a long tradition of Nordic collaborations in the area of gender research. Hosting NIKK adds another dimension to the Secretariat. It gives us a better perspective on the Swedish gender equality work. We tend to believe that the Nordic countries do pretty much the same things, while the truth is that the they often differ significantly. And NIKK’s motto, that “shared knowledge makes a difference”, is definitely true here and in many other areas,’ says Kerstin Alnebratt, director of the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research.

Iceland Trails Other Nordic Countries in LGBTQ Rights The LGBTQ organisation ILGA Europe has ranked the European countries based on laws and policies in various areas with a direct impact on the human rights of LGBTQ persons. Only one Nordic country, Norway, can be found in the top portion of the list, in second place after Malta. Finland and Denmark place 7th and 8th, and Sweden and Iceland 12th and 16th. Daníel E. Arnarsson, head of Icelandic LGBTQ organisation Samtökin ’78, is not surprised.

‘Our politicians think we are so progressive they have forgotten to reform our laws. Not much has happened in the last 10 years when it comes to LGBTQ rights in Iceland,’ he says.

In contrast to the other Nordic countries, Iceland does not have a law against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

‘Our constitution does say that all people have equal value, but this very general protection is insufficient in a court situation. We want to see explicit protection against workplace discrimination of LGBTQ persons.’

Iceland also lacks protection of LGBTQ persons in the national hate crime legislation, which means that an offence cannot be considered more serious if somebody is victimised due to sexual orientation or gender identity. Asylum issues is another area where Iceland ranks poorly. According to Arnarsson, persecution due to sexual orientation or gender identity is not an acceptable ground for asylum in the present asylum legislation. He feels that although Icelandic policymakers have a positive attitude to LGBTQ issues, there is little concrete action. Another problem is that Iceland’s LGBTQ organisation is underfunded.

‘We don’t have enough resources to advance the development and do everything we want. Right now we have only two employees, and most of our time is spent disseminating information at schools and hosting support groups.’

Norway’s New Gender Recognition Law Is Effective

Norway ranks higher than any other Nordic country and also significantly higher than in the previous Rainbow Europe ranking. This can partly be attributed to the country’s new gender recognition law, adopted in 2016. In the past, people who wanted to change their legal gender first had to be surgically sterilised and medically diagnosed as transsexual. The new law has removed these requirements. Norway is the fourth European country that has adopted a gender recognition legislation that is based on each individual’s right to self-determination.

‘This is a law that we have fought long and hard for. It is an important milestone for our organisation,’ says Ingvild Endestad, chair of Norway’s largest LGBTQ organisation, the National Association for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender People – FRI.

According to Endestad, the law gives trans persons the right to decide over their own bodies and gender identity. It also enables trans persons to become parents, as the sterilisation requirement no longer applies.

‘The law allows for sex reassignment therapy to enable a person to become one of the two genders. However, Norway still does not have a third gender category for those who don’t identify themselves as a man or a woman. That’s an issue we will continue to work on.’

Norway has had established LGBTQ organisations in place since the 1950s. FRI receives both state and municipal funding for its operations. Endestad believes that these are important preconditions for the ability to achieve change. At the same time, she wants to point out that the Rainbow Europe ranking does not give the whole truth.

‘The ranking shows how far we have come with laws and policies, but not how these are being implemented in real life, and it doesn’t say anything about general attitudes. Norwegian society remains characterised by the hetero- and cis norms. We need to change these attitudes and try to increase the tolerance in society.’

Strong LGBTQ Movement in Malta

Malta tops the ranking, which includes 49 different countries. This may seem unexpected, considering that the island nation prohibits abortions and is generally seen as conservative when it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights. According to Emma Cassidy from ILGA-Europe, one explanation is that Malta benefits from a strong LGBTQ movement that has gained the respect of policymakers.

‘This collaboration has been a clear success factor in Malta. It has led to rapid legislative changes,’ she says.

Malta, too, has passed a progressive gender recognition law, which among other things prohibits the performance of unwanted medical procedures on intersex persons. Intersex persons are often physically altered as children to make them fit into the binary gender model. This is standard procedure in several Nordic countries, based on the assessment of a doctor, even if the interventions are not wanted or medically justified.

Cassidy says that the Nordic countries were forerunners in the LGBTQ field ten years ago. But the launching of new reforms has slowed down since then.

‘At this point, some laws need to be updated. The Nordic countries shouldn’t define themselves based on past achievements,’ says Cassidy.

Students Who Make Untraditional Career Choices Will Receive Better Support ’There is a lot of talk about encouraging young people to make untraditional career choices. There have for example been numerous projects to make girls more interested in fields like science and technology, but I think there is a need for other approaches as well. If these people start working and don’t feel comfortable in the work environment, they won’t stick around,’ says Gunilla Rooke at the Swedish National Agency for Education.
She is the Swedish coordinator of a project titled ’Gender equality in workplace-based learning in the Nordic countries’. The project involves various actors from Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Åland and has received funding from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund. The goal is to identify which methods are being used to support students, and to provide tools that can be implemented in the gender equality work carried out in upper secondary vocational education.

Gunilla Rooke, Swedish National Agency for Education.

How was the conference?
’It was great! There were lots of people there from both schools and various other sectors, so I’m happy.’

The project focuses on how students can be supported when they do their workplace training. Why is the support so important at that particular point?
’The first experience in an actual workplace can be a bit shocking. They perceive the school environment as fairly permissive, but some sectors really have a long way to go when it comes to attitudes and the work environment. Girls may start working at a construction site where changing rooms are either lacking or decorated with pictures of naked women. And boys pursuing a career in health care or preschool education may encounter a culture where they are marginalised and treated with suspicion. If these students are important to us, we need to find ways to support them so that they don’t give up. This is a challenge to both schools and employers.’

What can teachers and other school staff do?
‘When teachers contact employers to plan the workplace training, it is important to discuss whether the work environment is characterised by a certain culture or jargon, as well as what the school expects. As a vocational teacher, you also need to prepare the students for what they may come across in the workplace and give them strategies to handle it. You need to be there so that they feel they have somebody to talk to if there are problems.’

Do we know at this point which methods are effective?
’We know that there is a need for student support, but there is no coherent knowledge about the best way to do it. We hope that the project will fill this gap. Unfortunately, not much is being done to deal with this issue in a systematic way, but some sectors and schools are actually doing a good job. For example, the transport sector has a Vocational Training and Working Environment Council, which works actively with attitudes related to how employers in the sector host students.’

Are there any differences among the Nordic countries in terms of the support students receive?
’Yes, I believe there are. At least there are some important structural differences. In Sweden and Finland, the schools are responsible for the students when they do their workplace training. In Iceland and Norway, this responsibility lies with the employers, which makes it more difficult for authorities to demand things.’

What will happen next in the project?
’This conference was held in Stockholm, and we will arrange another three conferences focusing on the other countries. We’ll be in Oslo next month and in Åland in September.’

Review: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Remains Widespread in the Nordic Countries The MeToo campaign shows that sexual harassment is a widespread problem in Nordic workplaces, despite being prohibited. Each Nordic country has several laws regulating the issue. The responsibility to create a work environment free from sexual harassment is mainly placed on employers. But how well does the legal protection really work?
Hugrún R. Hjaltadóttir works at the Icelandic Centre for Gender Equality (Jafnréttisstofa), which oversees employers’ gender equality plans. She believes that Iceland’s laws against sexual harassment in fact are good, and that the problem is rather that employers tend to be too passive.

‘We get calls about sexual harassment and know it’s going on, but the problem is that the employers don’t do anything. There is a need for more money to make employers better aware of how they should act. They need support in their prevention efforts.’

Hugrún Hjaltadóttir

Hugrún Hjaltadóttir.

A new ordinance that went into effect in 2015 increased the pressure on employers to actively prevent sexual harassment. According to Hjaltadóttir, the ordinance needs to be followed up, both with resources and with regulations making the consequences tougher for non-compliers.

‘Employers that violate the law should face direct financial consequences, or else there is no incentive to prioritise these issues,’ she says.

Greatest Impact in Sweden

Sweden is the Nordic country where the MeToo campaign has had the strongest impact. Sweden also places the highest demands on employers when it comes to preventive work. Since 1 January 2017, Swedish employers have been required to take active measures to prevent discrimination and promote equal rights. The national non-discrimination act urges employers to actively examine the presence of sexual harassment in the workplace, for example by paying attention to jargon and checking the work environment for offensive pictures.
Caroline Bleichner, gender scholar and legal adviser at the Vision trade union, hopes that the legislative amendment will add fuel to the development in the area.

‘This law requires employers to be active. It has good intentions and also gives trade unions the right to information about an employer’s work in the area. Many of the testimonies that have surfaced in the MeToo campaign are about things that have happened in the past, I hope that the law will lead to changes.’

According to Bleichner, the MeToo campaign shows that many employers have problems dealing with these issues, but also that many victims find it difficult to speak up.
‘As we live in a patriarchy, victims are often treated with suspicion, which makes it even harder to start a process.’

She believes that the local section of the union plays an important role in offering support, both when someone is violated and when it comes to the prevention work.
‘If the employer does not comply with the law, the union can get involved and take appropriate action. One problem when evaluating an employer’s efforts, however, is that the law doesn’t say anything about the required quality of the work. It does require employers to implement active measures, but fails to require a certain quality of the work.’

Focusing on the Employer’s Responsibility

In all Nordic countries, the legislation focuses on the employer’s responsibility when it comes to sexual harassment. A person who touches a colleague’s buttocks or comments on her breasts rarely faces any consequences. In Norway, the national equality and anti-discrimination ombudsman handles complaints of discrimination and harassment. People can report harassment related to the established grounds for discrimination, such as ethnicity and sexual orientation, to the ombudsman, but not sexual harassment. Helga Eggebø, Norwegian sociologist and social commentator, argues that this should be changed.

Helga Eggebø
Photo: Karoline O.A. Pettersen

‘The legal protection for victims of sexual harassment is extremely weak in Norway. If the equality and anti-discrimination ombudsman also administered and investigated sexual harassment, the system would become more legally secure. The most obvious change would be that sexual harassment would be equated with and administered as other forms of harassment,’ she says.

It would also contribute to important case law on sexual harassment in the workplace, which is currently missing in Norway, according to Helga Eggebø.
‘The present situation is not sustainable. The requirements imposed on employers exist only on paper. Nobody is monitoring them or ensuring that they really work proactively with this issue.’

What Do You Think Is Needed in Order for Employers to Do a Better Job?
‘The requirement for employers to work against sexual harassment should be designed more like strict environmental requirements, where employers have to undergo certain procedures to be compliant.’

Nordic countries divided on the surrogacy issue Two years ago, Iceland became the first Nordic country to present a government bill that if passed would entitle childless people to altruistic surrogacy services through the public healthcare system. The bill was backed by a majority in the country’s parliament.

‘Since then, we have had two government crises, so the issue has not received much priority,’ says Hrefna Friðriksdóttir, law scholar at the University of Iceland.

Swedish government inquiry proposed stricter rules

Although Iceland is the only Nordic country that has presented a concrete government bill on surrogate parenthood, it has been on the political agenda elsewhere as well. In contrast to Iceland, a Swedish government inquiry presented last year recommended stricter regulation. At present, surrogacy is not regulated in Swedish law and the inquiry suggested that it should not be allowed. The inquiry also proposed tougher rules to make it more difficult for Swedes to travel abroad for surrogacy treatment.
‘I’m very curious about what these rules would look like, because it’s really hard to regulate these things,’ says Hrefna Friðriksdóttir.

Feminist movement divided

According to Hrefna Friðriksdóttir, all Nordic countries consider the issue of surrogacy to be extremely complex.

‘There are several opposing interests involved,’ she says.

In Iceland, the strongest political support for allowing surrogacy is found on the right wing, but the parties are divided on the issue. The situation is the same in the other Nordic countries, and there is also disagreement among various government bodies. For example, the Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics is positive to surrogacy, while the government inquiry from 2016 is against it. Disagreement can also be found in the feminist movement. If we allow surrogate parenthood, we also allow exploitation of poor and vulnerable women, say the opponents. Altruistic surrogacy is described as an impossible path since it cannot be guaranteed that surrogate mothers have not been subject to pressure.

‘In the other camp are those who are provoked by the idea that women are incapable of making informed decisions about their own bodies,’ says Hrefna Friðriksdóttir.

To add to the complexity, some of those who are fundamentally opposed to surrogate parenthood still want it to be allowed within the framework of the national healthcare system, to make it easier to control.

‘They argue that by offering the treatment here, it would be possible to carry out proper assessments and offer support,’ Hrefna Friðriksdóttir explains.

‘The desire for children is an extremely powerful driving force. It’s obvious that people are willing to travel abroad to get this service,’ she continues.

Legal vacuum in the Nordic countries

Surrogacy is not legally regulated in any of the Nordic countries. In Finland, treatments were offered though the public healthcare system until 2007. Some 20 treatments were provided before a law prohibiting the method was adopted. Since then, no Nordic country has actively offered surrogacy treatments through the publically funded healthcare sector, although private arrangements where the surrogate mother lets the intended parent adopt the baby after the delivery remain allowed.

‘Such arrangements are very difficult to regulate, if anybody would want to do so,’ says Hrefna Friðriksdóttir.

Surrogacy is not illegal in any Nordic country, but some countries make private arrangements difficult. For example, it seems to be easier for prospective parents to get their parenthood approved in Sweden than in Iceland. In Sweden, there have been several cases where couples who have had a child with the assistance of a surrogate mother abroad have been legally recognised as parents after returning to Sweden. In Iceland, a case where the court chose the opposite path recently received a lot of attention. A prospective mom was not recognised as a parent because the child had been born by a surrogate mother and had no genetic ties to her.

‘This of course leads to an uncertain situation for that child,’ says Hrefna Friðriksdóttir.

‘The discussion is not over’

According to Hrefna Friðriksdóttir, the child’s perspective is of central importance in the national debates on surrogate parenthood.

‘The politicians have an ambition to base their decisions on what’s best for the child, but it is difficult to determine what that is,’ she says.

The available research shows that children born via surrogacy generally do well and grow up in stable and safe family environments, but research on the more long-term effects is lacking, says Hrefna Friðriksdóttir. She also highlights the risks of not having effective legislation in place, such as in the Nordic countries. Such absence of legislation leads to a situation where children lack a legal guardian while their cases are dealt with in court. There have also been situations where children have been completely abandoned, as neither the surrogate mother nor the prospective parents have been willing to acknowledge them.

Both Iceland and the other Nordic countries are closely following the developments in Sweden in the wake of last year’s government inquiry, says Hrefna Friðriksdóttir. The final fate of the Icelandic government bill remains to be decided. If it is brought back to the discussion table, those who are against it will try to use the Swedish government inquiry to stop it, Hrefna Friðriksdóttir believes.
‘This discussion is far from over,’ she says.

Project explores the neo-liberal turn in the Nordic welfare states Internationally, the Nordic countries are considered inspiring role models: a strong region that has invested in welfare solutions for all citizens. However, the political environment has changed in important ways since the welfare systems were established. Downsizing and restructuring of the public sectors have impacted both citizen services and the working conditions for staff, most of whom are women. Researchers have talked about a care crisis for many years. But what has this change looked like and how has it affected the gender equality in the Nordic countries? These are issues that will be examined by researchers in a project titled ‘A care crisis in the women-friendly welfare states? Gender (in)equality dynamics in the Nordic welfare states’ and funded by the Nordic Gender Equality Fund. The project will result in for example the publishing of a book and a dissemination conference for decision and policy makers.

Lise Lotte Hansen, associate professor at Roskilde University.

Lise Lotte Hansen is associate professor at Roskilde University and contact person for the project. She believes that the development varies greatly across countries, regions and municipalities.

‘But there are some clear trends. For example, cutbacks in Danish elderly care have led to an increase in family-based care. The family-based care is generally carried out by women and thus affects the careers and health of women disproportionately: on average, they retire earlier, experience more stress and are more likely to work part time. Another aspect is that there is a lot of talk about men as a solution to the care crisis. More men should work in these professions when there are not enough hands to do the work. Men should also be more active at home, be on parental leave longer and so on, to relieve the women.’
How is the care crisis connected to gender equality?
‘This is an interesting debate, as the definition of equality varies among the countries. For example, in Sweden, the concept is expanded to include additional power structures. In Denmark, there is no distinct gender equality policy. Instead, some general reforms, like the introduction of public childcare, have led to changes in the area of gender equality.’

Overall, the Nordic countries have seen it as important to enable people to combine family life with a career. But the question is how long this will be possible considering the increasingly tough conditions in the labour market.
What are the benefits of Nordic cooperation on this issue?
‘The Nordic countries have a lot in common compared with the rest of the world. Common denominators include their strong public sectors and the presence of powerful organisations, in the form of both trade unions and non-profits. In this project, we will also discuss what resistance to the dismantling of the welfare sector we are seeing. The trade unions and civil society are strong forces. One interesting issue in this context is the sustainability of the Nordic welfare model, whether the Nordic countries are more resistant to this development than other countries in the world.’

Swedish presidency to focus on male involvement On 1 January, Sweden took over the helm of the Nordic gender equality cooperation. According to Åsa Régner, the issue of men’s violence will receive thorough attention. For example, Sweden will organise a major international conference on men, masculinity and gender equality that will focus on preventive work. The event will target organisations, experts and policymakers.
‘In particular, we want to address the issue of how to involve boys and men, both in the anti-violence efforts and in the broader gender equality work.’

The presidency of the Nordic gender equality cooperation is rotated annually. All presidencies are based on a 5-year programme specifying which general themes are to be focused on, and then it is up to each country holding the presidency to create its own agenda based on the given theme. The active participation of men and boys in the gender equality work is one of the themes in the current 5-year plan. Violence is another recurring prioritised area. In 2016, the Finnish presidency focused on solutions to break the cycle of violence in intimate relationships. Norway took these efforts further in 2017 with a project dealing with the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.
‘This is a key Nordic issue that we will also address at the women’s conference in New York. The Nordic countries are active in this area and have a lot of experience to share.’

Åsa Regnér. Foto: Sören Andersson/Regeringskansliet

Åsa Regnér. Photo: Sören Andersson/Regeringskansliet

According to Åsa Regnér, the Nordic countries can enrich each other in this field. Men’s violence is a hot topic not least because of the MeToo campaign.
‘In Sweden, we have presented a new sex crime law that is based on the principles of voluntary participation and consent. I know that the other countries work in a similar way, I discuss this a lot with the other gender equality ministers. The MeToo campaign hasn’t looked quite the same in the different countries. It may also be interesting to discuss the reasons for this,’ she says.

Policy interventions to help foreign-born women enter the labour market

In the spring of 2018, the Swedish presidency will also arrange a conference on labour market participation, with a particular focus on foreign-born women. The underlying reason for the initiative is that women, and in particular women with immigrant background, have lower employment rates than men.

‘The aim of the conference is to discuss the obstacles to achieving the goal of gender equal participation in the labour market. What is being done in this area in the different countries, what the thoughts are about this issue and what tools have been effective,’ says Åsa Régner.
She mentions that Sweden has worked a lot with customised adult education and with the approach and attitudes of various public authorities. According to Åsa Regnér, all people must face the same demands and expectations, regardless of ethnic background, when it comes to work and participation in the labour force.
‘It shouldn’t be assumed that a woman from Syria who came here two years ago wants to be at home with her child. She should be considered an adult who wants to work and make a living just like everybody else in Sweden.’
According to Åsa Regnér, those who work in social and employment services should keep this in mind and ensure that women and men are treated as resources and not as ‘housewives’ and ‘breadwinners’.

Gender mainstreaming

Another issue that Åsa Régner thinks is important to highlight is how to advance the gender mainstreaming work. All the Nordic countries use gender mainstreaming as a strategy to achieve the nationally declared gender equality goals. In short, gender mainstreaming is a way to plan the work in an organisation so that no decision is ever made without prior consideration of the (im)balance in power between women and men.
‘In Sweden, we’re establishing a new gender equality agency because we think this work has produced results,’ says Åsa Régner.
This is an issue that the Swedish presidency wants to put on the table of the gender equality ministers.
‘We want to start a discussion. Do we believe this is the best way to push the gender equality work forward? Where do we go from here?’
What challenges do you see in the Nordic gender equality cooperation?
‘I don’t see a challenge between the countries, but in our need for self-reflection. The Nordic countries are rightly seen as good examples in terms of gender equality development, and they keep topping various gender equality rankings. However, it is important to look at ourselves from the outside, to realise that a lot of work remains, for example by the light of the MeToo campaign.
It’s about attitudes to women, the value of women and men in the labour market, and how to work against sexual harassment,’ says Åsa Régner.

Thanks for this year – we will be back in 2018! ill-710x414-ensam-tomtefagel-blabakgrund-snoNIKK will take a hiatus for the holidays between December 20th and January 8th. Our web and social media channels will not be updated during this time. 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!

Norway summarises an eventful year in the Nordic cooperation 2017: Norge

The leadership of the Nordic gender equality cooperation changes every year. In 2017, Norway has held the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers and has focused its efforts on the work against violence and hate speech. Norway has also given attention to gender equality in the labour market as well as men and gender equality.
Solveig Horne, Norway’s minister of children and equality, has been in charge of the Nordic cooperation in the area of gender equality during the year.

‘It has been an exciting year and I’ve learned a lot. The Nordic countries have come a long way when it comes to gender equality, but we still have some challenges to tackle. It’s great that we in the Nordic countries can share experiences and knowledge with each other,’ she says.

Focus on gender equality in the workplace

Norway started its presidency with a conference on the future of the labour market and the workplace.

‘This is an area where the Nordic countries are facing similar challenges, such as gendered choices of education and occupations. Another challenge concerns how to bring women with immigrant backgrounds into the labour market, which is an issue that we’re working on in the Nordic cooperation. I am pleased to see that Sweden will continue to work on this problem during its upcoming presidency,’ says Solveig Horne.

Solveig Horne. Photo: Ilja C. Hendel

Gender equality in the workplace was also the main theme of the meeting of the UN Women’s Commission in New York earlier this year. At the conference, the issue was discussed in a public panel discussion with the Nordic gender equality ministers.

‘There was a huge interest in the panel discussion. The room was filled to capacity and a lot of people weren’t even able to get in.’

The freedom of speech stands strong

The question of how online hate speech can be stopped is a hot topic in the Nordic countries. The rampant threats, hatred and sexist remarks expressed in online forums constitute a serious democratic problem, as it may silence voices in the public space. The issue was highlighted during both the Danish and the Finnish presidencies, and Norway picked up the baton in 2017. One big problem is that the legislations in the Nordic countries have not kept pace with the technological development, rendering them ineffective in this area. In June, Norway hosted a Nordic conference on the topic with an aim to present a legislative review. In parallel to this, information material targeting 10–18-year-old youth in the five Nordic countries has been developed.

‘The freedom of speech stands strong in the Nordic region and it is important that we keep protecting this privilege. We must be able to accept intense debate, but we will never tolerate intimidation and expressions of hate. A lot of people are hesitant to participate in the public debate. This is a serious democratic challenge, so it’s important to fight against hate speech in all age groups,’ says Solveig Horne.

The #MeToo campaign is spreading across the world. How can we end sexual harassment in the workplace?
‘Sexual harassment is illegal and unacceptable. I am glad the issue has received so much attention because of the #MeToo campaign. All public authorities, schools and employers have a responsibility to actively work against sexual harassment in their respective organisations. Later this month, I will meet with the labour market minister to discuss sexual harassment together with the social partners in Norway. We need to push this issue even harder. Maybe we should also consider giving priority to the prevention of sexual harassment in the new programme for the Nordic cooperation.’

Big potential for sharing of knowledge

In 2016, the Finnish presidency put a strong focus on best practices and solutions to break the cycle of violence in intimate relationships. Norway has continued this work by launching a project dealing with the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. The project examines how the Nordic countries are implementing select obligations under the Convention concerning the prevention of gender-related violence and the protection and support given to victims. The results of the project will be presented at a Nordic conference on violence 7–8 March 2018.

‘The aim of the project and the conference is to learn from each other’s work, and to develop and improve the efforts. The Nordic countries use different approaches to prevent and combat violence against women and violence in intimate relationships. This creates a strong potential for sharing of knowledge and experiences,’ Solveig Horne explains.

Next year, a new cooperation programme will be developed. Which issues are important to address?
‘Violence against women is one of our time’s biggest gender equality challenges. In recent months, we have also become aware that a large number of women experience serious sexual harassment, also in the workplace. The elimination of violence against women and men is included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Nordic Council of Ministers is working together to achieve the UN’s goals, and it is important that we also include them in the new cooperation programme.’

What is your most important experience from the Nordic cooperation?
‘The Nordic countries agree that women and men, girls and boys, should have equal opportunities. We use different approaches to reach this goal. We therefore have a lot to gain by looking beyond our national borders and over to our neighbours so we can learn from each other.’

Nordic meeting on gender equality in the public space Ten organisations from six Nordic projects that in one way or another work with gender equality issues in the public space recently met in Oslo for two days. Representatives from for example Norwegian anti-discrimination ombud, the Icelandic and Danish institutes for human rights and the film and television network WIFT Nordic were there to share their knowledge and experiences. The projects discussed at the meeting concerned everything from online violence to hate speech and the representation of women in the film industry.

Online violence a growing problem

In addition to listening to the presentations of each project’s cooperation, the attendees discussed for example what needs exist at the Nordic level when it comes to networks, knowledge and policy changes in the field. One of the challenges addressed was how the legislation and law enforcement are lagging behind in the Nordic countries when it comes to online violence, which causes many victims to experience a lack of legal uncertainty.

‘Online violence is a growing problem in all Nordic countries. The legislation has not kept up with the digital development and needs to be updated. We hope to continue our work in the network in order to develop best practice in the Nordic countries and organise a large Nordic conference. There is a need to continue sharing knowledge and learning from each other,’ said Lumi Zuleta from the Danish Institute for Human Rights, who presented a project titled Nordic Network Against Sexism and Hate Speech.

The project participants from Online Violence against Women in the Nordic Countries were of the same opinion:
‘Research shows that it is absolutely vital how you treat victims when they report the violations they have experienced. The police need training and resources to be able to investigate crimes of this type,’ said Ásta Jóhannsdóttir from the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association.

The #MeToo campaign an important factor

The representatives from WIFT Nordic, Jenni Kosko and Ingebjorg Torgersen, explained the importance of the ongoing #MeToo campaign for their work to improve women’s opportunities to pursue a career in the film industry.

‘The campaign has opened doors that we have knocked on for many years. Now it’s happening,’ said Jenni Kosko.

The benefits of cooperation at the Nordic level were also discussed at the network meeting. María Bjarnadóttir from the Icelandic Human Rights Centre emphasised the importance of physical meetings in Nordic cooperation.

‘Considering Iceland’s geographic location, these types of projects are of key importance to our ability to evolve. It is very valuable to get together and share knowledge with each other.’

Important lessons to learn

This was the second time NIKK organised a network meeting for fund projects. In line with the current programme for Nordic gender equality cooperation, this year’s theme was the public space. Last year, the Finnish Presidency identified violence as one of its prioritised areas, and this was also the theme of the network meeting in 2016.

‘For two intense days, we have listened to presentations of both completed and ongoing projects. There are important lessons to learn both for us at NIKK and for the projects. It’s exciting that there is so much interest in finding new networks and forms of cooperation,’ says Elin Engstrom, head of operations at Nordic Information on Gender

New report on Online Violence Against Women Online violence is an immediate and growing problem in Denmark, Iceland and Norway; a problem with real and sometimes severe consequences to the health and life of survivors”, according to author of the report Ásta Jóhannsdóttir from The Icelandic Women’s Rights Association.

She concludes that it is imperative that the Nordic countries start taking this issue seriously by updating existing legislation on online violence.

What were the main motivations for engaging in a study of cross-Nordic cases of online violence against women?

’We wanted to study online violence against women in a Nordic context because online violence is transnational problem. We wanted to see if the problems that we were facing in Iceland were similar to the problems faced by other Nordic countries. We were also especially interested to find out if there were any innovative solutions to online violence that had been tested in any of the Nordic countries, solutions that we could in turn use to advocate for change in Iceland.’

In what ways have the reports revealed similarities in cases and support actions across the Nordic countries?

’All the participants in the study experienced anxiety, unexplained pains, lack of energy and fatigue due to their experience with online violence. The participants who had experienced online sexual violence reported more severe consequences. Participants of online sexual violence whose images had been shared online without their consent reported a fear of repetition of the crime and that photos or videos would materialize online repeatedly. In some cases, there were financial consequences to online violence, with some survivors were forced to quit their jobs or school and others having to pay legal costs and expenses for psychological treatment.’

’The study also showed a clear lack of faith in the justice system. The majority of women who had experienced online violence had not sought justice for violence, claiming that they did not see the point in seeking help or pressing charges since the system did not work. Survivors of online violence often reported that the police or authorities did not take them seriously. The police acknowledge that their response to online violence has not been optimal and claim that a lack of resources and priority taken to other crime is to blame for inaction in the field.’

What are the main key distinctions that were noticed when engaging in the studies across Denmark, Iceland and Norway?

’Our study was a small qualitative research comprised of interviews with survivors, interviews with police and interviews with representatives of legal aid organizations. We interviewed survivors of online violence and analyzed their experiences of the violence with a focus on their experiences seeking justice for and protection from that violence.’

’We found that the way the police handled their cases had a meaningful effect on survivors’ experience, whether they felt that they gained control over the situation or not. Most of the participants did not experience that justice was being done in their cases. However, we found that survivors in Norway were more satisfied with their interaction with the police than in Denmark or Iceland.’

What are the largest conclusions to be taken from the report?

’We need to clarify legislation on violence and sexual violence to incorporate online violence and offer the police and judicial system tools to deal with this violence. We need to change procedures and attitudes within the police force and make sure that survivors of online violence are taken seriously, with the crimes against them being investigated. We also need to educate the public, especially young people, about the seriousness of online violence and its impact on women’s participation in online spaces.’

In what ways do you think that the report – and Nordic cooperation in general – can impact the global conversation regarding online violence against women?

’We in the Nordic countries pride ourselves in our emphasis on gender equality and online violence against women is a gendered crime. According to the European Commission, one in ten women has experienced sexual harassment or stalking through new technologies, and online harassment can and has been used to drive women and women’s rights activists offline.

The Nordic countries are all fairly prosperous and technologically advanced. We should be in the forefront of fighting against online violence, creating solutions which can serve as an inspiration to others. We have the resources and knowledge available to us. Now, we just need to do it!’

Almost DKK 3 million to gender equality cooperation! 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 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
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.

Men break with the norms to help propel gender equality 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.

New election may strengthen Iceland’s gender equality work 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.

Gender differences in health persist ‘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.

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.

Nordic conference draws attention to young people’s 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.

Film releases: Three new films about Nordic cooperation 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.

Focus on work and the labour market in this year’s 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.

Nordic women’s 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.

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.’

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.

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.’

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!

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.

‘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.’

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.

‘The media’s 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.

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.’

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.

‘We must create a society where women’s attire doesn’t 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 
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
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 
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 
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 
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?

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.’

Feminist Parties Moving Forward in the Nordic Countries 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.

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.’

Gender power structure and women’s situation in the 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.

‘One problem is the 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.’

Joint feminist struggle changed society in the 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.

Male dominance at 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.’

Iceland intent on eliminating the 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.

Nordic networks initiate a discussion about 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.’

‘Seriously, nothing is 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.

A gender quota law is not a 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.

Gender equality in the labour market – a 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.

A conference about gender equality in research environments 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.

Thanks for this year – we will be back in 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! 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!

Busy Finnish Presidency about to 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.

Gender Equality Fund Highlights Nordic Cooperation Against 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.

Focus on the perpetrators of 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.

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.

Apply for funding from the 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 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
Funding for research on gender equality in 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.

Different paths to gender equality in 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.

Human Trafficking Calls for 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.

Nordic Laws Against Online Threats And 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.’

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.

The design of parental insurance influences men’s use of it 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

‘Some bodies are 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.

Online Hate Speech and Perpetrators Scrutinised in this Year’s 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.

Demand for Legislation Against 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.


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

Where gender equality fits into the ILO’s future of 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

Wage discrimination on the agenda in 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.

Nordic summer school with focus on 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?

More Than 120 Organisations in 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.



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,, tel.: +46(0)766 22 92 41

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).

Gender inequality remains in 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.

New online course will develop the gender equality work in schools and 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.’


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

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.’

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

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.’

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.’


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

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,

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.

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,


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

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.

Lack of Legal Security for Victims of 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.’


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

Nordiska ministrar står upp för kvinnors yttrandefrihet och sexuella rättigheter 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.

Feminists from different continents give their take on the most 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.

Nordic Feminists Want to Put Racism on the 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?’


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

Difficult to identify Nordic investments in gender equality research 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.

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

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,

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.’


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

Suggestion: Nordic men’s 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.

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.’

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.

Research programme 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.

Women are 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.


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 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.

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

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.’

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.’

Tidskriften Lambda Nordica firar 20 år -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.


Wide Range of 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.

Teaching Preschool Workers to Analyse Gender Norms in Children’s Books Anne Winsnes Rødland

Reform, The Norweigen resource centre for men, has launched a new website – – 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 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 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.’

New Statistics Database for Nordic Gender Equality Dagfinn Høybråten. Press photo

Dagfinn Høybråten. Press photo

Now anybody can go to 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.

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.

New Nordic teaching material will learn students about women´s 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.


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

Abortion Hot Topic in 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.
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).

Rösträttskonferens 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.

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.’


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

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.

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.


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

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.

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.

‘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.’

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.

Migration in Grönland – 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.

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.

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.’

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 (

Kristín Ástgeirsdóttir. Photo: Cia Pak (

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.’

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

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.

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.

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.



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

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

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.

The Law Can’t 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.

Gender & Law: New Research Presented in Umeå 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.

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.

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.’

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.

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.’

’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.’

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.’


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.

’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 to send your boss an information package anonymously and name good employers that comply with the law. Both these services are used frequently.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

The article is previously published at]]>
Sweden Expands Gender Mainstreaming Programme The conference. Photo: Jämstä

The gender mainstreaming conference. Photo: Jämstä

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: Jämstä

Åsa Regnér at the gender mainstreaming conference. Photo: Jämstä

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.

What’s 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’
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

“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.’

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

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.

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 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.’

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


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.

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.

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.

’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 f