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Nordic focus on the gender effect of parental leave at CSW63

It’s only when women and men share family responsibilities equally that we can achieve economic gender equality. This is the message of the Nordic ministers for gender equality at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, CSW63. Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir will be initiating joint Nordic efforts to reach the UN Agenda 2030’s goal on gender equality.

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.

Focus on men and gender equality in Tórshavn in June

In June, the Nordic region will join forces on gender equality as they meet for two days of events in Tórshavn in the Faeroe Islands. The focus will be the role of men in promoting gender equality and its development in Iceland and the Faeroe Islands. The Icelandic presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers together with the Prime Minister’s Office in Iceland and the Ministry of Social Affairs in the Faroe Islands will play host to these events.

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.

#MeToo Moving forward: International conference on combatting sexual harassment

What impact has the #MeToo movement had so far and how do we move forward? These are some of the issues discussed at the international conference #MeToo Moving forward in Reykjavik 17-19 of September. The conference is a part of the Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2019 and is organised in collaboration with RIKK, Institute for Gender, Equality and Difference at the University of Iceland.

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.

The world of work tomorrow the focus at Future of Work conference in Reykjavik

The Future of Work conference to be held in Iceland in April will take up pressing issues concerning the world of work in the future. The Future of Work is a joint conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Icelandic presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers will be hosting the conference, where a large number of international actors in the field will gather in the Harpa Concert and Conference Centre in Reykjavik on 4–5 April.

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

On 1 March, applications will open for funding from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund. Approximately DKK 2 million will be distributed to Nordic gender equality projects in 2019.

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 countries are taking some fresh new approaches to gender equality with their new cooperation programme, being launched today, which sets the framework for gender equality efforts for the years 2019–2022.

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

The Me Too movement had just erupted when Sweden took over the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers one year ago. And its impact has been visible in Nordic cooperation during the year. Sexual harassment has been on the agenda and gender equality has had extra priority.
“It’s important now not to lose this momentum,” says Sweden’s Minister for Gender Equality Lena Hallengren.

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

How has the Me Too movement influenced the political agenda in the Nordic countries and the Baltic States? A recent survey by Nordic Information on Gender, NIKK, shows that these countries have taken a number of initiatives to deal with and prevent sexual harassment. These range from tougher legislation and expanding the remit of the responsible authorities to broad-scale information campaigns.

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”

The #MeToo movement shifted the spotlight from the victims of sexual harassment to the perpetrators. But what does the management of a company do when it happens? This is the question addressed in a new Nordic report on sexual harassment in working life.

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

Several Nordic countries have an ambition to increase the number of male childcare workers. Norway has been more successful than the others. Since 1990, the number of men employed in the childcare sector has increased fivefold. At present, nine per cent of all childcare workers are men, which is a significantly higher share than in the other Nordic countries.

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.

Updated 14 October 2019