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‘One problem is the salaries’

Nordic representatives will contribute to the international debate on gender equality in the workplace and the labour market at CSW61, the theme of which is Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work. But how effective are the Nordic solutions? Nordic Information on Gender talked to Lynn Roseberry, one of the experts involved in the event.

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.’

Updated 23 January 2020