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Opinion: Together we can eliminate gender stereotypes

In 2014, the Nordic Council of Ministers marked the 40-year anniversary of the Nordic gender equality cooperation – a fruitful initiative that has played a significant role for the repeated success of the Nordic countries in various international gender equality rankings. The results speak for themselves: Nowhere in the world do men and women live as equal lives as in the Nordic region. Now it’s time to take another step forward.

Illustration: Emma Hanquist
 Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Throughout the four decades of Nordic gender equality cooperation, there has been a continuous focus on equal rights and equal status for women and men in the labour market. Attention has been given to the gender pay gap and elimination of traditional gender roles in the labour market. The possibility to combine paid work and family life has been of critical importance in this work. Today equal sharing of parental responsibilities between mums and dads is increasingly taken for granted, and the high employment rate among Nordic women is contributing largely to the Nordic welfare model.

Many steps remain for the Nordic countries to achieve gender equality in the business sector. Their parliaments, however, have come farther. The Nordic countries share many views and objectives, but often choose different methods to get the work done. That is why they can learn so much from each other.

In the next few years, the Nordic gender equality cooperation will change gears somewhat. In the cooperation programme for 2015–2018, we want to give particular focus to gender equality in the public space – because democracy is not just a matter of having the right to vote, it’s also about being able to participate in the public debate.

Words contribute to form our reality, and when we begin to allow the use of belittling and disrespectful rhetoric and remarks, the practice soon becomes generally accepted. We simply don’t want to be part of such development, but instead work against it, in the same way as we have worked against for example domestic violence for many years. As we also know that gender equality contributes to sustainable growth, we want to give increased attention to gender equality as a driver of welfare and innovation in the Nordic countries.

Nordic gender equality policy has so far focused mostly on the situation of women in society, politics and the labour market. In order to eliminate the stubborn boundaries between so-called male- and female-oriented occupations and educational choices, the male perspective has to be included in the work. We need to find more methods to combat the stereotypical preconceptions that keep affecting the lives and life choices of women and men, boys and girls. In the coming years, we will therefore work hard to facilitate men’s and boys’ active participation in the gender equality work and the gender equality debate.

Manu Sareen. Pressbild
 Manu Sareen. Press photo

The new programme for the gender equality sector in the Nordic governmental cooperation does not imply a change of direction of Nordic gender equality policy. It is our way to concretise the cooperation between the Nordic governments in the area of gender equality. The programme has been developed with the assistance of both theparliamentarians in the Nordic Council and gender equality actors from around the Nordic region, and is therefore broadly supported. Backed by this support, we are also sharing our experiences in the UN and other international arenas.

Gender equality themes addressed by the Nordic countries tend to spread and find their way to national agendas also outside the Nordic region. However, the good experiences and examples need to be spread in our own sphere as well – in politics, in the workplace and in people’s homes. By together letting the principles of gender equality guide the way we think and act, we – politicians and citizens – can bring our countries even closer to the ultimate goal of a just and democratic Nordic region.

Updated 15 February 2024