The Nordic countries are often presented as the countries with the greatest level of equality in the world. It is correct to say that in a number of international rankings the Nordic countries score better than many other countries. However, if we examine more closely the relationships between the genders in the Nordic countries and in individual Nordic countries, we see that equality still has not been achieved. Inequality is still present in these countries.

Several fields stand out with unreasonable gender differences. The Nordic ministers in charge of equality have agreed that their countries will work together to increase gender equality on nine issues:

  1. 1. Power and influence in politics and the financial world
  2. 2. Representation in media
  3. 3. Sexualisation of the public space
  4. 4. Gender-based hateful utterances in the public space
  5. 5. Education and research
  6. 6. The labour market
  7. 7. Division of work and responsibility for income and family
  8. 8. Gender-based violence in close relationships
  9. 9. Access to health services and access to good health and quality of life

The Nordic ministers in charge of equality will also cooperate in other ways to address equality more clearly for boys and men in the Nordic countries. For more information read Nordic co-operation programme on gender equality 2015–2018

Inequality in the labour market

Many areas of the labour market are gender divided. Few women are working in top positions in private enterprises, and few women are working as electricians and in other skilled crafts. In care and education positions men are strongly under-represented. Gender division is one of the reasons for pay differences between women and men. The fact there is such a small proportion of men who train in health service vocations makes it difficult for men to choose this career at all.

Inequality in day care and primary school

Repeated studies show that employees in day care centres and primary schools treat girls and boys differently. In various ways traditional gender norms are confirmed, for example by the ways teachers speak and address the children, the way the teaching is organised and the choice of activities. The differential treatment contributes to girls and boys developing different competencies. School and day care are sources of the development of gender differences between children. Other important sources of influence are what the children inherit (genes), parents, popular culture, literature and peer groups.

The mandate for gender equality in education

Day care centres, primary and lower secondary schools and preschool education in the Nordic countries shall undertake to treat girls and boys equally. Moreover, these educational institutions should contribute to equality in society. The equality mission is specified in each country’s education Acts, curricula and action plans.

Here is an example from Sweden showing the requirements laid down in the preschool curriculum:

“Importance shall be placed on the way adults deal with girls and boys, as well as the requirements and expectations for how they contribute to shaping the perceptions of girls and boys as to what is feminine and masculine. Preschool should counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles. Girls and boys should have the same opportunities in preschool to test and develop abilities and interests without restrictions imposed by stereotypical gender roles.” (Preschool curriculum, Revised 2010)

Example from Denmark of a public action plan:

“Target: Day care centres, schools and educational institutions shall lead play, teach and develop children in a way that is liberated from set gender roles.

Target: All young persons shall have the opportunity to choose the education they wish without being confined by traditional expectations for girls and boys, and greater attention must be focused on gender and cultural barriers.” (Perspective and action plan 2007. Ministry of Equality)

Example from Denmark of requirements for teacher education:

All early childhood teacher education programmes shall offer the module Gender, sexuality and diversity. The module lasts seven weeks and is compulsory for all the students. “A key element in the module is social psychology and sociology knowledge on how individual, social, institutional and cultural factors structure, enable and reproduce personal identity, gender, norms , values and opportunities to act in a diverse culture. This knowledge illuminates how gender and identity flourish, are negotiated and dealt with in educational practice.” (Study programme University College of Sjælland Professionsbachelor som Pædagog 2014)

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