Speech/statement | Date: 2010-03-20
Gender equality is good business for a country. OECD declared in 2007 that “gender equality strengthens long-term economic development”. The former European Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said that “Women are driving job growth in Europe and helping us reach our economics target”.
Gender equality is good business
Gender equality is good business for a country.
OECD declared in 2007 that “gender equality strengthens long-term economic development”. The former European Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said that “Women are driving job growth in Europe and helping us reach our economics target”.
Clear scientific evidence confirms that the participation of women and girls in education, work life and the economy makes a significant difference in the gross domestic product (GNP), effectiveness, innovation and competitive edge!
According to the CIA fact book, Norway has a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita 20 per cent higher than that of the United States.
And if you believe that this is because of oil, take a look at the comparable figures of other oil producing countries, like Russia, Venezuela or Angola.
It is because we have sound family and gender policies, as part of a sound economic policy!
The greatest gains countries can achieve, economically as well politically, come with empowering women, ensuring equal opportunity, health care, and increasing the ratio of women’s active participation in paid working life.
At he same time we must ensure that fathers take more responsibility in child raising, if not we stand the risk of falling fertility rates.
In the seventies, only 52 percent of Norwegian women were in the workforce. Today around 80 percent of women are in the workforce. And this combined with one of the highest – and increasing - fertility rates in Europe – 1,98!
Women’s participation has increased in Norway because we – business, government and society at large – wanted it to happen. And we took adequate decisions to make it happen.
Norway has really invested in gender equality. The lesson learnt so far is that gender equality actually pays off.
My main point is that gender equality is not merely a matter of doing the right thing in a social and moral perspective. Gender equality is necessary to ensure sustainable economic growth and development.
Gender equality is about both genders and we will not come further without acknowledging that gender equality is also about men. Men have to be involved in the gender equality project
- because it will improve their lives
- and because more men than women are in positions where they can have the power to change society
Gender equality can only be achieved when men and women work together towards the same goals. Men and women can - and do - agree that traditional masculinities and femininities have aspects that need to be changed.
Gender equality is about changing attitudes! We do not need stereotypes that reproduce unwanted inequalities.
What is men and equality about? During the last years, many changes in men’s role have occurred – especially within fatherhood. Facts from surveys in Norway show that both men and women with children would like to work shorter hours to spend more time with the family, if they could afford it.
Quality time with children is now an important issue for men and women alike.
Norway invented the father’s quota in 1993. Our parental leave scheme reserves today 10 weeks for the obligatory, nontransferable father’s quota. 90 per cent of the fathers are taking their obligatory 10 weeks, and the Cabinet intends to expand the father’s quota to 14 weeks.
The facilitating measures of the Government are working - and male attitudes are changing along with it.
But still, men do spend less time together with their own children than women do.
In other areas, we see few changes even if women have entered previous male dominated arenas in the work life. There has been little or no increase in the number of men employed in health and care giving sectors. In the education sector, men are scarcer today than 15 years ago. In early childhood education and care we have, however, seen an increasing number of male staff due to public campaigns and awareness-raising.
Men are also more prone to accidents, maybe due to traditional gender roles. They are over-represented in power positions, and have more income than women. But they also top the statistics for violence, criminality, suicide and unemployment.
Eight out of ten pupils with serious behavioural problems in schools are boys. Boys also drop out more often from upper secondary education.
Traditional masculinities are commonly associated with a number of positive values and characteristics. There is however, reason to be critical of some behavioural features traditionally associated with masculinity. This applies particularly to any behaviour harmful to others.
Violence towards women and children or other men, including hate - violence towards homosexuals, are examples. To eradicate negative aspects of some of the traditional masculinity roles, would serve children, women and men. For example there is far greater openness about sexual orientation the past 15 years.
Diversity as an important value has broad support in the population. This fact influences all boys and men and men´s role. But, there are great social differences between groups of men. The part of the Norwegian population born in non-western countries has increased substantially over the last 15 years. Immigrant men may have different needs, roles or challenges than men born in Norway and we need to include them in our equality project.
While women’s access to power position has improved, men’s potential for giving care should be stimulated. Care giving constitutes the very opposite of violence. It is an important skill for rising children, at home as well as in Early Childhood Education and schools. Within the field of care for the elderly, as well as in nursing in general, men can play a significant role.
Gender equality implies a change and redistribution of power. Men have to share, or even give up some of their traditional privileges and authority.
Such a change on distribution of power will benefit men and women, family, fertility and society at large.
Thank you for your attention!