Japan Women's innovative network

Innlegg ved fiskeriminister Elisabeth Aspaker, 6.nov 2015

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends.

Ohayou gozaimasu [Åhaiåå gådsaimas], good morning.

First, let me express my gratitude and thanks to Innovation Norway for organizing and inviting me to this event.

 

And on behalf of the Norwegian government – a warm welcome to this esteemed group of Japanese businesswomen.

J-WIN is – in collaboration with the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise – doing a tremendous job in putting a focus on female participation in professional life.

I am grateful that you have asked me to share some thoughts on diversity and gender equality in business.

 

As a politician and a woman – these are issues that concern me deeply.

They are also issues that concern the Norwegian government, and we are approaching equality in Norwegian professional life from several angles:

  • Just recently we introduced a White paper on equality. We have identified that there's a potential for Norwegian businesses to increase female labour participation, either as board member, leaders or entrepreneurs.
  • We have also just recently launched a Plan for entrepreneurship, which includes several measures to increase gender diversity among Norwegian entrepreneurs.

This is very important, as Norway scored fairly low on female entrepreneurship in the 2013 Global Entrpreneurship Monitor-report.

  • And finally, in companies where the state has ownership interests, all aspects of CSR – including gender equality – are areas of priority.

 

There is a lot I could share with you about Norway and the government’s visions and policies for gender equality in our industries and enterprises.

What is most interesting is perhaps why we are doing it.

One of the most important pillars for our competitiveness is what is in the heads and in the hands of our population.

This is particularly relevant as we see the decreasing contribution from our oil and gas industry to the Norwegian economy, given the current oil price.

It goes without saying that, as an open economy dependent upon international trade, we have everything to gain by cultivating our knowledge and skills.

If we are to take advantage of our human resources, it is crucial that we include the entire population, regardless of age, background and not least gender.

 

I feel that I have more than enough backing to say that gender equality is a tool for growth, innovation and future success. As an example, in their report "Diversity Matters", McKinsey concludes that companies with more or less even gender equality have fifteen percent greater chance of achieving good financial results than the industry average.

In other words: It's not feminism, it's business. What is good for women is also good for our economy.

Over the past four decades, women’s participation in the workforce has increased substantially in Norway. It is a strength of our economy. This has been achieved through political will and measures.

Examples are paid maternity leave and full day-care coverage.

Today, two-thirds of Norwegian women are employed.

Women now outnumber men at our universities and colleges.

We hope that we in the future will achieve similar results among our entrepreneurs , business leaders and board members.

 

In achieving equality I believe every nation must find its direction.

I am pleased that Japan is finding its direction and taking important steps in harvesting the full potential of all of its population.

As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said, he "will provide the architecture possible to encourage women to break through the glass ceiling". I hope that the "Womenomics" efforts from the Abe-administration will bear fruits.

As you know, Japan and Norway have a long history as business and trading partners.

And as in all collaboration relationships and partnerships – we can take advantage of each other’s strengths and learn from each other.

I hope equality will be one of those areas where we can learn from each other.

Some common ground in promoting more diversity are:

  • Smart policies, adjusted to the needs of individual countries.
  • Better structures so that career and family life can be combined,
  • And finally, the importance of the cooperation between the private and public sector.

 

On a final note, let me say how thrilled I am to be visiting Japan at the end of this month. I especially look forward to take part in the Global Sushi Challenge, the largest ever international competition for sushi chefs. Luckily, I won't be competing!

And speaking of Japanese-Norwegian relations and sushi. This year it is thirty years since Norwegian salmon was introduced in Japanese sushi – by a small Norwegian fisheries delegation in Tokyo.

As sushi became a global trend in the following years, this has proved to be one of the most important innovations for our economy. Today, Norwegian salmon can be found on over half of the world's sushi plates.

This story tells us the importance of innovation – and that huge innovations can be made by a few people.

That is why we have to make the foundation for innovations much broader, using the capabilities and skills of our entire population – men and women.

You are all representatives in achieving this goal. I wish you the best of luck in your future work paving the way for others and being important role models.

Domo arigatou gozaimashita [dååmåå arigatåå gåzaimasjta];

Thank you;