SHE Conference 2023

                                                                                      * Sjekkes mot fremføring

I grew up in a family company.

Built up by my grandfather.

When I was a little boy, the company was run from our home – by both my parents.

It was the most natural thing, that my mother, Elisabeth, was a part of the business.

It was never a question of anything else.


That is unfortunately not the case, many other places.

Actually, no country in the world (!) can say they have achieved gender equality.

A right that should be considered a human right.


Dear everyone,

I am both honoured and humbled to be here today.

This is an extremely important meeting place.

To discuss important topics.

Thank you, SHE, for making this happen – year after year.


The Norwegian government pursues a proactive policy for equality:

of gender,

of sexual orientation,

of differing abilities,

of ethnicity,

and much more.

It’s important to see these aspects together.

To recognise the intersectionality of inequality:

How the structures of our society create overlapping forms of discrimination and marginalisation.


If you ask someone on the street, hardly anyone will say they are against equality.

But that is easier said than done.

We must follow these words with actions.

All of us.

No matter who we are.

What we do.

Or where we live.


In Norway, the women’s movement started long ago.

In 1981, we got our first female prime minister.

Gro Harlem Brundtland set big changes in motion.

She used her position to fight for women’s rights.

She had a women’s cabinet.

Consisting of no less than 40 per cent female ministers.

No government since has ever dared to have fewer!

She also followed up with policies.

And pushed for legislation.

The laws were enacted.

And after a while, things that used to be controversial were not so controversial any longer.

Today we have good welfare schemes, like childcare and parental leave.

They are considered as social and appropriate investments that allow both women and men to forge a career.


As Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry, I see it as my duty to fight for equality.

Last year, I proposed to introduce a quota of at least 40 per cent women for the boardrooms of large companies.

Will this be an international boost to get more women on boards?

Hopefully it will.

It should.

Cause it’s smart.

It’s beneficial.

It provokes diverse viewpoints.

Diverse thinking.

And new innovations.

Gender equality is actually good business!


So, why is it so hard to make a change?

And how can we make a change in the world when only half of its population is asked?

It is all about culture.

About attitude.

But it’s also about courage.

Being willing to make a change.


We better rethink.

And react.

Because the fourth industrial revolution requires not only new technologies and advances in innovation.

It requires human competence.

Regardless of gender,

of sexual orientation,

of differing abilities,

of ethnicity.


Dear friends,

We are facing major challenges in the years to come.

We have to fight poverty.

Cut emissions.

And develop green solutions for a more sustainable future.

To succeed, we need both men and women on board.

So let’s step up for gender equality.

Let’s step up for women's rights.

Let us inspire and encourage diversity in everything we do and everything we say – every single day.

Let us all be part of the change!

Thank you for your attention!