More Nordic woman ambassadors

The gender balance at the top of the diplomatic corps in the Nordic countries has improved significantly. More and more women now serve as ambassadors, breaking into a profession that was once a bastion of male domination, it has emerged from a major Nordic research project into gender and power in politics and business. The final report has just been published.The proportion of woman ambassadors has grown in the last 15 years from a very poor level to around 30% for Finland, Norway and Sweden, and 15% for Denmark and Iceland. The improvement is a direct result of deliberate attempts to promote equality in recruitment.

The research project Gender and Power in the Nordic Region is the first of its kind to map out and compare top posts in politics and business in the Nordic countries and in the autonomous territories of Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland. A total of 20 researchers studied progress and evaluated policy initiatives over the last 15 years.

The research was conducted by the Nordic Gender Institute (NIKK) on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Taking 40-60% as gender balance, the target has been reached in the Finnish, Icelandic and Swedish parliaments but not in Denmark and Norway, where the proportion of woman MPs is just under 40%.

"The number of women MPs has risen throughout the Region since the mid-1990s, except in Norway where it has remained on the same level," says Kirsti Niskanen, Head of Research at NIKK.

It also remains clear that women and men dominate different areas of policy. In the Norwegian parliament the gender split has even increased in recent years, although it has improved in the other countries.

"Norwegian MPs are sleeping on the job. It looks as if the small steps made towards gender balance they have taken their eye off the ball. At committee level the gender divide has actually grown wider," says Mari Teigen, one of the Norwegian researchers on the project.

The balance has improved most in the more visible political posts. Not as much attention is paid to gender balance in local government so the situation is worse than at national level.

The trend in business has not been as clear as it has been in politics over the last 15 years. A comparison of executives in listed companies shows that with very few exceptions business still remains a male bastion. The number of women on boards of directors varies from 7- 36 % in the Nordic countries. State companies tend to have a better gender balance as they are more directly subjected to equality legislation.

The big exception are Norway and Iceland, where quotas have been introduced for the boards of listed companies. The minimum quota for either gender is 40%.

The CEOs os private companies are still almost all men, however, even in countries where the number of women board members has increased. Women in top posts are mainly concentrated in the finance, service and health sectors.

Read the whole report at
The first part of the report presents the results from the five Nordic countries and the autonomous territories (Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland).
Part two consists of various analyses by leading researchers in the field from the Nordic countries. At a special theme edition of the NIKK magazine is also available. It features the main conclusions of the report.