Gender Equality in the Nordic Countries

Yesterday, ambassadors from the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) to the US held a “Twitter Town Hall” using the hashtag, #AskNordicAmbs to discuss their policies on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Questions from users included topics such as education, foreign policy, the gender pay gap, parental leave, and political participation.  Just to give you a general idea of where the countries stand in terms of gender equality, here are the top 20 from the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Gender Gap Report. (Note: The US is ranked 51st out of 149)

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After the “Town Hall” was over, I thought it would be useful to share information about gender equality in the countries in one place. The information is not comprehensive; instead, it provides more of an introduction and general knowledge.

Act on Gender Equality, 2000
– “The purpose of this Act is to promote gender equality, including equal integration, equal influence and Gender Equality in all functions in society on the basis of women’s and men’s equal status. The purpose of the Act is also to counteract direct and indirect discrimination on the ground of gender and to counteract sexual harassment.”

Denmark’s National Action Plan for implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security 2014 – 2019
– “Women are first and foremost a great resource for their communities and countries – and in all efforts to achieve sustainable development and peace.”

European Institute for Gender Equality

Income and Gender Equality in Denmark
– “Women in Denmark generally work outside the home and pursue careers while raising a family, assisted by the country’s generous parental leave and tax-subsidised daycare.”

Minister for Fisheries and Equal Opportunities and Minister for Nordic Cooperation
– Part of the Minister’s responsibilities is gender equality

Parental Leave
– “In total, parents in Denmark get 52 weeks of paid parental leave.”

Statistics: Gender Equality
– “A series of selected key indicators which illustrate some of the differences and similarities between the current life situation of men and women.”


European Institute for Gender Equality

Finland: Pioneer in Gender Equality
– “Finland was the first country to grant full political rights to women in 1906. For more than 100 years women have had active roles in working life and decision making.”

Gender Equality in Finland, 2018 (Report)
– Includes milestones in gender equality as well as data in eleven different areas.

Maternity, Paternity, and Parental Leave
– “Under the Employment Contracts Act, an employee is entitled to a period of leave during which he or she can receive a maternity, special maternity, paternity or parental allowance. Maternity leave is 105 week days.”

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health: Gender Equality
– “The MSAH plays a key role in promoting gender equality by preparing legislation, monitoring the situation of gender equality nationwide, coordinating the development of activities on gender equality and promoting the implementation of the objectives of the government’s equality policy.”

National Institute for Health and Welfare: Gender Equality
– “In Finland, the promotion of gender equality has been considered important in many different areas of life.”

Statistics Finland: Gender Equality

Women, Peace, and Security: Finland’s National Action Plan, 2018-2021
– “Through the NAP, Finland aims to contribute effectively to sustainable peace by strengthening women’s participation.”

Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men, No. 10/2008
– “The aim of this Act is to establish and maintain equal status and equal opportunities for women and men, and thus promote gender equality in all spheres of the society.”

Gender Equality in Iceland
– “Icelanders takes pride in their fellow Icelanders who do well.”

Iceland’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security
– “Gender equality goes hand in hand with stability and peace in the international community.”

Maternity/Paternity Leave and Parental Leave
– “The parents of a child are entitled to paid leave at childbirth, when adopting a child and when becoming a permanent foster parent. They receive holiday allowance or childbirth allowance, depending on their situation in the labour market.”

Parliamentary Resolution on a Gender Equality Action Programme for the Period 2016-2019


Action Plan for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Foreign and Development Policy 2016-2020
– “This Action Plan gives priority to education for girls, women’s political and economic empowerment, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. Progress in all these areas is crucial if girls and women are to be empowered and have the freedom and opportunities to shape their own lives.”

Gender Equality Act
– “The purpose of this Act is to promote equality irrespective of gender.”

Gender Equality in Practice: Equal opportunities for women and men
– “In this White Paper, the Government will address challenges to achieving equality between women and men. The Government will focus its efforts on five areas in which equality still faces formidable challenges…These areas are childhood and education, working life, health, business and industry, and protection against violence.”

Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion: Gender Equality
– “The Ministry deals with gender equality in working life, women and power, and men and equality. It is a driving force in the work of developing a gender perspective in the national budget.”

Parental Leave
– “There is no single agreed name for Maternity or Parental leave in Norway.”

Women and Men in Norway, 2018
– “Statistics Norway presents statistics on women and men in Norway within 14 different areas of society.”

Women, Peace, and Security, 2019-2022
– “Norway will have a more systematic focus on women, peace and security in our efforts to support the implementation of peace agreements, strengthen the gender perspective in international operations and missions, and increase our efforts for women and girls in our humanitarian work.”


European Institute for Gender Equality

Feminist Foreign Policy
– “Equality between women and men is a fundamental aim of Swedish foreign policy. Ensuring that women and girls can enjoy their fundamental human rights is both an obligation within the framework of our international commitments, and a prerequisite for reaching Sweden’s broader foreign policy goals on peace, and security and sustainable development.”

Gender Equality in Sweden
– “Gender equality is one of the cornerstones of Swedish society. The aim of Sweden’s gender equality policies is to ensure that everyone enjoys the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all areas of life.”

Government Policy: Gender Equality
– “Gender equality is equality between women and men, who should have the same opportunities to shape society and their own lives.This area includes issues such as power, influence, finances, education, work and physical integrity.”

Parental Benefits

Sweden’s National Action Plan for the Implementation of the UN Security Council’s Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security 2016–2020
– “Sweden’s feminist foreign policy has a clear focus on supporting women as actors for peace and security. The influence and meaningful participation of women in peace and security is both about rights and effectiveness.”

Women and Men in Sweden, 2018
– Includes milestones and statistics in ten different areas.

Women in National Parliaments

All five Nordic countries are in the top 25 (out of 193).

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Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union


While each country still has work to do in regards to gender equality and women’s empowerment, it’s pretty easy to see why the Nordic countries continually rank high among the best countries to be a woman.  American policymakers and elected officials would do well to look to the Nordic countries for inspiration.

Finally, if you happen to know of a link that should be added, please leave a comment.

Thanks for reading.


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