Gender Equality

The UNDP Human Development Index 2003 ranks Norway second only to Iceland in terms of its economic and political gender equality. Among other things, Norway has a high percentage of women serving as representatives in the Storting (Norwegian national assembly) or working in top-level executive positions. Women also make up a significant proportion of the general workforce. Although the fact remains that there is still a greater number of men appointed to political and public positions, there is a clear tendency towards increased female representation. The second Government formed by then Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1986 had the world’s highest proportion of women, with women holding eight of the eighteen ministerial positions.

Pursuant to the Act relating to Equal Status of 1978, all discrimination on the basis of gender is prohibited, except in cases in which it specifically promotes gender equality. Although the formal principle of equal pay for equal work has been achieved, there are indications that Norwegian women continue to lag somewhat behind their male counterparts in terms of salary levels.

Over the last century women have gained formal and genuine equality in most spheres. In 1888, married women were given the right to exercise fully independent legal capacity, and legislation of 1918 and 1927 placed them on an equal footing with men with regard to divorce, custody of any children and the right to property. In 1912, women gained access to most government administration positions, and as from 1938, they were allowed to serve in all positions apart from those pertaining to the clergy or the military. Full rights to serve in all official capacities were granted in 1952.

The entry of women onto the workforce and the subsequent changes in their financial status that began to take place at the end of the 1800s laid the foundation for a women’s political movement aimed at achieving full social rights for women in all spheres. As an organized movement, the women’s rights movement had its first breakthrough in the 1880s. In those early years, women fought for the right to vote, which they gained in 1913.  In the inter-war years, a number of women’s groups were established under the auspices of the trade unions. The 1960s gave new momentum to the women’s movement. The student rebellions, the burgeoning women’s rights movement abroad and the economic upswing, which increased the need for women on the workforce, renewed the interest of Norwegian women in gender equality and led to a movement more potent than ever before.

This new women’s movement was not primarily interested in achieving formal equality, but focused its efforts on the opportunity of women to freely practise their formal rights.

Source: Edited from Aschehoug and Gyldendal's Norwegian Encyclopedia / Kristin Natvig Aas   |   Share on your network   |   print