How Nordic Countries are Minimizing the Gender Gap

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SEATTLE, Washington — For the past couple of years, Nordic countries have made phenomenal progress in elevating the status of women to ensure gender equality is achieved. In fact, all five Nordic countries—Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Denmark—hold the top spots in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report for gender equality. This is largely due to women’s significant political representation and specific policies implemented that promote gender inclusivity.

Female Leadership

Currently, most of the Nordic countries possess female leaders or prime ministers that are successfully leading their economy, especially in its recovery from COVID-19. Additionally, at least 40% of Parliaments have female leaders. In particular, 46% of Sweden’s Parliament and half of the seats in its government’s cabinet are held by women. Similarly, in Finland, more than 47% of the parliamentarians are women and currently has the world’s youngest female prime minister, Sanna Marin. Also, to ensure that women are politically represented in the government, these countries—specifically Sweden—enact quotas that motivate and prepare women for these powerful political positions.

Encouraging women to pursue political positions is crucial in narrowing the gender gap. When more women are in positions of power, they are more likely to implement legislation and policies that promote gender inclusivity. For example, the Gini coefficient metric system used to measure income inequality (where 1 is complete inequality and 0 is complete equality) calculated an average of 0.25 in Nordic countries. However, in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, income inequality is measured as above 0.30. This is because in Nordic countries female leaders encourage women to occupy jobs. In fact, an analysis made by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that more than 75% of women across all five Nordic countries have jobs.

Job Opportunities for Women

Many women occupy jobs in countries such as Finland and Norway because there are implemented policies that benefit women in the workforce. For example, in Finland, a law was passed where both parents are guaranteed paid parental leave for at least 14 months. With the additional paternal leave, mothers are less obliged to stay at home and are given more opportunities to obtain jobs. This incentives fathers to provide for childcare, meanwhile allowing mothers to explore jobs and career paths in the given time. Studies have shown that with this policy, countries like Sweden can see a 7% increase in the mother’s annual salary with each additional month of paternal leave taken.

Following the principle of equal pay, Iceland implemented an effective law ensuring companies prove that they provide equal pay among its employees every three years. What is especially unique about this policy is it leaves the responsibility up to the company rather than the employee, which has been proven to be ineffective in the past. Even holding the number one spot on the Economic World Forum for gender equality, Iceland still took accountability for its 16% pay gap among its employees. By ensuring that more than 25 companies abide by this recent legislation, Iceland—along with the other Nordic countries—significantly narrowed the gender gap in impendent situations, such as wage disparity.

If many other countries, such as the United States, follow Nordic countries’ examples in minimizing the gender gap, they would be able to reap the many benefits from gender equality. For example, if the United States closed its gender gap, it will be able to receive an additional $1.2 trillion into the economy. By enacting policies and providing job opportunities that promote gender inclusivity, many nations will be able to further narrow their gender gap in the future.

—Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Commons Wikimedia

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