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An introduction to The Nordic Gender Equality Paradox

Nordic societies seem to have it all: a historic tradition of women’s entrepreneurship, modern welfare states that provide support to working parents, outstanding levels of women’s participation in the labour market and populations that strongly support the idea of gender equality. It therefore comes as a surprise that Nordic countries, in one international ranking after another, are shown to have few women among top-managers and business owners. Another surprise is that the three Baltic countries, which have more conservative societies and a more small-government approach than their Nordic neighbors, have more women managers, top executives and business owners.

In this book, Dr. Nima Sanandaji shows that the apparent paradox has a simple answer: Nordic welfare states are – unintentionally – holding women back. Public sector monopolies and substantial tax wedges limit women’s progress in the labour market. Overly generous parental leave systems encourage women to stay home rather than work. Welfare state safety nets discourage women from self-employment. On the other hand, the much-avowed affirmative action laws in Norway have not helped further women’s career possibilities.

Nordic gender egalitarianism, rooted in the Viking era, deserves to be admired by the rest of the world. However, it needs to be combined with a more free-market approach to truly blossom in the 21st century. Perhaps also in this regard the Nordics can teach the rest of the world valuable lessons about gender equality

 

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QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE NORDIC GENDER EQUALITY PARADOX

QUICK FACT 1 – NORDIC SOCIETIES HAVE A HISTORY OF GENDER EQUALITY

Already during the time of the Vikings, Norse societies stood out by granting women more freedom and power than other parts of Europe. The uniquely gender equal Nordic culture seems to have persisted throughout the Middle Ages to the modern era. Sweden was for example a pioneer when it came to open up early capitalism for women’s participation. The World Value Survey shows that Nordic societies also today have uniquely gender equal norms.

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QUICK FACT 2 – NORDIC COUNTRIES HAVE SURPRISINGLY FEW WOMEN AT THE TOP

One could expect the Nordic societies to be leading when it comes to the share of women at top. After all, these countries combine a gender equal culture with a high participation rate of women in the labour market and policies formed to encourage working mothers. However various international rankings all paint the same picture: there are surprisingly few women who reach managerial positions in the Nordics, particularly so in private enterprise. For example, while 32% of directors and chief executives in private enterprise are women in Eastern and Central Europe, the share is only 13% in the Nordics.

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womensPercentageShareOfAllManagers

QUICK FACT 3 – THE AMERICAN MODEL LEADS TO MORE WOMEN AT THE TOP

It is not in Nordic welfare states that we find most women on top, but rather in the free-market systems that exist in the United States, New Zealand, Australia and other Anglo-Saxon economies. The only Nordic country which has relatively many women on top is Iceland, which is the country in the region which has the smallest welfare state. Evidently, something in the Nordic welfare state is holding women back when compared to the more market based American model.

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QUICK FACT 4 – NORWAY’S GENDER QUOTAS HAVE BEEN ANYTHING BUT A SUCCESS

Norway’s gender quotas are admired by many abroad. Yet, researchers have shown that they have been anything but a success. As quotas were introduced, the management of firms deteriorated. The reason is that less experienced people were put on boards. More importantly, the quotas have not been able to have any broader effect on the gender gap in wages. They have merely benefited a small group of elite women who have been given board positions due to the quotas. According to the Nordic Labour Journal Norway had no female CEO:s in its 60 largest firms, even though 8 years had passed since the quotas had been introduced. The Nordic need market reforms, not government mandates, to boost women’s careers.

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QUICK FACT 5 – LARGE WELFARE STATES ARE (UN)INTENTIONALLY HOLDING WOMEN BACK

It can seem as a paradox why Nordic societies – which are the most gender equal in the world in many regards – have few women on top of the business world. As this book shows, research literature points to a simple reason for this apparent paradox: the welfare state is unintentionally holding women back. Public sector monopolies, high tax wedges and welfare state policies such as generous parental leave are limiting women’s opportunities on the marketplace, and encouraging them to work few hours. Privatizations and tax reductions on the other hand have boosted women’s progress in the Nordics.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Nima Sanandaji is a Swedish author of Kurdish origin, who has previously written two books and numerous papers on women’s career progress and entrepreneurship. He is the president of the European Centre for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform (ECEPR) and also associated researcher at the Centre for Policy Studies and the Centre for the Market Reform of Education. His previous writings, such as Scandinavian Unexceptionalism, Renaissance for Reforms and SuperEntrepreneurs have been cited by international media and translated to various languages.

Follow Nima on Twitter

For interview requests, please contact him at nima@sanandaji.se or +46733960481.

 

International Media

Michael Barone commentary: Clinton’s ‘equal pay’ argument is unnecessary | 2016-06-08
That's certainly been the effect in Scandinavia, where such policies have been carried furthest. The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that ''many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top.''

Państwo opiekuńcze niszczy kariery kobiet | 2016-06-05

We don’t need no equality police. Able women know the free market is their friend | 2016-06-03
When will feminists get it? When will the penny drop that their complaints are futile and that women who want to get on are better left to fight it out in the free market?

Free market feminism #4: On the gender time gap | 2016-06-02
And what happens when policies encourage women to work less hours than men? The simple answer is that women fall behind men in their careers.

Svenska modellen är en kvinnofälla | 2016-05-30
Boken öppnar för nya ingångar till en diskussion som tenderar att fastna i gamla hjulspår om representativitet och krav på kvotering. Det gör Sanadajis bidrag värdefullt.

Svenska modellen är en kvinnofälla | 2016-05-30
Förhoppningsvis kommer boken att leda till en vidare diskussion om hur jämställdheten faktiskt kan öka i Sverige.

Free market feminism #3: how Anglo-Saxon capitalism promotes women’s careers | 2016-05-26
If the Nordic countries – with their uniquely gender equal cultures and history – where to adapt a bit more of Anglo Saxon style capitalism, perhaps they would have greater success in breaking the glass-ceiling.

Likestillings­politikken gagner ikke karrierekvinner | 2016-05-25
Ser man på andelen kvinnelige toppledere, er avstanden enda større. Her er snittet i de baltiske landene 31 prosent, mens Norden bare har 13 prosent.

Barone: Clinton Would Make Pay Gap Bigger | 2016-05-24
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that "many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top." - See more at: http://www.iwf.org/blog/2800296/-Barone:-Clinton-Would-Make-Pay-Gap-Bigger#sthash.uMbfDV5y.dpuf

Clinton Policies to End Pay Gap Would Just Make It Larger | 2016-05-24
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that “many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top.”

Clinton Policies to End Pay Gap Would Just Make It Larger | 2016-05-24
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that "many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top."

Clinton Policies to End Pay Gap Would Just Make It Larger | 2016-05-24
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that "many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top."

Clinton Policies to End Pay Gap Would Just Make It Larger | 2016-05-24
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that "many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top."

BARONE: Clinton Policies to End Pay Gap Would Just Make It Larger | 2016-05-24
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that “many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top.”

Clinton Policies to End Pay Gap Would Just Make It Larger | 2016-05-24
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that "many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top."

Clinton Policies to End Pay Gap Would Just Make It Larger | 2016-05-24
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that “many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top.”

Clinton Insurance policies to Finish Pay Hole Would Simply Make it Bigger | 2016-05-24
The impact, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that “many ladies work, however seldom within the non-public sector and rarely sufficient hours to achieve the highest.”

Clinton Policies to End Pay Gap Would Just Make It Larger | 2016-05-24
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that "many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top."

Michael Barone: Clinton policies to end pay gap would just make it larger | 2016-05-23
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that “many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top.”

Michael Barone: Clinton policies to end pay gap would just make it larger | 2016-05-23
The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that “many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top.”

Michael Barone: Clinton policies to end pay gap would just make it larger | 2016-05-22
That's certainly been the effect in Scandinavia, where such policies have been carried farthest. The effect, Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji writes, is that "many women work, but seldom in the private sector and seldom enough hours to reach the top."

THE SWEDISH GENDER EQUALITY PARADOX | 2016-05-19
Either we must dare to reform the Nordic welfare model, or accept that a country famous for its progressive policies will continue to have shamefully few women on top.

SCANDINAVIAN WOMEN DO WELL, EXCEPT AT THE TOP | 2016-05-17
As is clear, an expansive welfare state may be good for some things, but expanding the ranks of managers for women is not one of them. The feminist heritage that dates back to the age of the Vikings needs to be combined with a more free-market and small government approach if Nordic societies are to fulfill their gender equal potential.

The Nordic Gender Equality Paradox | 2016-05-11
It is nonetheless a consistently interesting take which revises a lot of the stereotypes many people have about the Nordic countries as being so absolutely wonderful for gender egalitarianism in every regard.

Reformera föräldraförsäkringen för ökad jämställdhet | 2016-05-03
en har kallats den främsta jämställdhetsreformen. Den över 40 år gamla föräldraförsäkringen, är den främsta förklaringen till att kvinnor kunnat träda in i arbetslivet och skaffa sig en egen försörjning.

Tove Mellgren: Förändra föräldraförsäkringen | 2016-05-03
Det är något som forskaren Nima Sanandaji undersöker i den nyutgivna boken ”The Nordic Gender Equality Paradox”. En av förklaringarna menar han är att svenska kvinnor är borta för länge från arbetsmarknaden i samband med att de blir föräldrar.

Svenska modellen en kvinnofälla | 2016-05-02
Boken öppnar för nya ingångar till en diskussion som tenderar att fastna i gamla hjulspår om representativitet och krav på kvotering. Det gör Sanandajis bidrag värdefullt.

The Nordic welfare state an obstacle to a woman’s career? | 2016-05-02

Svenska modellen en kvinnofälla | 2016-05-02
Boken öppnar för nya ingångar till en diskussion som tenderar att fastna i gamla hjulspår om representativitet och krav på kvotering. Det gör Sanadajis bidrag värdefullt.

Mujeres, Estados de Bienestar y Boric-Fernando Claro | 2016-04-27

Mornings – 26 April | 2016-04-26

Rödgröna hinder för kvinnliga chefer | 2016-04-25
Det är tydligt att det som var tänkt att skapa jämställdhet har kommit att stjälpa. Men kanske är det som främst ska ifrågasättas själva tanken att det finns just ett egenvärde av att allt delas lika och att utfallet måste se ut på ett visst sätt; är det inte viktigare att människor lever sitt liv som de själva väljer och föredrar?

Svenska modellen en kvinnofälla | 2016-04-25
Boken öppnar för nya ingångar till en diskussion som tenderar att fastna i gamla hjulspår om representativitet och krav på kvotering. Det gör Sanadajis bidrag värdefullt.

Svenska modellen en kvinnofälla | 2016-04-25
Boken öppnar för nya ingångar till en diskussion som tenderar att fastna i gamla hjulspår om representativitet och krav på kvotering. Det gör Sanadajis bidrag värdefullt. Förhoppningsvis kommer boken att leda till en vidare diskussion om hur jämställdheten faktiskt kan öka i Sverige.

Svenska modellen en kvinnofälla | 2016-04-25
Boken öppnar för nya ingångar till en diskussion som tenderar att fastna i gamla hjulspår om representativitet och krav på kvotering. Det gör Sanadajis bidrag värdefullt.

Inte ska väl Ungern och Polen slå oss i jämställdhet? | 2016-04-21
I Sverige slår vi oss gärna för bröstet och berättar att vi är ett av världens mest jämställda länder. Ändå är nästan inga andra länder i EU sämre på att få kvinnor till toppositioner.

Free market feminism #1: Few women on top in the egalitarian Nordics | 2016-04-21
If you want to find gender equality, head north. The Nordic countries top nearly all measures of women’s progress. The Mothers´ Index ranking, for example, finds that Norway is the best country in the world to be a mother in, followed by Finland, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden. The Global Gender Gap report reaches a similar conclusion, with Iceland ranked as the most gender equal country in the world followed by Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Inte ska väl Ungern och Polen slå oss i jämställdhet? | 2016-04-21
Men ska jämställdheten öka måste vi också göra något åt den offentliga sektorn, där många fler kvinnor än män jobbar.

GENDER EQUALITY FOR WOMEN IN BUSINESS CAREERS LAGS IN NORDIC COUNTRIES | 2016-04-19
Individuals who advocate egalitarian public guidelines frequently indicate the expansive welfare states of nations within the Nordic region, that have several government-funded social services for citizens of socioeconomic classes and walks of existence.

En jämställdhetsparadox | 2016-04-16
Boken öppnar för nya ingångar till en diskussion som tenderar att fastna i gamla hjulspår om representativitet och krav på kvotering. Det gör Sanadajis bidrag värdefullt.

Mengungkap Dampak Buruk Welfare State Terhadap Pemberdayaan Perempuan | 2016-04-15

The Nordic Gender Paradox | 2016-04-13
This book does a terrific job of dissecting why women in the world’s most gender-equal countries fail to live up to their potential.

GENDER EQUALITY FOR WOMEN IN BUSINESS CAREERS LAGS IN NORDIC COUNTRIES | 2016-04-12
Sanandaji, who has written two books and numerous papers on women’s career progress and entrepreneurship, cites many examples of policies common to Nordic countries that, despite their intentions, have the additional consequences of holding back women from success in business environments.

Should Israel become a Nordic country? | 2016-04-11
However, to the surprise of many on the economic Right, the proponents of big government seem undeterred by these examples.

Den nordiska kvinnoparadoxen | 2016-04-03
Den nordiska paradoxen, med höga mål för jämställdhet men ovanligt låg andel kvinnliga chefer, beror ytterst på våra politiska prioriteringar.

Квоты — тупик равноправия | 2016-03-31
Некоторые проблемы пытаются решать методом политического диктата, такого как гендерные квоты. Предполагается, что в противном случае равноправие пошатнется. На деле это не так, пишут Карин Сванборг-Шёвалль (Karin Svanborg-Sjövall) из Timbro и Нима Санандаджи (Nima Sanandaji) из аналитического центра ECEPR.

Квоты — тупик равноправия | 2016-03-31
Некоторые проблемы пытаются решать методом политического диктата, такого как гендерные квоты. Предполагается, что в противном случае равноправие пошатнется. На деле это не так, пишут Карин Сванборг-Шёвалль (Karin Svanborg-Sjövall) из Timbro и Нима Санандаджи (Nima Sanandaji) из аналитического центра ECEPR.

”Kvotering återvändsgränd för jämställdheten” | 2016-03-30
Genom politiska diktat såsom könskvotering försöker politiker lösa problem man tycker sig se.

Ingen slump att Sverige har färre kvinnliga chefer | 2016-03-04
Här i de nordiska länderna är attityden till kvinnors arbete ovanligt positiv. Vi har högst ställda mål när det kommer till jämställdhet och en politik som målmedvetet arbetar för att fördela makten i samhället mer lika mellan könen.

Politik försvårar kvinnors karriärer | 2016-02-26
Den nordiska paradoxen, med höga mål för jämställdhet men ovanligt låg andel kvinnliga chefer beror ytterst på våra politiska prioriteringar.

Politik försvårar kvinnors karriärer | 2016-02-26
Ingen kan göra allt, livet handlar om kompromisser, liksom politiken. Vi kan anse att chefspositioner inte är det viktigaste målet för jämställdhet, men om vi håller fast vid att det är eftersträvansvärt måste vi erkänna svårigheter.

Debatt: Svenska välfärdsmodellen hindrar kvinnors karriärer | 2016-02-25
Den svenska jämlikhetsdiskussionen kännetecknas av en märklig paradox.

Free markets, individual liberty and open societies