The gender wage gap is one of the top ways of measuring economic gender inequality worldwide. Although countries globally have made great strides toward eliminating the gender pay gap, the World Economic Forum estimated in 2019 that “it will take more than 200 years for economic gender equality to emerge.” That was before a global pandemic that set progress back by nearly an entire generation. Our writer Ainsey Lawrence has been examining the gender pay gap in Scandinavian countries. Read on.
America has still got a long road ahead in the fight for gender equality, and that’s not to mention countries with high gender pay gaps like Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Oman. Fortunately, the rest of the world can take heed from countries with low gaps, including Norway and Sweden. These Scandinavian countries routinely top the list for closing the gap between men and women in terms of education, politics, health, and opportunity.
Let’s take a look at what Scandinavia is doing right, how they can close the final gap, and some emerging careers for women in the workplace.
What Scandinavia is Doing Right
Time and time again, Scandinavian countries win on gender equality. But all that progress hasn’t come without hard work and dedication. As far back as 1863, Norway has practiced income and tax transparency for all of its citizens.
Sweden has a history of doing the same, making it possible for anyone to view anyone else’s income and taxes online, year after year. There are no exceptions for politicians, sports hotshots, or movie stars. As a result, there’s no hiding any gender-based pay gap, and the Swedish gender pay gap has shrunk since the introduction of this system. In fact, Swedish businesses with more than 25 employees are required to have an equality action plan in place. They face big fines for failing to take action against gender inequality.
Literacy correlate with highly egalitarian societies
Research also shows that high degrees of literacy correlate with highly egalitarian societies. Christian missionaries in Scandinavia taught everyone to read the Bible, and compulsory education was mandated in Sweden by 1842. Scandinavian Lutherans took equality concerns to heart early on, and Norway has had female priests since the mid-1900s. Scandinavian countries also aren’t big on military funding, leaving more money available to fund public education programs and efficient social systems. Education is free through university, and abortion is considered a universal right rather than a political controversy.
While Scandinavia’s egalitarian history crowns the region as a leader in gender enlightenment, it’s clear that a variety of socio-political factors are involved. Not all countries would function well under a Scandinavian model. Cultural and governmental differences between countries mean that each nation must take an individual approach to targeting the gender pay gap.
Room for Improvement
Of course, Scandinavia’s work to narrow the equality gap is far from over. The World Economic Forum ranks nations on a scale from 0 to 1, with 1 signifying complete parity. In 2018, Norway and Sweden were close to the top, coming in at 0.84 and 0.82, respectively. The final gap may prove the most difficult to bridge yet. The quick fixes are over, and any future progress will run up against stagnancy in the fight for gender equality.
What’s more, is that even the most egalitarian nations display signs of inequality. Although the Scandinavian region has cultivated a stellar reputation for gender equality due to its strong welfare state and cultural support for the issue, the sentiment of gender equality is far from the realization of gender equality.
While progress in the public sector seems promising, in the private sector, there is a different story emerging. Only “28% of managers in Denmark are female,” for instance. A 2018 report from the Nordic Council of Ministers revealed that although Nordic society feels more egalitarian, society isn’t always held accountable to these ideals. The more high-ranking a position is, the less likely it is to be filled by a woman. Business investments are also problematic, with only 1% of investments in the Nordic Tech List database going to companies run by female founders.
The Future for Women in the Workplace
Female adaptability and perseverance could prove deciding factors in the fight against gender pay inequality. When women aim high with their professional trajectories, they’re more likely to attain the high-paying, high-prestige jobs that will elevate the standing of women in their own countries and beyond.
Working in real estate is one lucrative career path for women that can offer a flexible schedule and plenty of networking opportunities. Another option is breaking into information systems careers, which are among the most high-paying jobs for women today. Tech spaces are traditionally male-dominated, but studies show that organizations that hire women tend to be more financially efficient and customer-centric. That’s especially important in fields like healthcare and air travel, where there is ample room for growth as an information systems professional.
The future for women in the workplace is bright
While many obstacles lie ahead, the future for women in the workplace is bright. Increased access to education allows women to build competitive resumes. New career opportunities are opening up that allow females to obtain prestigious titles and high-paying positions. But most importantly, it’s the hard work of the women themselves that promises to once and for all solve the gender pay gap problem in Scandinavia and beyond.
Examining the Gender Pay Gap in Scandinavian Countries, written exclusively for Daily Scandinavian by Ainsley Lawrence. Ainsley is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She is interested in better living through technology and education. She is frequently lost in a good book.
Other articles by Ainsley Lawrence:
Swedish Weddings: Traditions and Trends
Why More People Should Be Eating the Nordic Diet
Is Dual Citizenship in Scandinavia Right for You? The Challenges of Being Multinational
Feature image (on top): Illustration by Freepic-Vector