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Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
First, I would like to thank New America and the Nordic Council of Ministers for organizing this event about the career comeback.
The Nordic countries have worked together on promoting gender equality for more than 40 years – we share a vision of a Nordic region with equal opportunities, rights and obligations for all, regardless of sex and gender.
The Nordic countries have taken different paths and policy measures towards gender equality – but the main thing is that we have all worked actively in this field to achieve results.
The words career comeback trigger a whole range of questions:
- Why is it that women with children lose pay compared to women without children – while it is the other way around with men? Statistically, for every child a woman has, she falls behind in salary. What is the deal with this motherhood penalty?
- Why is it that career opportunities often coincide in time with childbirths and having small children who need their parents' time? Are we talking about doors that are closing forever if you don't walk through, or is it actually possible to slow down or step aside for a few years, and then return to a blooming career when the children are older?
In the Nordic countries, we have come a long way towards gender equality – I think it is safe to say that we have pioneered gender equality in the labour market. The Nordic model has shown that equal opportunities for women and men in work-life are not only a matter of rights, but also the smart thing to do. The Nordic region is the 11th strongest economy in the world. Gender equality and women's participation on equal terms in the Nordic labour market has been a pre-requisite to achieve this position.
We have invested in some costly welfare schemes that make it possible for both mothers and fathers to combine work and family life. Free education for all, affordable childcare and a generous parental leave for both parents are costly investments – but they pay off.
Still – even in this gender equal region – we have a gender pay gap ranging from 14 to 18.5 per cent. And at the top management level of private business, there are very few women. In Norway, only 20 per cent of the CEOs of the 200 largest companies are women. Only 22 of the 200 largest companies have at least 40 per cent women in their senior management groups.
I am looking forward to listen to Mari Teigen and Lynn Roseberry – and to the following panel discussion. Hopefully, when we leave here tonight, we have got some new ideas about what both companies and governments can do better. Because one thing is clear – gender equality cannot be decided in government offices alone. We need to team up with the business sector.