Nordic initiatives aimed at increasing the level of male involvement in gender-equality work have made considerable progress in recent years. The ministers for gender equality are now putting together a task force to identify the most successful initiatives. They have also commissioned a “catalogue for the future”, consisting of robust proposals for achieving maximum Nordic synergy in this field.
From the left: Michael Kristensen (Greenland), State Secretary Ulla-Maija Rajakangas (Finland), Solveig Horne (Norway), chair Eygló Harðardóttir (Iceland), Åsa Regnér (Sweden) and Manu Sareen (Denmark).
The ministers debated the theme of men, boys and equality at a meeting in Copenhagen on Monday.
“After years of positive conferences, meetings and research, we need tangible proposals that will lead to even better results in the Nordic Region. For example, we need to look at legislation – is it enough merely to achieve the targets set for male involvement in gender-equality work?” asks Eygló Harðardóttir (Iceland), chair of the Council of Ministers for Gender Equality 2014.
The male perspective is a recurring thread in every aspect of the new Nordic programme for gender equality 2015–2018, which was adopted at the Council of the Nordic Session in Stockholm on 29 October.
“Interestingly, men aren’t just over-represented in society's upper echelons, but also at the bottom – in the prison statistics, for example. This is something I think we should look at,” said Manu Sareen (Denmark), who takes over as chair of the ministerial council in 2015.
“Not only do we need to try and engage men and boys in the struggle for gender equality, we need to engage more women too. In Denmark, the debate is highly polarised. For example, more women need to participate in the discussion about the right of fathers to have access to their children after a divorce, something that is becoming more and more common. It's a far more complex issue than it might first appear,” Sareen adds.
The ministers also noted that the focus had shifted in work on men and gender – from men participating in women’s struggles for equality to gender-related challenges faced by men in specific areas such as health and welfare, education, fatherhood and marginalisation.
“Sharing the responsibility for care within families more equally is good for women who want to work, and for men who want to play a greater role as fathers. Men who take jobs in sectors traditionally dominated by women help to break the pattern of segregation, something that is beneficial to both genders in terms of career and job opportunities. One positive side effect is a decrease in the pay gap between women and men,” Eygló Harðardóttir points out.