How inclusive is cultural life in the Nordic Region?

30.01.18 | News
Vem får vara med? Nordisk kulturpolitisk dag i Stockholm
Hedvig Franzén-Brunius
“We must all stand together in support of artistic freedom. A strong democracy also provides opportunities for minorities,” said the Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy, Alice Bah Kuhnke, at the start of the Nordic culture policy conference “Who gets to be included?” in Stockholm on Monday.

Around 400 decision-makers, researchers and cultural practitioners from across the Nordic Region attended the conference to discuss integration and inclusion in the cultural sector, based on three new reports on the issue. The event was part of the Swedish programme for the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2018. Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke stressed the need for Nordic co-operation:

 “It’s really important for me that I establish close relationships with my Nordic colleagues, in order to explore how culture can help to make society more inclusive.”  

Equal opportunities for all

The reports indicate a lack of diversity in public-sector cultural institutions. The number of employees with non-indigenous ethnic backgrounds is increasing, but not at the same pace as in the population at large.

 “There is good reason to study the obstacles that are standing in the way,” says Erik Peurell, a researcher at the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis in the Nordic Region. Among the topics discussed at the conference were recruitment procedures and the need for new thinking.   

However, significant variations were identified between different parts of the cultural sphere. Orchestras, for example, have a high percentage of members with a non-indigenous ethnic background compared to the museum sector. 

Iceland has the most women in management positions

The public-sector cultural institutions in the Nordic Region have a better gender balance than ethnic balance, but the opportunities  for power and influence vary significantly.

Iceland is the only country with more women in management positions than men – 75%, compared with 42% in Denmark.

Compared with the labour market as a whole, public-sector cultural institutions are ahead of the pack. In Iceland, 38% of management positions are held by women; in Denmark, 26%.   

#MeToo showing the way

“The statistics show that not everybody is on board and that we need to work harder on these issues here in the Nordic Region. #MeToo is a movement for social change that will hopefully inspire others to tackle topical themes such as gender equality, other forms of equality, and integration,” said Mikael Höysti, Head of the Culture Department at the Nordic Council of Ministers, in the closing address of the conference.

Despite the major challenges ahead, the reports pave the way for improvements. 

 “Unlike in the past, at least now we have statistics for this area,” as Niels Righolt, Managing Director of the Danish Centre for Arts & Interculture in Copenhagen, puts it.

Karolina Windell, Director of the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis in the Nordic Region, also places great value on systematically following up on questions about gender equality and diversity in the Nordic cultural sector.

 “We need a sound knowledge base in order to understand what makes cultural life inclusive or exclusive – and it is equally important to spread that knowledge. The Nordic Cultural Policy Day is a forum for exchanging knowledge and engaging in dialogue that will contribute to the level of collective insight and action,” she said.


“Who gets to be included?” was arranged by the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis in the Nordic Region and Arts Council Norway, and held in Stockholm on 29 January 2018.

See the programme (

Download the reports here