The male fight for gender equality

10.10.17 | News
Gary Barker, Barbershop i Köpenhamn
Irish GBV Consortium
Men are over-represented in most positions of power in society. But they are also over-represented in almost all forms of social vulnerability. Society and industry need more women at the top and more men who study, who look after their health, and who take care of their children. Representatives from Nordic businesses and governments, and world-leading masculinity researchers meet in Copenhagen on Thursday to mobilise men to campaign for gender equality.

October 12 is the day Nordic men take the lead in gender equality efforts.

The arena for this is the Barbershop conference in UN City in Copenhagen with participants from Volvo, Nokia, and Ikea, as well as ministers from five Nordic governments and researchers such as Gary Barker, Michael Kaufman, and Svend Aage Madsen.

The Nordic Council of Ministers is organising the event together with UN Women. The aim is to take the Nordic Region to the next level in gender equality by enabling it to continue to set a clear global example.

Best in the world, but not a target

“For me gender equality is about securing equal rights for all, regardless of gender. Gender equality is not just about women. Men as well as women still face gender equality challenges. This is why it’s important that men get involved in efforts so that everyone has the same opportunities in all aspects of life,” says Karen Ellemann, Danish Minister for Gender Equality.

In many ways the Nordic Region is a leader when it comes to gender equality, which has helped the region to become one of the strongest in the world economically. By investing in education, child care, elderly care, and parental leave, the Nordic countries have ensured that women’s participation in the labour market is considerably higher than in the OECD.

That said, industry still does not have full access to the talent pool that society has invested in:    

 “61 percent of those taking a higher degree in the Nordic Region are women. Yet the majority of top business positions are taken by men. Nordic women still spend more time on housework and parental leave, and are more likely to work part-time. These are patterns we have to break if our societies are to be gender equal and successful,” says Thorsteinn Víglundsson, Icelandic Minister for Gender Equality.

Paternity leave is a key issue

Although men and women have equal rights to take parental leave in the Nordic Region, women still take more than 70 percent of the days, and do an average of one hour more unpaid housework per day.

A Swedish study found that for every extra month men are at home with their young children, women’s lifetime earnings increase by 7 percent. 

 “We will never achieve full gender equality unless men take their share of the housework and of looking after their young children,” says Gary Barker, researcher and founder of Promundo – a global organisation that works to engage men and boys in fighting gender discrimination – and who is speaking at the Barbershop in Copenhagen.

Gary, like an increasing number of business representatives, highlights paternity leave as one of the most important instruments for change.

Men who take parental leave care more about their health, take less drugs, and are more productive at work.

Men die younger and are less educated

According to Svend Aage Madsen, head of research at the University of Copenhagen, strong social and structural norms and entrenched gender roles mean that men die younger, are unwell more frequently, are less educated, and participate less in parenting.

 “For decades, women have fought for a society that is gender equal. Men have not struggled anywhere near as much to ensure their rights, development, and position. We’re now seeing the consequences of that. Although men are at the top of society, they lag far behind in many parameters. There is a need for more action from the men’s side,” Svend says.


  • More information about the Barbershop in Copenhagen and the programme can be found here: Programme



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