Gender parity - We are not there

Laura E. Mercer Traavik

The barriers to equality are not only ignorance, inaction and misogyny but also false beliefs that we have arrived, Laura E. M. Traavik writes.

KNOWLEDGE @ BI: International Women's Day 2017

Globally and locally, we have not achieved gender equality, and as we celebrate women in 2017 we must remember we have a long way to go. Norwegian businesses can lead the way.

The year is 2017:

  • A Member of the European Parliament states that women must earn less than men because they are weaker, smaller, and less intelligent (Mr. Korwin-Mikke).
  • Women still earn less than men in Norway- in some sectors the gap is 29% (Statistics Norway 2016).
  • Norway and other Nordic countries have some of the highest rates of domestic violence against women in Europe.
  • In 2017, 7.5% of CEOs in Norway's 200 largest companies are women. (CORE- Norwegian Gender Balance Scorecard 200 (2017)).

International Women's Day gives us the opportunity to stop, think and celebrate women.

Let's begin by thinking of about the variety of women. Women are not a homogeneous group. Women are different ages, ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, professions, and religions.

We are doctors, trans, mothers, lawyers, queer, teachers, daughters, heterosexuals, cleaners, engineers, sisters, cis, innovators, and leaders. We women are diverse. Let's celebrate this diversity.

Stop, think and celebrate

On International Women's Day we also need to stop and think about the invisibility and absence of women in our history: from the arts, to science, to business to the workplace.

We need to think of the continued injustice, discrimination, violence and oppression of women worldwide. We need to reflect on the fact there are places in the world where many women die in childbirth, do not have control over their bodies, or their lives (need a male guardian), places in the world where women cannot vote, drive, ride a bike, get access to health care or education. We need to celebrate the remarkable courage of women who dare to be visible and who fight for equality.

On International Women's Day we also need to stop and think about the successes and advances women have made, especially here in Norway. In Norway, we top many of the international quality of life and equality indexes. We have laws that protect and promote equality. We have many powerful female leaders and role models from Noble prize winners to Olympic gold medallists, to award winning directors, to world famous academics, to formidable national and international leaders.

In Norway, there is an ongoing commitment to equality and women are closing the pay gaps, and entering higher education in record numbers. We can celebrate all the successful Norwegian women over the years.

Norwegian businesses can lead the way

Although there are reasons to celebrate women's successes on International Women's Day, to believe we have arrived at equality is incorrect. Parity is about maintaining balance and balance requires an ongoing proactive approach.

In Norway, with high occupational segregation, the continued wage gap, and a paucity of women in top leadership it is time for Norwegian companies to step up and lead the way.

Norwegian businesses can use the Norwegian values, structures and systems as a springboard to make bigger changes faster. Look at DNB, Solveing Hellebust said that it would have taken an incredibly long time if the leadership at DNB had leaned back and waited for the gender imbalance to even out. They had to act and they did, they began the process of evening out the pay for women and men. How? They just decided to.

We are not there

Are we there yet? No. The barriers to equality are not only ignorance, inaction and misogyny but also false beliefs that we have arrived. On International Women's Day let's stop and think about all the women who have greatly contributed to our society and challenge ourselves and our organizations to promote gender parity. Then we can celebrate.

March 8th is International Women's Day

International Women's day has its origins at the beginning of the last century, in the labour movement in the USA and alongside women fighting for the right to vote.
In 1915 the first International Women's day took place in Norway.

1977 the UN officially named March 8th as International Women's day.

Today in many countries International Women's' day is celebrated either by honoring women and their achievements and/ or using the day to rally for human rights and gender equality.

The UN in 2017 is focusing on: "Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030". This translates to women and men having equal rights, opportunities and the possibility of achieving parity in the work and education spheres by the year 2030.



  • Gracia, E., & Merlo, J. (2016). Intimate partner violence against women and the Nordic paradox. Social Science & Medicine, 157, 27-30.
  • This article is first published in BI Business Review, a digital magazine for research news and public debate, published by BI Norwegian Business School.



Published 8. March 2017

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