Norway is known as a world leader in gender equality but improvements are possible, according to statistics and perceptions.
Disparities start at school. Approximately 70% of teachers in Norway are women, but the male-female ratio is more equal at managerial levels within Norway's educational system.
For pupils graduating from lower secondary school, girls have a pattern of outperforming boys in terms of marks. There is one subject where boys outperform girls, which is physical education.
Differences continue at university level. Most volunteers for Spire, the youth group of Norway's Development Fund, and for the Oslo Red Cross’ youth centres, are university students or recently graduated professionals . The vast majority of volunteers are also female.
The work force shows gender differences too. In a 2011 survey, almost one quarter of women in male-dominated jobs reported that they experienced gender-based discrimination.
At the same time, the good news is that a study earlier this year reported reasonable duty sharing for couples with children where both partners have jobs.
The fact that the statistics above are collected, acknowledged, and discussed, is an important step towards trying to understand how to improve gender equity. A strong advantage for Norway, unlike many other countries, is that both women and men are active in these debates and in seeking solutions.
So what are these? One concern has been that perhaps men have not been consulted enough to ask about their needs. Why do men not become teachers? Why do they not get involved in certain volunteer activities?
Given how much male views tend to dominate society, much focus has legitimately been on identifying women's needs and ensuring that their voices are heard. Whilst that should not be lost, perhaps similar attention is nevertheless needed to engage men in gender topics on their own terms.
That is not easy, however, especially when some will not even acknowledge concerns exist. Nonetheless, asking men how to communicate with them and how men's attitudes can be changed is part of continually working towards gender equality while respecting gender differences.
Achieving gender equality requires both genders to be fully involved.
Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).
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