Information and Resources on Gender Equality and Gender Research in Norway

Power & Decision-making

The principle of gender balance in positions of power and decision-making has gradually taken root in Norway. The entry of women, as well as other underrepresented groups, into positions of power and decision-making in society is important for the development of a democratic and egalitarian society. The issue of balanced gender representation in decision-making systems has been scrutinized by researchers and widely debated in the media for several years.

Ethnic Norwegian men dominate in positions of power in most sectors of Norwegian society. In order to correct this gender imbalance Norwegian governments have implemented affirmative action schemes. A gender balance rule valid for publicly appointed committees, boards and councils is found in the Gender Equality Act. The Act also allows for moderate affirmative action as a measure for recruiting the underrepresented sex into management positions in the public sector. Today, women are often encouraged to apply for management positions in both the state and the municipalities. From 2006, gender balance rules also apply to the private sector - to boards of public limited companies. Yet there are no measures for coping with ethnic under-representation.

Women in Norway gained the right to vote in 1913, and since then women’s participation in democratic processes have gradually increased. In the 1970’s they mobilized in women’s organizations in the new feminist movement, as well as in politics. Women brought new issues onto the political agenda, such as the right to abortion, public day care, the six hour working day, and equal pay.

From then onwards campaigns have regularly been held to increase the proportion of women in politics. Some political parties have introduced gender quotas. In the 2013 national election, women gained 39,6% of the seats in the parliament. In local government women occupy about one third of the seats. The parliament for the Sami people had a female majority for the first time in the 2005 elections. The Sami people are the indigenous people in Northern Norway.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Norwegian Prime Minister, attracted international attention in 1986 when she formed a cabinet in which nearly half of the members were women. The proportion of women in subsequent governments has remained relatively constant.

Last updated: November 13 2014