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Denmark achieved gender equality a long time ago… “Let’s be frank – it’s bullshit!”

Sofie Carsten Nielsen (RV) leaves the stage after her speech on International Women's Day. (Photo: Mette Koors)

At CBS’ celebration of International Women’s Day, participants were asked to come up with suggestions that could bust the myth that gender equality had already been achieved in Denmark. CBS delivered one of three cases for discussion: How could CBS get more women to move up the academic hierarchy? “Male professors, give up power,” one suggested.

News |   12. Mar 2019

Anne Thora Lykkegaard


Two questions are asked every year on International Women’s Day. Is there anything left to fight for? Don’t we have gender equality already?

Well, if you ask Sofie Carsten Nielsen, member of parliament and the Danish Social Liberal Party (Radikale Venstre), she will give you this answer: “Let’s be frank, it’s bullshit and a mistake to think that there’s nothing left to fight for.”

And this was the answer she gave in her speech when CBS invited her to the celebration of International Women’s Day to discuss and find solutions to what she describes as the “greatest maintained myth of all” – that we have gender equality in Denmark.

“Denmark has not only been stalling, but moving backwards when it comes to gender equality. Even the majority of politicians don’t recognize the imbalance, and they keep telling us that there’s nothing left to fight for, or that the battle’s been won. But it’s bullshit. We must keep on fighting,” she said.

The new President of CBS, Nikolaj Malchow-Møller had his first public appearance after taking over the position on March 1, and he too pointed out Denmark’s poor gender equality compared to our neighbors.

“We like to think that we are a lot like our Nordic peers when it comes to gender equality, but we are actually lacking behind. According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, we placed 14 in 2017,” he said and called for action.

“Diversity leads to better decisions, and right now we only seem to use part of the talent pool,” he stated.

Finding solutions in the GenderLAB

The event hosted a line-up of speakers – including the co-host of the event, Kvinfo’s CEO Henriette Laursen and CBS student, Nima Sophia Tisdall – as well as a laboratory called the GenderLAB.

Every participant got divided into three colors, each color representing one of the cases that were up for discussion at the GenderLAB.

The Danish Defence was looking for ways to obtain greater gender equality within the organization. Roskilde Festival wanted to gain input on how the festival can best ensure that guests are safe and free. And lastly CBS presented the issue of an enormous gender gap when moving up the academic ladder.

At CBS, women represent 20 percent of the professors, and the figures haven’t improved for 20 years. So what does it take to get more women into academia, especially the more senior positions? Well, these were some of the suggestions:

“Male professors, give up power.”

“More curriculum by female authors.”

“Increased transparency in recruitment to be compulsory. Ensure that the same number of male and female applicants are invited for interview and enforce stronger argumentation for final selection of candidates.”

“Ministry gives basic funding to universities having 50% female professors + executive management.”

The organizers of the event will look at the suggestions and decide what to do with them.

Shake the table

Women are not only poorly represented in top positions within academia. They lag behind in the business sector too.

According to an article in the Danish newspaper, Berlingske, only 27 percent of leadership positions in Denmark are taken up by women. This makes Denmark stand out from its Nordic neighbors, and puts Denmark below the OECD average of 31 percent female leaders.

And Sofie Carsten Nielsen appealed to all women in leadership positions by asking them:

“Although we lag behind, Danish women have found their way to the table. But we need to shake it. It won’t be easy. No one will bring the gift of a gender-balanced labor market. We have to claim it. So if you have a seat at the table, shake it, and don’t keep the status quo,” she said.


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