International Chair Julia Bryan issued the following remarks for International Women’s Day 2018:
Before I flew to Washington this week I hugged my daughter and said, “Stay strong, work hard, and treat your brother the way you’d like him to treat you.”
Caroline’s fourteen, and already an ardent activist. In 2016, she saw Hillary Clinton’s candidacy as an “of course” moment. Of course there would be a woman president. Her world seemed equal, the past’s prejudices disappearing as the generations shifted.
When Clinton lost the election, my daughter realized, as so many of us did, that we still had a lot of work to do.
Today on International Women’s Day, I remember the numerous times women have been reminded that equality is not as near as we might believe. Think of Abigail Adams writing her husband in 1776, asking him to “remember the ladies” when he created our new nation’s code of laws. We know how well that turned out.
And even Women’s Day, launched in 1909 to celebrate women and push for greater equality: It’s a bittersweet day as we reflect 109 years later that we still have a ways to go on that goal.
So our “of course” moment has not yet arrived. Women must often work harder than men to earn less and run farther to get to the same place.
But some things have changed. After Hillary’s loss in 2016, women didn’t just sit down again. They rose up and launched the persistence movement. This year thousands of women are running for office at all levels of government. Kathleen Matthews, chair of Maryland state party, says that women are both tremendously motivated to run and that organizations and parties are deliberately finding women candidates to run. The results are evident in every state election this midterm.
That’s heartening news and a reminder that history is not a straight line. As President Obama said, it zigs and it zags.
This is also true of our story. Today, as we remember the many zigs and zags of women’s empowerment in the US and around the world, I ask all of you who have joined the persistence movement to stay strong, work hard, and, as I told Caroline, treat your brother (and sister) the way you’d like to be treated yourself.
The Democrats Abroad Global Women’s Caucus fully supports the hundreds of March For Our Lives events taking place around the world on March 24th, in solidarity with the youth and families of March For Our Lives who will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end this epidemic of mass school shootings.
As women, we cannot tolerate the gross negligence of the American government which permits horrific mass murders of our nation's children in schools, simply because Congress refuses to pass sensible laws restricting the purchase of assault weapons to keep them out of the hands of those who should not have them.
The Global Women's Caucus also recognizes and reminds everyone that the gun violence epidemic affects women very specifically. Domestic violence and gun ownership overlap in the US where 40% of American households own guns. 80% of those killed by gun violence at the hands of an intimate partner are women. And American women are 11 times more likely to die from gun violence than women of any other country. As former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford put it at the 2015 Domestic Violence Awareness Summit:
“dangerous people with guns are a threat to women. Criminals with guns. Abusers with guns. Stalkers with guns. That makes gun violence a women’s issue. For mothers, for families, for me and you”.
We urge all members of Democrats Abroad and the Global Women’s Caucus to change this paradigm by joining, supporting or hosting an event, by registering to vote and getting friends and family to register to vote and by making sure to VOTE out the NRA and the GOP in 2018.
Americans overseas can use: http://www. votefromabroad.org to get all you need register/request a ballot, and vote. DO IT NOW!
For all information on the March 24 rallies, marches and other events in your country, please check with your Country Committee Chair or, you don’t have a Country Committee, check with your Regional Vice Chairs. We also invite you to visit the GWC caucus page on the Democrats Abroad website: http://www.democratsabroad.org/wc_events as we will be posting events as we receive them from our members.
If you have any questions, please contact the GWC Co Chairs, Ann Hesse and Salli Swartz at: firstname.lastname@example.org
"We are celebrating women's history month by highlighting historical
brave, bold and breakthrough women. We are also featuring many of the
faces in the Black women's community who have done so much to build our
nation. These women, many of them lesser known, offered their lives to
the improvement of humanity and to improving the conditions of women. We
can be proud to stand on the foundation that they have built. I have
learned so much from their stories."
Christina Skovsgaard, Oslo
CAROLINE F. WARE
Caroline “Lina” Ware, was born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts into a prominent, generous family in 1899. She received her education at Vassar, Radcliff and Harvard (PhD), in 1925.
She was one of the most innovative historians of her day, she astonished the profession when her PhD dissertation won a $10,000 prize. She had demonstrated that the early cotton mills of New England set the pattern for the future industrial development of the country and changed the nature of rural life, especially for young women. Ware's dissertation became a well-reviewed book, yet the only satisfactory job she could find was back at Vassar, where she was soon recognized as a master teacher. Ware moved to New York in 1931 in order to join her husband, Gardiner Means. During this time, Ware worked on a community study of Greenwich Village. She published her research in a groundbreaking book titled, “Greenwich Village”. She found a job in the Department of Agriculture and soon became "the person to call". Ware became involved in President Roosevelt’s New Deal, specifically creating a new field called “consumer affairs”.
When the war started there was less interest in the problems of consumers. She was already teaching constitutional history at Howard, the nation's preeminent black university. When Pauli Murray, a second-year law student, asked to audit her class, the two women became good friends. As a two-person civil-rights movement, they organized Howard students for marches and sit-ins and integrated two restaurants. They also set a personal example of ignoring color in their social lives. Ware remained at Howard until 1961.
Her 70-acre farm was a favorite haunt of young New Dealers setting out to change the world. Visitors included diplomats and leaders of all sorts of causes, any of whom might be put to work as what Ware labeled IBUL: "intelligent but unskilled labor”.
President Roosevelt appointed Ware to be deputy to Harriet Elliott, the consumer representative of a National Defense Advisory Commission. After resigning from her position in the National Defense Advisory Commission, Ware joined the Office of Price Administration consumer advisory group.
In 1963 President John F. Kennedy selected Caroline Ware to be a member of the President's Commission on the Status of Women.
She and her husband, Gardiner Means, donated the seventy acres of land as a public park. They were also environmentalists before there was such a term. She died in 1990.
A GWC Panel Discussion
by Jessica Craig, DA Women's Caucus Barcelona
The Global Women’s Caucus kicked off the EMEA Regional Meeting in Madrid (9th – 11th February) with a timely and provocative panel discussion about “Power, Sex and #MeToo: Now what?”. The informal and fun atmosphere of New Orleans-style restaurant, Gumbo, helped create a feeling of warmth and closeness between the diverse panellists and audience. For those of us Democrats Abroad who have only been following the outrageous stories about Weinstein, etc in social media and in the press, and who are living in countries that have not yet been as impacted by #MeToo and #TimesUp as the US (and to a lesser extent the UK), this was a welcome opportunity to step back from the hashtags and headlines and to discuss with fellow Americans the underlying social and political issues, as well as to assess the potential for lasting change.
Anne Hesse, Co-Chair of Global Women’s Caucus warmed up the room by raising key issues and questions. In recent history, we seem to have moved through three stages in the US, socially and politically. And, the Democratic party has not always made the best choices:
With Anita Hill, came a new definition of Sexual Harassment. Senator Biden could have come to her defense, backed her up, but he didn’t. What is our liability as Democrats now?
Then came the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” era of President Clinton. Will we finally address this? Or remain vulnerable to all the "yeah-but-isms from the other side?
We have now arrived in a tough “Zero Tolerance Zone” Are some, like Senator Franken having to pay extra because we looked the other way with Clinton?
How well do we understand the concept of intersectionality? Do we understand that some women face layers and layers of oppression? Do we understand that privilege is not just about skin color? That class. education, sexual orientation, disabilities, all play a role?
Is a simple thing like grammar undermining us? When we say "John beat Jane", John is the subject. And we all ask “what the hell is wrong with John?” But when we say “Jane was beaten….. by John”, “or worse, “Jane is a battered woman,” then the problem belongs to Jane. What’s wrong with Jane? Or, What did Jane do wrong? What about John? Where’s John? How do we make this about John’s problem?
And what about the Enablers? There are 3 actors on this stage: The Perpetrator, The Victim, and The Bystanders: The friends, co-workers, teammates, supporters, fans, spouses. How can we, as bystanders do a better job of supporting the victim…and isolating the perpetrator?
There is bound to be confusion, gray areas, and push-back as we transition. It’s exactly these gray areas we need to explore. Let’s explore these questions and more today in an atmosphere of equality, empathy and trust: As men and women simply trying to live together in peace. As Democrats trying to win a crucial election And as Democrats Abroad, trying to engage our far-flung, And very diverse voters.
The first question from GWC Co-chair Salli Swartz to the panel was “Is #MeToo going to change anything?” And the panellists overall were cautiously optimistic. Anne Bagamery, an independent journalist based in Paris and former senior editor of the International Herald Tribune/International New York Times, said she is impressed and encouraged by the sheer numbers – so many stories, so many areas of economy and culture, and so many parts of the world that are paying attention. She believes this movement has “critical mass”, especially because so many young people are involved. Ronda Zelezny-Green, an African-American mobile technologist, educator and researcher based in London, also commented on the extraordinary numbers powering this movement. “Between 2010-2017 there were 96 million tweets relating to sexual harassment and there has not been any other hashtag used as much as #MeToo.” Ronda also thinks the movement has become more influential and “intersectional” after the incursion of “popular white women” helped publicize the movement that was founded in 2006 by a black woman, Tarana Burke. The youngest of the panellists, Laura Downer, a student at University of Wisconsin – Madison, feels excited that #MeToo is the first big push for change in her lifetime, and that for millennials it now feels like “our turn” to push forward. The only note of ambivalence on the panel was from Leselle Marie Hatcher, a multi-racial daughter of an immigrant, and a musician and writer from NYC currently based in Madrid. Leselle agreed with the comments of the previous panellists, but pointed out that “a hashtag in of itself is not change and will not effect legal change”, and we absolutely must not rest on our laurels.
Michael Elias, the one man on the panel, contributed his perspective as a high-level and long-term writer, director and producer of major film and tv in Hollywood. He reminded us that even with all the dirt flying around about Weinstein and others, behaviour in Hollywood has changed since the 1970s and it has become a more “careful” and “respectful” place. But clearly there was an industry-wide blindspot about Weinstein. Michael said “When I would talk to producers or agents about working with him, they would say ‘he’s a thief’, ‘a monster’, ‘a bully’. But they would never say he was a sexual predator.” And there has been a double-standard among men when it comes to actresses. “I dealt with a lot of powerful women – executives and producers – they had power and no one messed with them. But actresses took the brunt of this because they want to work…”
The most powerful response to the next question “How can change be effectuated and how can Democrats get behind this movement?” was from Liselle: “#MeToo has taken away the element of shame for women, and places [sexual abuse] on a global platform, and does away with the silencing. The law is an important tool, but there needs to be change in people on the ground. Police need to start believing women, especially black women and black-trans-women, and all women who say they are feminists need to start believing each other because we have not been so good at that until now.”
Anne added to this her perspective as a veteran journalist, saying while we should applaud the courage of the media, particularly the New York Times and New Yorker, for backing the Weinstein story, the media is also part of the problem in perpetuating stereotypes of women. And the mainstream media is still not giving enough attention to the plight of the trans or LGBT community, nor to people of color. What journalists are supposed to do is, “to shine light into dark corners” and “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” We should start looking more closely at “the people who we reward and what they (mostly men) have done – societally we need to change what we view as a successful person.”
A big part of the confusion around #MeToo is over definitions. How much can we complain about what is sexual abuse or what is sexual harassment? How much culture can go into drawing a line? Liselle’s direct response drew the first laughter mixed with applause from the audience, “No one’s trying stop anyone from getting laid! That’s not what this is about…But sex is more complicated than we want to think…” And in the US, the legacy of the puritans has given us extra obstacles in talking about sex. (So to those anti-#MeToo people in France who misunderstand the #MeToo movement and decry it for imposing American puritanism over libertine sexual relations, isn’t it really about freeing ourselves from puritanism which would have us be silent about sex?) Ronda thinks “We’ve placed far too much responsibility on drawing lines.” As an educator she is always aware that “change starts at home.” And “what are we doing to educate our men and boys, our women and girls?”
So how can we get more men involved in this conversation? Leselle says she tells her male friends, “When you go out, whenever you see something inappropriate, CALL OUT YOUR BOYS!” Both Anne and Michael (the one male panellist), and both representing the 50+ generation, think that younger people have a much better handle on this. There is a more “fluid structure” in their lives, and a “more open conversation going on” between women and men. Ronda thinks we need to find authentic male feminist voices for the cause, men who are interested in more than just likes and tweets. As a society we need to identify and create male champions for women. And again, this kind of change starts at home. Michael had a slightly different perspective, he seemed to doubt that men could be effective as feminists or to believe that women should continue taking the lead with the feminist movement. He said he would tell his sons to get involved in a different issue that still impacts the lives of women, such as to “fight as hard as hell against the NRA”.
One of the last questions for the panel was about an issue central to the Global Women’s Caucus: “Will the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) change our lives?” Most of the panel thought it would be a positive step forward for women, with the one dissenting opinion from Leselle. As a black+latino woman, she reminded us that her people have seen their constitutional rights constantly violated, and so she thinks the ERA would be a “nice gesture at best”. Laura, the youngest panellist, thinks it’s “dumb” we don’t have it in the constitution yet. And that passing it would be an important, not an empty, gesture. It would show incoming generations that women’s rights matter.
Two questions from men in the mostly female audience showed how uncomfortable even Democrat men are in responding to the #MeToo movement. One wanted to know “How can Democrats speak about these issues without pushing away 50% of Americans?” The best response to this was from Leselle: “The Democratic party needs to decide what kind of party it wants to be. I have trouble using the pronoun ‘we’ when I talk about Democrats because I don’t feel it represents me. We need to inspire. We need to more than just ‘not Republican’.” And the final question, awkwardly phrased from a man in the audience, revealed how personal these issues fundamentally are to men as well as to women, and how difficult it is for men to find the best words to describe communication with a woman. We heard in action one of the key questions raised in the intro to the event: “Is a simple thing like grammar undermining us?” Ultimately the man’s question was “How can men and women improve communication?” And just when it seemed like the panel would stay silent unless a psychotherapist appeared in the room, Anne, the journalist, came up with a great answer that reminded us how much the personal and sexual are now thanks to #MeToo inextricably linked to the political. “This is also a political problem and the only way male and female communication will improve is if more men and women are working together in the same room.” We just need to take one look at the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives to see how hard we Democrats need to work to bring this improvement about starting in 2018! And even while Democrats are more receptive than Republicans to taking action to address the issues raised by #MeToo, even when it brings up accusations against powerful men in our own party, we still have a lot of deeper listening and learning and changing to do, and this kind of change needs to be happening from the ground up - in our homes, our workplace, and in our own relationships.
The final questions Anne Hesse raised to “warm-up the room” at the start of the event are good to use as further questions we should keep discussing in the Global Women’s Caucus, in our local DA chapters, and in future DA conferences:
What kinds of questions should we as Democrats be asking?
Are we over-punishing our own legislators?
Is it fair to judge yesterday's conduct by today’s new rules?
Could a “zero-tolerance” climate result in keeping even more good, qualified people from running for office?
How do we uphold the “BELIEVE WOMEN” principle without falling prey to politically motivated, or even false accusations?
Is the Speier-Gillibrandt #METOO legislation adequate?
Do we need a South Africa-style “TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION” for our party?
The answers may not come today, but at least we will have begun the conversation. Many thanks to the Global Women’s Caucus for bringing together the topics, questions, and panellists that will help focus and guide us!
Democrats Abroad Japan Kanto Chair, Linda Gould shares her own #metoo story of her experiences as a fashion model.
For years my husband would tell me how unfair it is that he married a fashion model and couldn’t brag about it.
You see, after I quit modeling, I rarely told anyone. If they asked how I was able to travel around the world, I would tell them I just bummed around or worked under the table.
Why would I be so reluctant? Because fashion models have a stereotype of being stupid. After spending ten years of having every aspect of my face and body scrutinized for the smallest flaw, I wasn’t confident enough in my own capabilities to be able to counter the stereotype.
But I’m coming clean now because I realize there is another reason for my reluctance to admit being a model. Everyone knows the stereotype of actresses sleeping their way to the top. Well, there is no industry like the fashion industry for sexualizing women, both in front of the camera and behind it. And if the film and TV industry is having its moment of comeuppance, then the fashion industry should do the same. Now. Today.
In the ten years that I modeled, I was groped, kissed and fondled incessantly. I had one photographer press his erection on me and tell me, “Imagine this was inside you. That’s what I’m looking for.”
And that wasn’t porn. It was a standard fashion shoot. That particular incident was unusual, but less aggressive assaults were the norm. You just learn to deal with it, laugh it off, and move away.
Models are invited as eye candy to the best parties where musicians, actors, socialites, and hangers-on are invited. Add drugs and alcohol, and you can guess the result.
During photo shoots, models are posed in the most sexualized positions you can imagine (and many that you, if you are a woman, probably wouldn’t imagine). And since many women are so very young, it is not surprising that they are taken advantage of by the people in the industry. Who? Photographers, assistants, advertising staff, special effects engineers… Well, those were just the ones who tried to take advantage of me.
When the industry looks the other way, I imagine others further down the ladder are prone to the same behavior.
But it wasn’t only fondling and groping. I knew women who were raped by photographers, although back then, we didn’t call it that. We wondered what we had done wrong to allow it to happen.
I was lucky, though. Although some situations were more tricky than others, sex was never forced upon me. And I met some of the most amazing photographers who are still friends today. The others? I have forgotten them, dismissed them, and they likely have no recollection of me, because the next day or at the next party, there were many more beautiful models, more vulnerable young women to choose from.
So, I hope that somewhere out there today, there are models willing to come forward with their #MeToo stories about the fashion industry. It is time to bring to light the dark side of the images that grace our magazines and billboards. Does anyone really believe that an industry that sexualizes women when advertising virtually every product would be a standard-bearer of virtuous behavior? It isn’t.
Maybe, just maybe, by revealing how vulnerable women are in the fashion industry, not only will it remove women from potential predators, maybe it will also change how fashion portrays women. Perhaps we can even stop being sex objects.
By Linda Gould, JAN 20, 2018
A Letter from our Co-Chairs,
Carol Moore and Lan Wu
Our monthly meeting on November 15th was inspiring, with over 35 members joining us for a talk by Dr. Ronda Zelezny-Green on Intersectionality, followed by two workshops led by Ronda and DAUK WC Vice-Chair Kate van Dermark. That triggered extensive discussion and great ideas on how to move forward in 2018! In December, we will have a social gathering on the 13th, followed by the January 21st Anniversary of the Women's Marches (in DC, London, and worldwide), and there will be a DAUK WC activist "faire" called "March to the Ballot Box 2018"! So, we hope you all can join us for the chance to mingle and plan for activism (from the UK or when you're back in the States) to take back Congress next November!
Wasn't the November 7th Election Night a fantastic event? It was a combination of grassroots activism and an expanded number of Democratic candidates that resulted in the impressive wins in Virginia, New Jersey, and across the country. Women were out in force, with Northam winning the women's vote by a majority of 22%. Also, in Virginia, 11 of the 15 seats Democrats have (so far) picked up were women candidates (one remain contested) and one Democratic candidate, Danica Roem, is transgender. Women also won mayoral races in Manchester (NH), Charlotte (NC), Topeka (KS), and Seattle (WA).
And women are coming out in force to run in 2018. We heard from Stephanie Schriock (President of EMILY's List) at her talk on November 2nd that over 18,000 Democratic women have contacted EMILY's List to ask for information on running next November! Several political commentators are calling the November 7th election the start of a Democratic wave, combining Trump's record-low approval ratings (November 12-15 Gallup Poll gave Trump only a 38% approval rating) with high levels of Democratic activism and high Democratic scores in "generic" Congressional polls (+10%). We can be quietly optimistic, but need to prepare for hard work and commitment to convert these positive trends into success!
With best wishes to you and your families for a very happy holiday season,
Carol Moore and Lan Wu
Looking for a unique holiday gift with real world impact?
The 2018 Global Women's Caucus Calendar is now available! Take a look!
These high-quality calendars celebrating women's firsts, make wonderful Holiday gifts for American daughters, nieces, sisters , friends. and even yourself!
Order here: https://democratsabroad.nationbuilder.com/gwc_2018_calendar
On Thursday, November 2nd at 2:00 pm EST. Stephanie Schriock, President of "Emily's List," (www.emilyslist.org) will be speaking at a Webinar sponsored by the DA Global Women's Caucus.
Since it was founded in 1985, Emily' List has trained and supported thousands of Democratic, pro-choice women to run for office. It has helped elect a diverse group of 116 women to the House, 23 to the Senate, 12 governors and over 800 to state and local offices.
Stephanie and her team are working hard to encourage women to run across the country! They have started "Run to Win," a national recruitment and training program providing in-person training, webinars and other resources to increase women's participation across all levels of government. They have over 18,000 women attending programs and need our support to continue this effort through November, 2018.
This event is open to all Democrats Abroad members and their guests world-wide, so we encourage everyone, men and women alike, to join us and hear the tremendous difference Emily's List continues to make.
With 59 people dead and over 500 people injured in the recent shooting in Las Vegas, we can no longer sit back and allow our country to be used as a shooting gallery for people with problems.
This continued gun violence is unacceptable and we need to make the lives of our representatives uncomfortable. Today we begin a campaign to End Gun Violence. Please email, tweet, Facebook post or call your governors, state and federal representatives with one or more of these simple messages. Click the links to download shareable graphics aka memes.
Use this link to find government representatives from city mayors to senators and their contact and social media information: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
If you would like to call, click here for a sample call script:
If you would like to email, click here for sample email script:
A Tweet Storm Is Planned Starting Friday Through Sunday. Everyone possible should participate. If you don't have a twitter account you can quickly make one at Twitter.com. It only takes a couple of minutes. Be sure to add a picture to your profile, it gives you more credibility. When you Tweet your Senator and Governor, use the hashtag #GunControlNow
You can use the free site Tweetdeck to set up scheduled and automated tweets. Let your representatives know how you feel several times a day. Go to https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/ and add in your twitter account. Click on new Tweet, type what you want to say and schedule it. You can schedule multiple tweets for various dates and times.
Find out if your congress members have taken money from the NRA and call them out for it. Luckily most Democrats have not received donations from the NRA.
This is a problem we can all help solve. Your participation is essential.
by Nancy L. Coleman, Ph.D.
From the series: The GWC examines Women's Policy around the world
Demonstration for women's suffrage in New York, 1913
Norway is a parliamentary, representative, democratic, constitutional monarchy. This is a mouthful of characteristics, but for all practical purposes it means that Norway has a monarch who has symbolic power only. The actual governing power is invested in the Parliament (called Stortinget). Following a parliamentary election, which takes place every four years, the government is formed by the majority party, or a coalition of parties. The head of the Executive branch is the Prime Minister. The PM is not elected to that position, but usually comes from the largest party in the Parliament and is designated when the Government is formed. The Government and Parliament cooperate in enacting laws.
Even though his role is mostly symbolic, King Harald V plays an active role in Norwegian society. Norway has been changing rapidly, partly due to immigration from war zones in Africa and the Middle East. In exercising their official duties, King Harald and Queen Sonja show that they want to foster an atmosphere of inclusiveness and unity in a country that is challenged by the rather sudden diversity. Queen Sonja is very concerned with women´s issues and calls herself a feminist. She is also a talented graphic artist and photographer.
Norwegian Women and Political Power
Erna Solberg is the current Prime Minister, and 7 of the 18 cabinet members are women, including Siv Jensen in the powerful position of Minister of Finance. Policies that foster gender equality are outspoken goals in the cabinet and Parliament, but it is not easy to attain it. An important goal is for each sex to have at least 40% representation in Parliament. In the Parliament elected in September 2013, 39.6% of the members of parliament (MPs) are women. Norway ranks 14th globally in the percentage of women in Parliament. Of the Nordic countries Iceland ranks highest, 47.6 % women and ranked number 4, after Rwanda (61.3%), Bolivia (53.1%), and Cuba (48.9%). Sweden is number 6, with 43.3% women. Denmark has 37.4% women and ranks 22nd. All of these countries have a unicameral legislature. In comparison, the USA has 19.1% women in the House, 21% in the Senate, and ranks 104th.
The most recent national election was held on September 11, 2017. Erna Solberg and her Conservative bloc were given renewed support and will continue to govern. The representation of women in the Parliament increased to 41%, 69 of 169 representatives, the largest percentage women have ever achieved. The Center Party has the most women representatives, 10 out of 19, with Labor in second place, 24 out of 49 representatives. The Conservatives have 20 women out of 45 representatives.
Like many Western democracies, Norway has many political parties, 15 in the most recent election. Nine parties are represented in the new Parliament, and the government is a coalition consisting of the Conservative and Progress parties, with support from the Christian Democrat and Left parties. Women chair three of these four parties: Erna Solberg (Conservatives), Siv Jensen (Progress), and Trine Skei Grande (Left).
(Photo left: The first women member of Parliament, Anna Rogstad, who served in 1911, before Norwegian women got the vote in 1913)
Women in Norway gained the right to vote in 1913, but it took several decades before significant numbers of women became active participants in politics. As in many other countries, women mobilized in the 1970s in the new feminist movement. They brought feminist issues into the political agenda, asserting the right to equal pay, that society should provide childcare, that women should decide themselves whether to have an abortion, and they proposed a 6-hour working day.
In 1986, Gro Harlem Brundtland became the first woman Prime Minister in Norway. She formed a cabinet in which nearly half of the members were women, and this attracted international attention. This has set a standard for subsequent governments, even though the work is not finished.
International Cooperation on Gender Policy
Norway is not a member of the European Union, but it cooperates with the EU, the UN, the European Council, and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Norway has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and reports regularly on its progress. (The USA has signed but not ratified it.) After Denmark, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU, Nordic cooperation was toned down for a few years, but it is now being intensified once again. One of the key areas for cooperation is promoting gender equality, as there is wide consensus that gender equality policy has been one of the most important factors in the success of the Nordic welfare state, which has proven capable of designing a sustainable welfare model that promotes the "good life" for every individual.
The Nordic Council of Ministers is a cooperation between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Oland. The Council has cooperated on gender equality since 1974, developing similar policies in the member nations. In 2017, the Council is conducting a Sectoral Program for Gender Equality, which Norway will chair since it holds the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers this year. Four main priorities in this project are: work to combat violence, work to combat hate speech, gender equality in the labor market, and men and gender equality. Conferences are being held to address each of these areas, and the results of the project will eventually create common policies.
Gender Equality Policy in Norway
Norway has been developing gender equality policy for several decades. In 1978, Parliament adopted the Gender Equality Act, and it was last revised in 2013. The Act shall promote gender equality and aims in particular at improving the position of women. Women and men shall be given equal opportunities in education, employment, and cultural and professional advancement. Gender equality policy has broad reach and is incorporated into many departments and governmental agencies, but the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, currently led by Solveig Horne (Progress Party), is responsible for coordinating family and equality policy and proposing legislation. The Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Local Government and Modernization also play important roles. Gender equality is an integral part of the school curricula. Gender equality must be considered when hiring for teaching and research positions in higher education. If one sex is underrepresented, applications from the other sex are specifically invited, and qualified candidates from the underrepresented gender often take precedence. On all official committees, boards and councils, each gender must have at least 40 % of the members. The Ministry of Defense is also implementing policy to create gender-neutral armed forces. Girls born in 1997 and later will be serving in the military in larger numbers. About a third of those drafted and cleared for military service in 2016 were women. Women have served as Ministers of Defense since 1999, and in fact, with the exception of the years 2001-2002 and 2011-2012, all of the Ministers of Defense who have served since then have been women. Ine Eriksen Søreide (Conservative Party) is the current minister.
Gender equality policies will eventually impact all areas of society. Policies have been developed and more or less successfully integrated into the following areas: families and relationships; work, welfare and the economy; power and decision-making; education and research; crime and violence; peace and development; culture, media and sports; and health and reproductive rights. Gender policy is still being developed in other areas: transport and communication; finance; agriculture and food; fisheries and coastal affairs; petroleum and energy; and the environment.
One important policy area is women's health. Norway has universal health coverage, and it is a guiding principle that a woman has the right to make decisions regarding her own body. Women have the right to free health services during pregnancy and childbirth. There is easy access to contraception, and the Abortion on Demand Act, passed in 1978, regulates a woman's right to decide to terminate a pregnancy. The woman may decide herself in the first 12 weeks, while a commission must approve an abortion from 12-13 weeks, and except in exceptional circumstances, it is outlawed after 13 weeks. There are 16.2 abortions per 1000 women in the age group 15-44 years. In 2016, the US abortion rate fell to 14.6 per 1000 women, and this was the lowest since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973.
Gro Harlem Brundtland became the first woman Prime Minister og Norway in 1986. Forty percent of her cabinet were women.
Much of Norwegian gender policy is centered around women's role as mothers. The system includes rights to parental leave, social security payments for children, leave to take care of sick children, and the right to childcare through a pre-school from the age of 1.
All countries have a goal of maintaining a stable population, among other things to ensure that the workforce is constantly fed with new generations. But Western countries have seen the fertility rate declining, and this has caused concern for the future of western democracies. Women are taking more education and participating in the workforce in increasing numbers, they are marrying and starting their families later and having fewer children. With an eye to making it easier for couples, but women in particular, to combine work with parenting, Norway has developed policies with the goal of making it easier to combine work and family.
In order for a population to remain stable, the fertility rate needs to be 2.1, that is that each woman needs to have on average slightly more than 2 children. In 1970, the fertility rate in Norway was 2.5, but by 1980, it had dropped to 1.72. Policies for longer paid parental leave and other measures seemed were developed, and these seemed at first to have a very beneficial effect, bringing the fertility rate up to 1.98 in 2009. Other European countries, like Italy, where the fertility rate was hovering around 1.4, sent delegations to Norway to study the impact of the family policies. However, the next years showed that there were no easy solutions to alleviate a falling birth rate. Every year since 2009, the fertility rate in Norway has declined, and in 2016, it was 1.71. Even so, it is one of the highest in Europe and other western style democracies.
When a child is born, parents in the workforce have the right to parental leave of 49 weeks at full pay, or 59 weeks at reduced pay. Parents of twins have the right to 54 weeks at full pay, 64 at reduced, and parents of triplets 59 or 69 weeks. In the case of adoption, the rights are usually the same. Single parents have the right to a leave of 2 years. In addition, two-parent families may take an additional year of leave, but the second year is without pay. Employers are required to grant parents parental leave, and the social security system refunds some or all of the salary to the employer. The refund has a maximum limit, and if a parent has a larger salary, it is up to the employer whether the remainder is also paid during leave. A pregnancy or leave may not be grounds for dismissal from a job. Parents who are not in the workforce receive a one-time sum of ca. $5475 for each child born.
One goal is to ensure that both the mother and father enjoy equal rights to parental leave, so the leave is currently divided into a father quota and a mother quota, each consisting of 10 weeks, with the remainder to be divided as the parents see fit. The mother must also take the last 3 weeks before her due date as part of her leave, and the six weeks after the birth are reserved for her. The work environment law also gives the father the right to a 14-day leave in connection with a birth. However, his employer decides whether it is paid or unpaid leave. Only in special cases can the father and mother quotas be transferred to the other parent.
The father quota was originally 14 weeks, but the Conservative government has reduced it to 10, in an effort to give the parents more freedom in dividing the leave to suit themselves. Analysts warned that this would lead to a reduction in the length of leave that fathers would be willing to take, and this has proved to be the case. There is at present general consensus that the father quota should be increased.
Women in the workplace who are nursing have the right to nurse or pump milk while at work. This time is paid leave of up to an hour a day.
Norway acknowledges the fact that children cost money. Parents receive $115 a month for each child up to the age of 18. Single parents may receive additional aid. Working parents have the right to stay home with sick children up to the age of 12, 10 days per year for parents of 1-2 children, 15 for 3 or more. Single parents have 20/30 days of sick leave to care for sick children, and if your child has a chronic illness, the quota will be extended by an additional 10 days.
When a child turns one, the parents have the right to childcare at a local nursery school and kindergarten, and children continue in this system up to the age of 6, when they generally start school. Parents pay for nursery school, but there is a maximum payment, and siblings are given a rebate. Childcare is subsidized for parents who cannot afford it, so that all families can exercise their right to qualified childcare.
Care of Elderly Family Members
Employees have the right to 60 days' leave to provide care for elderly family members or others dependent on their care. Employers decide whether this is paid or unpaid leave, but employers may apply for "care funds" refunded for an employee taking such leave. Employees may also take up to 10 days off to help elderly or sick family members who need help not otherwise provided.
Managerial Positions, Professorships, and Boards
In 2016, a number of new proposals were approved to help increase the number of women in managerial and board positions. The government had commissioned an assessment of gender equality, delivered to the Parliament in 2015. The opposition felt that the proposals did not do enough to promote women in leadership positions, and they suggested additional measures. Majority support for the most radical measures came from the parties not presently in the government: the Left, Labor, Christian Democrats, Center Party, and Socialist Left Party. These proposals targeted board rooms, with a goal of 40% female board chairpersons in publicly owned companies, new strategies to recruit women managers and university professors, stipulations to counter gender-based salary inequalities, the replacement of part-time with full positions, and a system of extra credits to equalize the number of girls and boys taking high school curricula traditionally dominated by one sex.
Egg Donation and Frozen Eggs
Two fairly new issues being debated as I write are egg donation and having one's eggs frozen. In their platforms for 2013-2017, the Progress Party, the Left, Labor and the Socialist Left Party all approved egg donation, while Conservatives, the Center Party and the Christian Democrats oppose it. The Green Party has proposed to rescind their disapproval in their new platform. This issue splits the parties in discordance with the government coalition, with the Conservatives and Christian Democrats opposing it, and the Progress Party and the Left supporting it. All of the parties are in the process of developing platforms for the next period, and the Conservatives are currently vigorously debating the question, while the Christian Democrats are throwing their weight around hoping to influence the Conservatives to continue opposing it.
In today's society, women often do not find a partner with whom they have children until their childbearing years are on the wane. An increasing number of women have eggs frozen before it is too late, so that they might have children later. In Norway, it is not permitted for women to have their eggs frozen, and an increasing number have therefore had them frozen abroad. Politicians are debating whether this policy should be changed, but there is fairly broad consensus that there are good reasons not to encourage women to become mothers after their natural childbearing years have ended. It is better to emphasize policies so that women can combine motherhood and careers when their bodies are designed for it.
Erna Solberg is the current Prime Minister. Party chairs in the Conservative bloc: Siv Jensen (Minister of Finance, Progress Party), Erna Solberg (Prime Minister, Conservative Party), Knut Arild Hareide (Christian Democrats), Trine Skei Grande (Left Party)
New Areas for Gender Policy Development: Violence against Women, Media, and Technology
One important "new" issue is gender based violence. Even though this has been a problem for a long time, there is more awareness of it today, as well as a will to address it through policy. Thanks to the women's movement and social scientists, it has been placed on the socio-political agenda. Gender based violence encompasses a wide range of human rights violations: sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, the trafficking and prostitution of women and children, as well as several harmful traditional practices, such as genital mutilation. Women are commonly the victims of gender based violence. Violence threatens the health, security, and dignity of its victims. Male violence against women and children is seen as a hindrance to achieving gender equality, and it is now being addressed by the Government.
Another new area is media and technology. In recent years there has been a tendency for mainstream culture to adopt the imagery and esthetics of pornography. Women are seen as objects, and the public space has undergone sexualization and "pornographization". The Gender Equality Act forbids advertising that discriminates on the basis of gender, and the law has been invoked in connection with a number of sexualized advertisements that were subsequently withdrawn.
Information and communication technology is also being addressed as a gendered phenomenon. On the one hand, it is desirable to make ICT available to all citizens. On the other hand, the widespread use of social media in our time has had some negative effects that help spread hate speech, sexual harassment, child pornography, and human trafficking.
Public opinion usually gives strong support to gender policies, as well as the goal of creating a society with equal rights and opportunities for women and men. Women politicians also command wide respect and support from their constituents. So how are the policies themselves working out?
Even though Norway has spent several decades developing gender policies, it is early to draw sweeping conclusions. But there are many indications that there are benefits to be drawn from a society that makes it possible for women and men to participate more or less equally in all sectors of public and private life. The Armed Forces, for example, which for generations was a man´s domain, see the participation of women as very positive. Women have changed and improved many aspects of military life, from leadership to daily life in the barracks, where women and men often share sleeping quarters – for sleep, not sex! Recent research shows that the number of sexual harassment cases has gone done, and both women and men feel that sharing sleeping quarters makes it easier to concentrate on the task at hand.
An important goal for many countries is to get women into the workplace and keep them there. Population studies show that this goal is in fact vital for countries to survive. The populations of many European countries are literally in the process of dying off. Ukraine is the country that has lost the most population, 9.5 million people since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1993. But Romania, Moldova, Latvia, Bosnia Hercegovina, Lithuania, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Belarus, Estonia, Poland, Greece, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Montenegro, and Germany are also in the threatened category. Macedonia, Slovenia, Albania, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Spain will also experience significant loss of population. The Scandinavian countries, Austria, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Switzerland, and Ireland, will experience growth. Norway is projected to have the highest growth rate, a population increase of 25.9%.
In Norway, generous family policies have helped numerous couples combine work and family life. But so far, they have not given the important political results of increasing the fertility rate to the sustainable 2.1. Trude Lappegård and Lars Dommermuth at the Norwegian Bureau of Statistics have looked at the fertility rates since the highpoint in 2009. Starting with 2010 the rate has gone down every year. Two factors are important: 1) women are waiting longer to have children, and 2) fewer are having a third child. But with such good family policies in place in Norway, why is this happening? According to Lappegård and Dommermuth, people want to have children just as much as before. But potential parents experience a lot of uncertainty regarding the general economic situation and their own access to the job market. Norway was not hit as hard by the financial crisis as many other European countries. Nevertheless due to other factors, there are fewer jobs, and there are many uncertainties for young people looking for work. Especially in areas where unemployment is high, the birth rate has sunk markedly. It now takes longer to get established in a job, and the path into the workforce is crucial for people to have children. Women in particular experience more uncertainty in their economic prospects and postpone having children. Minister of Finance Siv Jensen has emphasized the need for more women in fulltime positions, if Norway is to preserve and develop the welfare state. Studies have shown that stay-at-home moms or women who work part time have more children. There is no indication that it will be feasible to get more women into fulltime jobs and simultaneously increase the fertility rate.
However, there is every indication that generous family policies have been of benefit to Norway. Even though there is a running debate on the details, no one would suggest decreasing parental leave and terminating the other benefits mentioned above.
At the moment, France has the highest fertility rate in Europe (1.93), but this was the lowest rate in 40 years. French women are also going to school longer and giving priority to careers in the workplace. The trend is similar to the Scandinavian countries. But contrary to what many people believe, there are positive signs. The highest fertility rates in Europe are found in the countries where the most women are in the workforce. Experience from both France and Scandinavia shows that general female participation in the workforce is the most effective way to increase fertility. But it is dependent on good policies for prenatal healthcare, parental leave and childcare.
There is every indication that Norwegian gender policy is promoting a more egalitarian society and a country with a sustainable welfare system which can more easily survive and adapt to our changing world.
Nancy L. Coleman, Ph.D.