Norwegian Language Blog

Gender Equality in Norway Posted by on Mar 11, 2009 in Culture

men = menn               women =kvinner           a man= en mann           a woman=ei/en kvinne

the men= mennene                the women=kvinnene              a boy=en gutt         a girl=ei/en jente

Many Americans think that since most Scandinavian immigrants settled in the midwest, they must resemble their Scandinavian-American decendants.  One very prominent distinction between the Norwegian-American heartland and Norway lies in the area of gender equality.  Norway is considered to be the most gender equal country in the world, followed by Finland, Sweden, and Iceland.  One wonders how Norway was able to get to this point, ahead of the rest of the world when it is a fairly young nation.  I must say that although it doesn’t make much sense initially, I believe that part of the reason for such great gender equality is Norway’s all-but-recent homogenous population.  Since Norway became a sovereign country in 1905, long after most European countries, catching up to the rest of Europe in terms of the arts, the military, and the businessworld, among other things, progress occurred quickly.  I think this could have been an important opportunity that allowed for gender equality to develop so rapidly in Norway. 

The Norwegian Minister of Children & Equality, Anniken Huitfeldt, came to New York City for the UN Commission on the Status of Women last week.  The Norwegian Consulate General and Innovation Norway, (an organization that promotes Norwegian industry abroad and the tourist industry in Norway) were partners in the event.  Anniken Huitfeldt acknowledges Norway’s status as a highly gender equal nation, but at the same time warns Norweigan not to become too cocky about this because there is still a lot left to change.  Women still have a ways to go before they are equal to men in the workforce and in the home.  Many men still earn more money than women in their field.  But…I can tell you first-hand that Norwegian men are much more domestic than American men.  The most evident example of this is how visibly domestic men are.  I don’t know about you all, but I don’t see a whole lot of men out walking their children or driving them around to sports events and daycare.  This means that either there are more stay-at-home moms in the U.S. than there are in Norway or that even if both parents work, in Norway men and women share more of the responsibilty in taking care of the children.

I completely understand Anniken’s caution for Norwegians to not be cocky, but I think it’s very important to not only commend Norway and the other top nations for gender equality, but do a little research on why this is the case.  How did Norway get to where it is today?  What implications does high gender equality  have on a country’s commerce and general success? 

What are your thoughts on this?

Keep learning Norwegian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Cinny:

    Based on information we read in the Smithsonian exhibit, “Vikings: the North Atlantic Saga,” greater gender equality in Norway traces back to the Viking era. What factors contributed to it then? Could the geography of the nation have contributed to it as it did to so many other things Norwegian?

  2. Stacie:

    On a side note, yet related, I find it interesting that women there do hold jobs and such, regularly, that in America are still considered to be a part of the “boys club.” However, when maternity leave comes around these women are given a year to stay home and care for their babies. They tend to breastfeed and their children are given the benefits from the natural food.

    As these women step away from work their companies still function and survive just fine. Women in Norway are still feminine, caring and nurturing mothers and spouses and they balance work and the business world beautifully with their home life.

    Why is it that in America women are forced to basically choose between the two options? Why do we think these two extremes must be exclusive of the other?

  3. Stacie:


  4. Greta:

    One of the questions in the article was how did Norway get to where it is? I do not want to go back to the vikings and I do not intend to give the full answer. But one incident in modern history is quite important. Norway was among the first European countries to grant universal suffrage, in 1913. In 1905 Norway parted from a union with Sweden and held a referendum to confirm the preference of monarchy for the new independent nation. Norwegian women arranged their own unofficial referendum to emphasize that they were half the nation. The results of the womens referendum could not be ignored by the government. After that universal suffrage had to be implementet by law. My own grandmothers were young teenagers at that time and remembered very well how proud they were of this, although they were too young to vote. Since then women in Norway have probably been very concious about their equal value as citizens, and I believe this is at least part of the reason how we got to where we are,
    But there is reason not to be cocky, as you say. The other day the news on NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Company) told of young girls and boys having very traditional dreams of future jobs and roles, of boys hating “girl things” and of shops full of very separate toys, sports wear and clothes: pink and sweet for girls and blue and macho for boys. This is rather depressing actually, for a woman my age (55) who belong to the generation that thought we were about to reach equality. Not that the colors of your skis matter when it comes to performance in the skiing tracks, though. Let us hope not..