The Nordic Approach to Gender Equality at Work: Empowering Women in the Workplace 

The Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden – are well-known for their high living standards, excellent welfare systems, and enlightened social policies. Time and time again, these countries top international rankings when it comes to gender equality, which reflects their persistent efforts to address the gender gap.

Their approach to fostering gender equality in the workplace serves as a model that other countries can emulate.

In this article, we explore the key factors that have contributed to their success, the innovative initiatives they have implemented, and the lessons that can be learned from their experiences.

Key Factors Contributing to Gender Equality in the Nordic Countries

1. Robust Welfare Systems and Family Policies

One of the major reasons behind the high levels of gender equality in the Nordic countries is their comprehensive welfare systems. They provide universal access to healthcare, education, and childcare, which makes it easier for working parents to balance their careers with familial responsibilities.

Their welfare systems have evolved over time, with a particular focus on gender equality as a core objective – it’s no wonder that so many family-minded people want to move to Finland and Sweden.

Nordic governments provide generous parental leave policies that encourage both parents to take time off from work to care for their newly-born or adopted child. For example, in Sweden, parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, which can be shared between both partners.

Such policies promote a more equal division of childcare responsibilities between men and women, as well as the inclusiveness of legal couples and parents who are considering adoption.

The Nordic countries have strong legal frameworks that protect the rights of women and men in the workplace. They have enacted legislation that enforces equal treatment and opportunities, regardless of gender, with laws against discrimination based on sex in all areas of life – including the labor market.

For example, Norway’s Gender Equality Act of 1978 forbids discrimination on the grounds of gender.

3. Investment in Education for Women

Education plays a significant role in fostering gender equality. The Nordic countries have made significant investments in high-quality public education, which has resulted in a highly-educated and skilled workforce regardless of gender.

Most tertiary institutions promote gender mainstreaming, focusing on providing equal opportunities for students to pursue careers in fields traditionally dominated by one gender. For example, Finland has been targeting campaigns towards attracting more women into IT and engineering sectors.

Initiatives Promoting Gender Equality in the Workplace

1. Gender Quotas for Corporate Boards

Some Nordic countries have implemented gender quotas to increase the percentage of women serving on corporate boards. In 2003, Norway became the first country to introduce a quota system for corporate boards, requiring that at least 40% of all board members of publicly traded companies be women.

Since the introduction of the law, the percentage of women on Norwegian boards has risen drastically. Several other Nordic countries, including Iceland and Finland, have followed suit with similar legislation or voluntary quotas.

2. Pay Transparency and Equal Pay

An essential factor in achieving gender equality is ensuring that men and women receive equal pay for equal work. To address the gender pay gap, the Nordic countries have implemented various measures such as pay transparency, regular monitoring and reporting, and requirements for companies to develop action plans for reducing pay differences.

3. Gender Equality Certification

In 2018, Iceland introduced a voluntary certification system called the Equal Pay Standard, which has since been made mandatory. This standard requires companies with at least 25 employees to undergo an audit demonstrating that they actively work on reducing gender pay gaps.

It has been implemented by the City of Reykjavik and various Icelandic companies, which has helped promote a culture of gender equality in the workplace.

Lessons Learned

The Nordic countries provide a valuable model for promoting gender equality in the workplace, and their success can be attributed to the cohesive efforts of governments, businesses, and individuals. Key lessons to be taken from their experience include:

1. The importance of implementing family policies that support both men and women, thereby facilitating a balance between work and family life.

2. The need for strong legal frameworks that enforce equal treatment and create a supportive environment for gender equality.

3. The significance of investing in education for women and promoting gender mainstreaming in educational institutions.

4. The potential of implementing initiatives such as gender quotas, pay transparency, and gender equality certification in fostering a more balanced workforce.


The success of the Nordic countries in closing the gender gap in the workplace highlights the importance of adopting a comprehensive and holistic approach to tackling gender inequalities. While much remains to be done, the Nordic approach serves as an inspiring example and demonstrates that fostering gender equality in the workplace is not only morally right but also economically beneficial. By emulating the Nordic model, other countries can make significant strides towards empowering women in the workplace and achieving a more just and equal society for all.

Author: Robert Surdel – Content Team Leader, Husky Hamster

Photo credit: Efrem Efre

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