Nordic Notables: Women Leading Ways Forward
"Why is it so important to promote and safeguard gender equality? It is a matter of human rights. It is a matter of democracy.
Also, it is pure common sense."
—Gro Harlem Brundtland
Written by Georgia Georgiou
The traversive words of Norway’s first female prime minister illustrate profound truths that should stand to be heard by all. The historical, feminist waves of sociocultural movements toward gender equality continue to beat upon the shores of our Postmodern era, where the daughters and granddaughters of feminist foremothers continue to struggle for the seeming simplicities of life—like equal pay and equal opportunities for all, regardless of gender.
Whilst in Norway—as in every country—there is more work to be done in this push for gender equality, we cannot dismiss the contributions of trailblazing Nordic women, who have inspired and continue to inspire in all areas of life with their incredible achievements. Norway, which is considered one of the most gender equal countries in the world, is home to a long line of notable women. Indeed, of recent note, Norway has moved one step closer to appointing Western Europe’s first female central bank chief, after Oystein Olsen, Governor of the Central Bank of Norway, has announced that he will be stepping down in February 2022. According to Nordea Bank economist Dane Cekov and JP Morgan analyst Morten Lund, this places Ida Wolden Bache, who is the deputy governor, as his likely successor. With Bache set to potentially be a next addition to Norway’s list of notables, let’s take a moment to look at some Norwegian women who have paved stepping stones toward gender equality, and demonstrated the power of the female spirit.
In the world of politics, Gro Harlem Brundtland is a woman who stands out both in Norwegian circles and in world politics. Originally trained in medicine and practicing as a physician and doctor, in 1974 Brundtland entered government as Minister of the Environment. Brundtland became Norway’s first female Prime Minister in 1981, and served three terms in this position, quickly becoming known as “mother of the nation”. Soon after, Brundtland became an international leader, serving as Director-General of the World Health Organisation until 2003. In this time, she also chaired the Brundtland Commission, formerly the World Commission on Environment and Development, which is a sub-organisation of the United Nations that aimed to unite countries in pursuit of sustainable development. However, Brundtland’s incredible career in international politics didn’t end there—she served as UN Special Envoy on Climate Change from 2007 to 2010, was deputy chair of ‘The Elders’, and was also the Vice-President of the Socialist International. She has received many awards and recognitions for all her work.
In the world of science, May-Britt Moser, a Norwegian psychologist and neuroscientist, stands out as a shining example of Nordic notability. This brilliant-minded and intelligent woman is not only a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)—in 2014, she won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, alongside her then-husband, Edvard Moser. May-Britt Moser was awarded the Nobel Prize for her work concerning discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain. She also co-established the Moser research environment at NTNU, and since 2012 has headed the Centre for Neural Computation.
Maren Mjelde is an internationally renowned footballer. She is Norway's national football team captain, and also plays for Chelsea Football Club Women. Yet, Mjelde is more than a sporting champion—she has become a champion of gender equality, having co-signed in 2017 an agreement to bridge the pay-gap between the male and female national football teams in Norway. This agreement saw that all international senior male and female players would be paid the same wages, with the women’s team receiving a pay rise of 2.5 million kroner.
Considering in more depth the world of sports, and in particular, the situation of equal pay for both male and female football players, it would be remiss to forget the important role that men have to play in these moves toward gender equality. Indeed, the agreement co-signed by Mjelde came after Norway’s men’s soccer team, in solidarity with their female counterparts, took a wage cut of 6 million kroner, accentuating the significant role of men in the move toward gender equality.
In conclusion, Brundlandt, Moser and Mjelde are but a microcosmic depiction of change, advancement and leadership showcased by Nordic women in the past few decades—and are a promising example for our future women to follow. These women have led the way in male-dominated fields. Through their example, they contribute to the incremental deconstruction of systems of marginalisation and inequality, in turn shaping positive outcomes for feminism.
Women can lead. Women should lead. However, the way to gender equality is not a one-woman job; rather, it calls for a collective, gender-combined effort to change dynamics within a more subtly oppressive postmodern society. Thus, we must also ask—what can we do to facilitate opportunities for women to lead?
This article was published as part of a series written by interns of the Norwegian Australian Chamber of Commerce and images are used under Creative Commons.