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Now the women are coming

When childcare can solve a democratic problem.


[9. February 2007] This week, Aften used a cover to tell us that "Men run the capital". We were not surprised. Prior to this fall's municipal and county council elections, 83 percent of Norwegian mayors are men. It's no wonder. Prior to the previous local elections, 77 per cent of the list tops were men, and after each election we see how the positions of power in the board and care are largely distributed to and by men. It is a paradox that while the boards of Norwegian ASA are threatened with compulsory dissolution if they do not reach a 40 percent female share, politicians make no such demands on themselves, either at the local or national level.

Bad conscience shows up long before they consider saying yes to the position.

By the end of March, all parties will hand in the lists for the autumn elections. The likelihood is that men are at the top of a predominantly large proportion of the lists this year as well, despite the Minister of Local Government Åslaug Haga's gender quota threats if the proportion of women is not improved. But within that time, conditions can already be on the road to improvement. By the end of January, almost 50 municipalities had submitted an application to become a "showcase" for women in local politics. The Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development has announced NOK 20 million for the project, which will look at how to improve the conditions for more women in municipal councils, in the presidencies and among the mayors. The fact is that the women who are actually asked often say no. They do not see how they can manage to combine political duties with a daily life as a double-working housewife and career woman.

It should not be the case that it is automatically the women who have the main responsibility for housework and childcare, when both mother and father are in full-time employment. But we know that this is still often the case. The women therefore fear a weekday where all evenings go to meetings, where they will not have time to clean the house on the weekends either. Bad conscience shows up long before they consider saying yes to the job – for the children, for the dog and for the dorm rabbits. Among female managers, we know that they themselves state great work pressure towards time with family and children, as the biggest threat to them continuing in the job. Therefore, we also know that it helps to facilitate that work and political positions can be combined with family and children. The Ministry of Local Government has facilitated the debate, and is looking at measures such as playrooms in the town hall, cleaning help and free purchase for meetings. In March, around ten municipalities will be designated as windows. Then we will see if it is possible to pay out of the disability. If not, the Minister of Local Government has rice behind the mirror. We know it works.

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