[translations idioma=”ES” url=”https://archives.rgnn.org/2013/08/21/por-que-los-paises-nordicos-carecen-de-mujeres-emprendedoras”]
NORDIC COUNTRIES. For a long time Finland and other Scandinavian nations have been pioneers when it comes to gender equality. Women entered the labor market early and have succeeded on their own merits in reaching high political positions.

But Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway are not necessarily leading if we look at the share of women who reach the top of private enterprise. Data from Eurostat show that only 18 percent of the executives in the private sector in Finland are women.

In Sweden the figure is 16 percent and in Denmark only 14 percent. These rates are considerably lower than the EU average of 25 percent. As a comparison the share is 37 percent in Poland, 40 percent in Latvia and fully 46 percent in Lithuania.

The main reason is that the Nordic nations are lacking in female business owners. This situation has not arisen due to chance but, rather, as a result of the economic policies in Nordic countries. The emergence of a large public sector has historically played an important role in women’s entry into the labor market. One reason is that many women have found jobs in the public sector. Another is that public services such as childcare facilitate the combination of work and family life. However, in the long run women’s career success has been hampered by the fact that the labor market entry of women has been so intimately connected with public sector growth. A large share of Nordic women work within the frame of public monopolies, with little prospects of becoming a business leader and with limited career opportunities due to lack of competition.

Economists Magnus Henrekson and Mikael Stenkula have written a scientific review with the telling title “Why are there so few female top executives in egalitarian welfare states?” Through a comparison of Anglo-Saxon and Northern European countries the authors show that the Nordic nations are indeed gender equal in many ways. But Nordic societies also have a stronger under-representation of women in top positions than in Anglo-Saxon societies, which relates to the policy of welfare states.

In fact, already in 1998 the International Labour Organization published a report entitled “Gender and Jobs: Sex Segregation of Occupations in the World.” There it was noted that an unusually gender-segregated labour market had developed in Nordic countries, since many women worked in the public rather than the private sector. The report concluded: “in terms of differences amongst industrialized countries, several studies comment on how Nordic countries, and in particular Sweden, have among the greatest inequalities.”

It is important to realize that individuals tend to start businesses in the sectors in which they have previous experience. In Finland, for example, women make up 41 per cent of the self-employed in the service sector, compared to only 12 per cent of the self-employed in manufacturing and construction. This does not come as a surprise, since women only constitute some 117,000 of the total 560,000 who work in manufacturing and construction but fully 1,032,000 out of the 1,762,000 who work in services, including public services. Naturally, policies that create opportunities for entrepreneurship in the service sector will affect women’s entrepreneurship more strongly than policies that affect the manufacturing sector. Opening up the public sector for private competition will not only boost women’s career success – as has recently happened in Sweden – but also create more competition, which will benefit the many women who work within the public sector.

This article is based on a June 2013 Libera Think Tank study titled “The Equality Dilemma, The Lack of Female Entrepreneurs in Nordic Welfare States”.