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Glass rack? Equal opportunities? What happened to our mothers‚ struggle in norway for equality?

Written by Guro A. Johnsen inspired by what appears in the media, UN Women’s reports, World Economic Forum reports, listen to other women and own experiences.

Claim: My Norwegian sisters and I lost over 20 years in "Beauty Sleep."

We, girls in the 70s and 80s in Norway, were told „women can and will“; we should become plumbers and construction workers to challenge the male professions. They held so many career counselling meetings for us. We finally chose to close both eyes and ears. The sad thing is, we kept them closed for many years before we now seem to have woken up again.

The WEF report concludes that it will take over 130 years before men and women are equal if we continue with the small development steps as today. Our mothers had done their equality work before us in Norway; our fathers participated in housework, grandfathers did not. We have sports lessons at school with the boys and get to be strong girls with opinions. The same in the study period, no signal that we are not as good or equal as the boys. I thought that as a woman, I had the same opportunities as men as long as I stood up and did a good job. I was against quotas, as this would weaken my status as a woman (None told me that former prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, for Norway had been quoted in.) We took it all for granted.

All the articles in media the gender equality report about the lack of equality show how naive women of my generation have been. We slept “in our lesson”. We have not done the job that the next generation of women should expect. This is something I hope more women and men want to join me with doing something about. My latest contribution is the establishment of SHESKILLZGLOBAL.

Pathetic men

Why does nobody dare to say what this is about, the lack of women in top management groups and boardrooms? Let me say it out loud: it’s first of all about pathetic men and nothing else. These are men who are afraid of „God know what“. Men who do not see women as equal in business turn away when injustice is done, or the wrong person is chosen. Men who nod in agreement when the reason why women are not elected is explained with: „They do not want to“, „It takes many years to develop a leader“…. That day I realised that these men were only pathetic; I felt a relief inside.

Does it take an incredible number of years to develop female leaders? No, open your eyes, and you will find them; it is a lousy excuse from men who have not realised that the best team is not obtained by choosing among 50% of the population.

Do I hate men? No, not!

I would not be where I am today without the men I have met in my life. I would not have achieved what I have done in my career without these men. More men than women have supported my development as a leader. One reason for this, there were more men in leadership positions around me than women. I cannot thank these men enough, considering what they have done for me. BUT it is precisely this that makes the actions of «pathetic men» and the lack of efforts more pathetic. Do they not understand they also destroy the work done by other men, who have realised that we women are valuable as leaders and employees who have helped develop us as human beings and professionals. It is directly corporate financially unprofitable when these «pathetic men», regardless of the work down by the woman herself and the supporters around her, tear this down or refuse to take responsibility for what is happening in this area of equality and justness. You have to understand that you are «pathetic» when you turn away and find bad excuses for why we women are not good enough or give us advice; to be silent, advice that is harmless to yourself.

It is said that men help men and are concerned about who can give them something in return.

I’m for sure not alone in having helped some men in my life without thinking that I should have something in return, men in good top positions. Has assisted them in achieving a place. I have put „my head on a plate“ to make it happen. It stood steady like a mountain. You can accomplish a lot when you do not give up and are confident in top management. It all starts with the culture of the top management and what organisation culture they want in their organisation.

After moving to Switzerland, which for many other women with me from the Nordics were a culture shock when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. I could not be quiet about it; I challenged my leaders on the shortage of women in leading positions. The global leaders I questioned the most did not, in the beginning, understand why I could not accept the situation, but it turned out that they listened, the global leader attended. Eventually, concrete plans were made to make changes. My feminist statements were never used against me; they respected me as a person and leader. They gave me the freedom and respect I needed as a woman to negotiate one of the most visible agreements this global company has. Unfortunately, these leaders disappeared before the changes were implemented. New men took over, and it took many decades before we now first see minimal signs of changes. This I will write more about in another article.

Jealous men with power.

It is said that "women are women worst" (This I will have as a topic in another article). Even more devastating to women’s careers are jealous men with power. They sit there silent as long as you have important supporters around you, but the day these disappear from the company, you are a “raw prey” that is ready to be taken. To handle a situation like this is not a topic in textbooks in the University; no or few prepare you for the “storm” that may come. The higher up in the organisation, the more alone. There are often no women above you and no one next to you. No one you can rely on. The men who do not appear as «carnivores» most often become passive spectators. Forgotten are the struggles you have made for them, how you worked together for common goals. As mentioned, many men only help men who have something to offer? When you lie down, it is easier to see another way. It was liberating the day I realised that there are two types of men in the world, those who have learned it is about personality, skills, competence, experiences and qualities. The men who give you opportunities to grow and take responsibility. On the other hand, the «pathetic men» are so weak and afraid that they would rather „prostitute themselves“ than say out loud their opinions to support you.

Facts: No women in top management, no authentic voice for women.

It is naive to believe that women, where there are few or no women in the executive management of the mother company, have an authentic voice. To have a voice, one must be represented where decisions are made, where culture is formed, in the top management group. The battle must be about being represented in this forum by 50-50, a world where talent has no gender as our vision is in SHESKILLZGLOBAL. Only then is it safe to be a skilled and good woman, regardless of whether those who supported you on the way up are there or not, because your success or future should not be depended only on the few men who dare to “give you a place at the table”, even if you are a woman!

This is written as a thank you to men in my professional life who helped to make the little significant difference in my time as a young leader (before 40 ties): Øivind Johnsen (my father for being a good discussion partner) Bjørge Stensbøl, Jarle Aambø, Ivar Egeberg, Gerhard Heiberg, Tor Ole Rimegjorde, Rolf Sæterdal, Jerome Caille, Luis Sanchez de Leon, Sergey Bubka, Kelly Fairweather, Jürg Brand, Knut Roppestad, Sven Mollekleiv, Per Arne Gulbrandsen. All the men I have met in my business life around the world who have not shown me less professional respect because I am a woman.

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