Women produce more GDP than oil
Emphasizing “gender equality as a prerequisite for democracy and as a human rights issue”
“Women are behind Norway’s prosperity.”
Norway’s former Prime Minister, Brundtland, who is also known as Norway’s “mother” for setting the foundation for gender-equal cabinet, confidently stated that women are a key factor when it comes to sustainable development.
“An IMF report states that if the number of female laborers exceeds the number of male laborers, Japan’s GDP will increase up to 9 percent, and America’s GDP will increase up to 5 percent,” said Brundtland, the keynote speaker of the “World Women Economic Forum 2013,” which was held in Coex Intercontinental Hotel located at Samsung-dong, Seoul, adding that “Even in an oil-producing country like Norway, women’s economic participation created more GDP than oil.” The reason her words that ‘women’s potential serves as the driving force to social development’ reverberates is because of the accumulated analysis based on the thirty years experience as a leader.
Brundtland is classed as one of the first generation of European female leaders in the 1980s along with the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. She was a doctor until she was offered the position as the Minister of Environment. 7 years later, in 1981, she became the first and the youngest female prime minister of Norway at the age of 41. At the time, she comprised her first cabinet with 8 women and 9 men, which became Norway’s first “gender-equal cabinet.” This continued on through her term of office, and Brundtland also accomplished revolutionary results such as the 40 percent women quota system.
Currently, Norway is the most gender-equal country in the world. Women’s economic participation rate (79%) and birthrate (1.95) are among the highest. Former Prime Minister Brundtland explains that this is thanks to active gender equality policies.
“60 years ago, Norwegian girls considered it natural to learn just enough to become a housewife. Their lives did not involve receiving higher education and becoming active members of the society. Nevertheless, women’s social participation surfaced as a means to social development, and the government brought out gender equality policies based on the work-life balance, such as parental leave system and establishing day-care infrastructures.”
Brundtland repeatedly emphasized that although Norway is becoming known as a gender-equal country and Korean women’s status is also on the rise, we must not settle. “Although women have exerted continuous effort in achieving equal opportunity and rights since obtaining the right to vote in 1913, young people these days tend to take things for granted,” she said. Even though women take up 40% of the executive board in private enterprises with the help of Norway’s powerful regulations, the absolute majority of CEOs are still men. Women must be aware of this “glass ceiling” and break it by themselves. She warned that “Without progress, we might regress.”
Lastly, Brundtland appealed to Korean men.
“Women not taking part in the society is same as inflicting huge costs on the society with less opportunity for social development; therefore, it is bad for both men and women. If you help women to take part in the society, the whole society will greatly benefit.”