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Gender (im)Balances in Local Politics in Norway: Hindrances to Leadership
Unformatted Document Text:  Our questions here: How do local and central authorities deal with issues of “difference”? Stated differently: how do authorities assure equal opportunities for participation in and access to local democracy for all citizens – be they black/Caucasian, young/old, male/female, republican or democrat? What institutions contribute to ensure equal possibilities for political access? What policy measures are realistic in the Norwegian political (local) context(s)? In addition to the issue of local versus central authority, we have the issue of the political parties’ autonomy, and within the party machine, the central-local axe comes up once more. A local labour party in, say, the north of Norway, may not like to be dictated on quotas from the central party bureau in Oslo. Thank you very much. What sort of differences, and more so: which consequences of differences are stated politically relevant? What kinds of unfairness are seen as politically unacceptable? We find disagreements in attitudes and praxis among parties, but also within parties. Disagreements do not neatly follow the lines of difference in point here: not all women will give a standing ovation to the measure of gender quotas to develop gender balance. Myths on the existence of gender equality in Norway constitute severe obstacles to addressing issues of gender differences in access to power positions, in general and in local politics specifically. “The number is 84”: is the opening statement of a well known Norwegian professor in political science and member of the steering committee of the Norwegian Power and Democracy Study when lecturing on gender power differences in Norwegian power elites (Skjeie & Teigen 2003). The figure indicates that 84 % of power positions in all areas of Norwegian society are occupied by men; be it in central and local public administrations, among the clergy of the state church, in the media, legal institutions, academic and administrative positions in higher education, in corporations, etc. In other words: we observe male dominance all over (op.cit.). And the attitudes towards gender equality among these power elites? According to Teigen, they are rather bored with the issue (Teigen, 2004). So, in spite of moderate and even radical affirmative action praxis in the public labour marked, regardless of gender quotas in the corporative channel, despite board quotas in private enterprises, and gender quotas in Cabinet, notwithstanding gender equality legislation, and apart from political statements of gender equality being a priority, male dominance in Norwegian power elites is prominent. The 2007 audit on equality and anti-discrimination shows similar figures (LDO 2007) The processes of inclusion and exclusionThe road(s) from mobilizing citizens to local politics, to recruitment on the party ballot, to being voted for and fill local political elite positions involves distinct processes where different kinds of gatekeepers and actors operate within a variety of opportunity structures, rules and cultures. In Norway, political parties are paramount in the inclusion/exclusion processes also in local democracy. Parties mobilize, recruit and nominate. Elected council members operate within the party group in the council and are first and foremost party representatives. In addition to legislation regarding local elections and municipal affairs, party rules and traditions circumscribe opportunity structures: chances and barriers for different voter groups (like women, men, immigrants, immigrant women/men, old/young women and men from ethnic minorities and majorities etc.). The processes illustrated in figure 1 take place within the context of political parties, and in municipal election, possibly also within groups similar to party structures, so-called parochial election lists. Party rules and opinions with regard to gender balance, gender power issues and the use of gender quota rules vary. Parties organize differently, establishing differences in opportunity structures and in mobilizing collectively and/or individually. (Heidar & Saglie 2002, Bråten 2008) 7 of 29

Authors: van der Ros, Janneke.
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background image
Our questions here: How do local and central authorities deal with issues of “difference”?
Stated differently: how do authorities assure equal opportunities for participation in and
access to local democracy for all citizens – be they black/Caucasian, young/old, male/female,
republican or democrat? What institutions contribute to ensure equal possibilities for political
access? What policy measures are realistic in the Norwegian political (local) context(s)? In
addition to the issue of local versus central authority, we have the issue of the political parties’
autonomy, and within the party machine, the central-local axe comes up once more. A local
labour party in, say, the north of Norway, may not like to be dictated on quotas from the
central party bureau in Oslo. Thank you very much. What sort of differences, and more so:
which consequences of differences are stated politically relevant? What kinds of unfairness
are seen as politically unacceptable? We find disagreements in attitudes and praxis among
parties, but also within parties. Disagreements do not neatly follow the lines of difference in
point here: not all women will give a standing ovation to the measure of gender quotas to
develop gender balance. Myths on the existence of gender equality in Norway constitute
severe obstacles to addressing issues of gender differences in access to power positions, in
general and in local politics specifically. “The number is 84”: is the opening statement of a
well known Norwegian professor in political science and member of the steering committee
of the Norwegian Power and Democracy Study when lecturing on gender power differences
in Norwegian power elites (Skjeie & Teigen 2003). The figure indicates that 84 % of power
positions in all areas of Norwegian society are occupied by men; be it in central and local
public administrations, among the clergy of the state church, in the media, legal institutions,
academic and administrative positions in higher education, in corporations, etc. In other
words: we observe male dominance all over (op.cit.). And the attitudes towards gender
equality among these power elites? According to Teigen, they are rather bored with the issue
(Teigen, 2004). So, in spite of moderate and even radical affirmative action praxis in the
public labour marked, regardless of gender quotas in the corporative channel, despite board
quotas in private enterprises, and gender quotas in Cabinet, notwithstanding gender equality
legislation, and apart from political statements of gender equality being a priority, male
dominance in Norwegian power elites is prominent. The 2007 audit on equality and anti-
discrimination shows similar figures (LDO 2007)
The processes of inclusion and exclusion
The road(s) from mobilizing citizens to local politics, to recruitment on the party ballot, to
being voted for and fill local political elite positions involves distinct processes where
different kinds of gatekeepers and actors operate within a variety of opportunity structures,
rules and cultures.
In Norway, political parties are paramount in the inclusion/exclusion processes also in local
democracy. Parties mobilize, recruit and nominate. Elected council members operate within
the party group in the council and are first and foremost party representatives. In addition to
legislation regarding local elections and municipal affairs, party rules and traditions
circumscribe opportunity structures: chances and barriers for different voter groups (like
women, men, immigrants, immigrant women/men, old/young women and men from ethnic
minorities and majorities etc.). The processes illustrated in figure 1 take place within the
context of political parties, and in municipal election, possibly also within groups similar to
party structures, so-called parochial election lists. Party rules and opinions with regard to
gender balance, gender power issues and the use of gender quota rules vary. Parties organize
differently, establishing differences in opportunity structures and in mobilizing collectively
and/or individually. (Heidar & Saglie 2002, Bråten 2008)
7 of 29


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