Quick facts

Qualitative facts

1.  Electoral system and party system and their impact on women

2.  History of Women's suffrage

3.  Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and women in political decision-making
   a.  Infrastructure responsible for EO
   b.  Women's participation in politics as a governmental objective and strategy
   c.  Actions initiated to promote women's participation in politics

Jytte Andersen

Europäische Datenbank: Frauen in Führungspositionen

Report from Denmark by our transnational partner Helle Jacobsen

Quick facts
Women in Politics:
Women's suffrage active: 1915
Women's suffrage passive: 1915
1st Women in parliament: 1918 - 3% of MPs were women
1st Women in government: 1924-1925 Nina Bang,
Ministry of Education, the world's first female senior minister
1st Ministry on women's issues: 1999 Ministry of Construction and Housing and Ministry of Gender Equality (Jytte Andersen)
% women in national Parliament: 37,1% (2000)
% women in national Government: 45,0% (2000)
Electoral System:
Proportional: People's Diet:
179 members; 135 elected by party list vote from 17 multi-seat counties, 40 awared to parties to ensure proportional representation, 2 reserved each for Greenland and Faeroe Islands.
Quota Law: No quota regulation legislation.
Party Quota: Since 1996 all party quotas were abandoned
% women with secondary degree: 59,5 % (1996/1997)
% women with degree in higher education: 54,5% (1997)
% women in senior management: 3,7% (1999)
Women's employment rates:
Full time: 58,7% (1998)
Part-time: 35,8% (1998)
Activity rate: 78,2% (1998)
Unemployment: 6,5% (1998)
*sources: Employment in Europe 1999 and Schlüsselzahlen zum Bildungswesen in der Europäischen Union, Amt für amtliche Veröffentlichungen der Europäischen Gemeinschaft 1997, Luxemburg; European Database - Women in Decision-Making and data by transnational experts.

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Qualitative facts

1. Electoral system and party system and their impact on women

The electoral system in Denmark is based upon proportional representation. Almost all candidates standing for parliament at a general election are representatives of a political party. That means that the parties have the last say when candidates are chosen. The parties can choose to nominate their candidates either by district or by parallel nomination.
If the "district method" is applied, the parties decide the rank order of candidates in advance. They can choose between several ordering systems. One option is to place a candidate at the top of the party list. This person receives all the votes for the party in the district plus the preferential votes for her/himself. If only male candidates obtain the "secure" positions at the list, it is obvious that the "district and party list method" will be in favour of the men. However, during the last years, the parties have put more women at the top positions on the lists - and some parties have given priority alternately to either a woman or a man.
The most common is, however, to use the method of "parallel nomination". It does not favour some members over others. The votes cast for the party in question are distributed to all the candidates in light of their personal votes. That means that the voters decide which person should be elected, even if the person is placed at the bottom of the list.

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2. History of Women's suffrage

In Denmark, women got the right to vote and be eligible for election in parliamentary elections and referenda in 1915. Before this important event, there had been a political mobilization of Danish women for more than 40 years.
The women's movement had a very strong influence on paving the way for women. Especially the Women's Council in Denmark, which was and is the major umbrella organization for women's NGO's, and the Danish Women's Society were very active in mobilizing the women, campaigning and fighting for women's rights and influence.
In 1918, 12 women were elected to the parliament - 4 of them to "Folketinget" (Lower House) and 8 to "Landstinget" (Upper House). In 1924, Denmark got its first woman minister. In fact, Denmark was the second country in the world to get a woman minister, but it took another 20 years to get a second woman minister. During the following years, the number of women ministers increased very slowly. From 1915 to 2000 Denmark has had 37 women ministers. During the latest years, the percentage of women ministers has been increasing. In 2000, 45% of the members of the Danish government are women.

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3. Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and women in political decision-making

The Danish constitution of 1953 contains no provisions dealing specifically with equality of women and men, but it embodies the principle of equal treatment of the two genders. The process of equality legislation, beginning in 1976, has seen continuous efforts to enlarge and improve the work on de jure equality between women and men. Currently there are five parliamentary acts specifically on equality: Acts on equal opportunity, equal pay, equal treatment, equality in appointing members of public committees, and in appointing board members of the civil service.
The Constitution and the equality laws impose a duty on the public sector as well on the private sector to ensure the respect for gender equality. That is also true for the political system, which has a duty to implement the equality acts and other de jure and de facto measures influencing the work for equality.
Apart from the legislation, the most important steps towards full equality between women and men had been adoption of the government's Plan of Action on Gender Equality, which was presented to the parliament for the first time back in 1987. Gender Mainstreaming is a central part of the Danish strategy for gender equality. The overall strategy is to make ministries and other central government organizations act as initiators of and models for future-oriented and operational activities. The strategy is also to call upon county councils and municipal authorities to take responsibility for the implementation of the existing legislation.
Gender quotas have rarely been applied internally in parties, but there are some examples. The socialist People's Party was the first to introduce internal quotas in 1977; the Social Democratic Party was the next in 1983, followed by the Left Socialists, which enacted quotas in 1985. The use of quotas is, however, very controversial at any level in Denmark, and by 1996 all quotas internally in the parties were abandoned. Gender quotas used to nominate candidates have rarely been used. Presently, no political party in Denmark applies a gender quota system for nominations in national elections.

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a. Infrastructure responsible for EO

The initiating and monitoring force in the work of obtaining women's equal rights with men has since 1975 been the Equal Status Council, which was set up administratively in 1975 as an institution under the Prime Minister's Office. The Council was established on the recommendation of the Commission on the Status of Women in Society. In 1978, a parliamentary act gave statutory effect to the institution and called upon the Council to promote equality of men and women in society, at work, in training and education, and in family life.
The Council has an ombudsman function to ensure that the acts are observed. The Council is entitled to give opinions in cases treated under the Equal Treatment Act and the equal Pay Act, and to grant dispensation from provisions of the Equal Treatment Act.
The Council monitors and promotes equal opportunities for women and men in society and provides a framework for a continued interaction between the international and national equality work. The Council also offers advice on practical work relating to gender equality, and on the formulation of action plans to be used in places of work in the public and private sector. The advice offered concerns the reconciliation of working life and family life, women managers, or measures that may contribute to provoke changes in the gender-divided labour market.
Gender mainstreaming is, as mentioned, a central part of the Danish strategy for gender equality. It is new for the ministries to work with this strategy where equal opportunities work shall be part of the work of all members of staff. The mainstreaming strategy still needs further clarification and guidelines on how to be implemented. The Council is leading the way in this work.
In order to change attitudes and raise people's awareness of the importance of gender equality, the Council has focused during the last years on communication and debate.
There is a long tradition in Denmark that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) take a very active part in the work of obtaining equality between women and men, combating discrimination and stereotypes. That is why the Danish government constantly places priority on co-operation with women's NGOs to promote gender equality, and that is also why women's NGOs are represented in the Council with 4 seats out of 9.
Until June 1999, the Prime Minister had the immediate responsibility for promoting gender equality. In July 1999, Denmark got a Minister of Gender Equality for the first time. (For the current period, they also have a Minister for Construction and Housing). That is why the responsibility of promoting gender equality and implementing gender mainstreaming now has been transferred from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Gender Equality, while the respective ministers have a more profound responsibility to ensure gender equality within their portfolio. The Equal Status Council will be abandoned in Summer 2000, and at the same time three new "infrastructures". For instance, "The Knowledge Centre" will be established by law to strengthen gender equality work in Denmark.

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b.Women's participation in politics as a governmental objective and strategy

Work to improve equality in Denmark has focused for many years on women's participation in public life and in the decision-making process, starting with the establishment of the Equal Status Council in 1975 and the five equality laws. This work was followed up by the government's Action Plan on Equal Opportunities in 1987. Later revisions gave priority among other things to getting more women at decision-making levels and in politics.
Denmark has two Acts that influence the appointment of women to councils, commissions, committees and boards. They were established at the central or local level in order to advise ministers, mayors, and their administrations. When nominating candidates, both a woman and a man should as often as possible be proposed. The exact formulation of paragraph 1 of the most central of these Acts for the present issue is: "Public committees, commissions etc. set up by a minister to prepare the drafting of rules or the planning of activities vital to the society should have as gender-balanced a composition as possible".
However, statistics show that women are still a minority in political decision-making. In order to improve the situation, some ministers have refused to appoint members from the organizations until they have nominated an equal number of women and men for their seats. Other ministers have shortened the appointment period to put pressure on the organizations.
In 1997, the government decided to initiate an analysis of power and power relations. The purpose is to explore the political decision-making processes and power balances in Denmark. The steering Committee for the analyses decided, after pressure from the Danish Equal Status Council, to create a post to ensure mainstreaming of gender issues in the workplace. The analyses continue for another three years.
Lately, a government committee, which delivered a report to the Parliament in 1999, requested the government to strengthen its work to promote equal gender participation in decision-making in society.

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c. Actions initiated to promote women's participation in politics

Legislation has proven a worthwhile instrument to increase women's percentage in representation, especially on committees. The Equal Status Council has put much energy in acting as a watchdog in this field, especially concerning the two Acts mentioned above. As part of the endeavours to achieve a better gender balance in the composition of government committees and executive committees, the government has announced it will present a white paper to amend the two acts in question.
Moreover, the Equal Status Council has put an effort into trying to change people's opinions. It also campaigns for having more women involved in politics. The Council has arranged more conferences and published articles and brochures on women in political decision-making. Moreover, the Council has published regular statistical records on the development of the gender balance at each election and has used the press actively to comment on developments in gender issues within politics.
However, changes take time. Persistence is important when working towards greater equality. Campaigning and information are crucial in order to promote women to take part in politics and to change attitudes. Most important are the many non-governmental women's organizations that work actively to influence government policies by taking part in the public debate, disseminating information, preparing conferences and urging women to take part in the decision-making processes at all levels of society.
Most activities and dissemination of information in this area are carried out by political parties, trade unions and women's NGO's. Especially, the Women's Council, the Danish Women's Society, and the Women's Worker Union (KAD) are involved in influencing women to participate actively in political decision-making and in preparing/training women to stand either for parliament or regional and local government. They also run campaigns in connection with each election, and gather women politicians to meetings and seminars to discuss political questions.
It is true that women's interests and participation in politics have lately become an issue for the politicians and the political parties, especially in connection with EU referenda and EU questions. Women have other priorities and attitudes than men do - both as voters and as politicians. That is why there is now a greater interest in getting information on women's preferences and to place women at "secure" positions on the electoral lists.
Equal representation of women in all areas of political decision-making is not only "fair", but also a possibility for making changes in society. Networking between women's groups and between women politicians is in this respect crucial. The gradual build-up of quantitative and qualitative information as a basis for monitoring and lobbying is equally crucial.

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Portrait: Jytte Andersen

Jytte Andersen was appointed the first Danish Minister on Gender Equality in 1999. She has been a member of the parliament since 1979, and from 1993 to 1998 she was Minister of Employment. In 1998 she was appointed Senior Minister for Construction and Housing. That means that she now covers two main political areas "Construction and Housing" and "Gender Equality".

She has always been a fighter for persons, and especially women who are marginalised. She has been deeply involved in securing girls and women education and work - and securing their equal rights. She has been herself a member of the Women's Worker Union.

Since 1974, she has been active in the Social-democratic party. She has had several honorary offices for the Party and been the co-author of several publications on women's conditions for the Party and the trade union.

Jytte Andersen is involved in several networks of women and women politicians, and she has participated in international work promoting gender equality and women in politics for the government as Minister of Employment - and is now participating as Minister of Gender Equality. For instance, she represented the Danish government in Rome in 1996 when the Italian government jointly with the European Commission arranged the international conference on Women in Decision-Making. Moreover, she has been representing the Danish government in EU developing gender equality policies, and she is now representing the Danish government in UN and CEDAW work.

There are now expectations to Jytte Andersen as the Minister of Gender Equality to strengthen Danish Equality work. New legislation will be adopted in 2000, and new machinery and resources will be allocated to the work, for instance to implement policies for increasing the participation of women in political decision making.

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