Everyone in the group read a number of articles about women in Norway because in our past meetings we had been wondering about the results of Norway's commitment to egalitarianism. What we gathered from these articles appears to support our theories; women do indeed seem to have an easier time living independently in Norway.
We did acknowledge that the situation in Norway is still not ideal, as women are not common in upper management, but one of the theories presented in the articles was that rather than a "glass ceiling" there is a hierarchical segregation. Additionally, we agreed that the idea of "occupational segregation" seemed to make some sense, being that women seem to group into particular areas or fields (i.e. medical and education). Some of our theories behind this were that women seemed to be more interested in fields that provided some kind of service to society, whereas men were more interested in positions that provided the most money.
We also found that there were a number of significant advantages for women in the work force in Norway too, though. For example, Norway has a wonderful maternity/child leave program, where up to a year of paternity leave can be taken. Also, in the past decade, Norway introduced a revolutionary policy stating that all company's board of directors must be made up of at least 40% women. The group noted it was fairly interesting that this is similar to the affirmative action policies of the California universities, which were eliminated recently. Was California right to move away from affirmative action, or is Norway taking a necessary action to smash the glass ceiling? The distinctions between our cultures may not enable a clear answer.
Following this discussion of women, we moved to the individual research assignments that were given to everyone else by Jane.
Kevin looked into gender and ROSE (relevance of science education) studies in Norway. He told us about how Norway is very dedicated to determine what factors cause children to choose a career. In order to accomplish this, they are giving questionnaires to children towards the end of lower secondary school (about age 15); the topics include: interests in STEM, perspective on the environment, and their attitude towards school science. The main factors of comparison for these studies are girls vs boys, rural vs urban, and Norway vs. other countries. The primary goal of these studies is to identify what can be done to get more people involved in STEM, especially so that a curriculum can be built to bridge the gap between sexes and rural/urban children.
Kevin also did some more research about women versus men in Norway, reinforcing the ideas and statistics presented in the group assigned reading. He stated that Norway can be considered very gender progress in comparison to other countries, even though men do still hold the majority in most fields. In general, women seemed to be most underrepresented in the groups that were "for profit", relative to the government and university research fields where they are more prevalent; this goes back to our suggestion that women were more interested in aiding society than increasing wages. Furthermore, Kevin told us how women seem to stay more in their home areas, whereas men more frequently drifted towards urban areas. The group also had a theory for this, proposing that women felt stronger ties to their family, whereas men had the desire to start their own family where they can make the best money (which is often in the urban areas).
This week Jessica looked into African immigration in Norway, which was found to have some interesting parallels to the United States. Even though it is a topic our country has been dealing with for nearly our entire existence, Norway appeared to be making social progress at a relatively accelerated rate. In spite of this, there have been a few significant events over the past two decades involving conflicts with African immigrants in Norway. One of the most notable of these was in 1996 when the Norwegian health department recommended people stay away from African people because they "potential HIV carriers;" Newspapers fed the flames by stating that 10% of Africans had aids, when in actuality, the number was 2%. More recently in 2002, a teenager was stabbed to death by neo-nazis; this event was noted as Norway's first public racially motivated homicide. Jessica emphasized that the people of Norway in general were very supportive of the boy's family and over 40,000 people took to the streets to protest. Nonetheless, this event caused Norwegians to do some self-reflection because it became evident they had been ignoring the issues within their own borders.
Frank also looked into a specific population of immigrants in Norway, Muslims. He found that while most Norwegians do not have a problem with their immigration, they would prefer for them to assimilate into Norwegian culture. For example, in Oslo public schools, veils and head scarves are not legal attire, which are common among Muslims. Additionally, a member of the labor party defended the burning of head scarves by saying it was a protest for modernism, rather than against a certain people. This discussion ended on an interesting question posed by the group: will the larger Muslim population's beliefs undermine Norway's goals of equality?
The last individual research assignment for this week's meeting was about immigrants in the labor force and trade unions, completed by Alex. He found that the general attitude from trade union workers, specifically those in representative positions, believed that it was "a challenge, but not a problem" to get minorities represented. To emphasize this statement, Alex had discovered only 2 of the 5 trade unions have published materials in languages common among immigrants. He also found information stating that the people in charge, at the central office, were having trouble getting anything accomplished since it is such a touchy subject. While this did not seem like a big deal to most of the group because we are not very familiar with trade unions, Alex told us that they play a much larger role in Norway than in the United States. He also told us some notable facts about immigrants in the Norwegian work force: Norway is 22nd in the employment rate of immigrants internationally, and in general, the refugees have a worse unemployment rate than 'economic' immigrants.
This weeks topics made us realize that Norway does have a lot of parallels to the United States, but their reactions seem to be swift and thus, they are making great strides towards gender and minority equality.