Norway Closes Gender Gap as Women Military Draft Starts

Norway is going one step further with gender equality with a historic bill passed today aimed at closing the gap between men and women in the nation’s army.

A new law will require women between the ages of 19 to 44 to join men in 19 months of mandatory military duty. It will apply to women born in Norway from 1997 onwards, with the first service in mid-2016.

“The most suitable and most motivated will join the service, regardless of gender,” Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said in a statement. Women make up less than 13 percent of the Norwegian Armed Forces, according to the government.

Norway is a world-leader when it comes to women in the work force. The nation has the fourth highest female participation rate at 76.1 percent, after Iceland, Sweden and Switzerland, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Norway’s prime minister, finance minister and leaders of the largest labor union and biggest employer group are all women.

“The fundamental value in Norwegian society is that rights and duties are independent of gender,” according to the government’s proposal to require women to serve in the military.

Yet Norway’s corporate sphere remains a man’s world as more women work in the public sector. The number of women working in that area was 71 percent in 2011, compared with 37 percent in the private sector, according to the latest data available from Statistics Norway.

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