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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Women’s political representation in Norway Gilbert, Marit Synnøve Smerkerud


This thesis analyzes the reasons for the high political representation of women in Norway. Norwegian women have achieved what has been called 'world-record representation' both in the parliament and in the cabinet. Despite Norwegian women's success in the political sphere, women are virtually absent in positions of power in the economic/corporatist sphere. This paradox in women's representation in Norway is the focus of this thesis. The contextual factors which have facilitated women's political representation in Norway have not worked to women's advantage in positions of power outside the political arena. This thesis takes a comparative approach and uses data from all 23 OECD democracies in order to make cross-national comparisons and assess the various variables which influence high representation of women in national legislatures. Norway is specifically contrasted with Australia which is at the opposite end of the continuum with respect to female representation in parliament. In summary, Norwegian women's political success is a result of Norway's egalitarian political culture and the principle of group representation; its facilitating political institutions such as a proportional representation electoral system with party lists, a multi-party system, the power of left-wing political parties and formal candidate selection procedures; the successful strategy of a strong and unified women's movement which focused on women's integration into the existing party structure; and the high female labour force participation facilitated by Norway's social democratic welfare state. The contextual factors favourable to women's inclusion into politics have to a very large degree been present in Norway but not in Australia (or most other democracies). Nonetheless, it has been more difficult for Norwegian women to advance to positions of power outside the arena of politics, mainly because there is a lack of competition and moral obligation to include more women in private sector business and in the peak labour market organizations. By virtue of its nature, the political arena has to be more responsive to public opinion than do other organizations in society. Hence, the paradox in Norwegian women's representation in the political arena and in the economic/corporatist sphere.

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