The Centre for Equality is an inter-disciplinary expertise centre that since its inception in 1983 has worked to address equality issues in all layers of Norwegian society. Our role is to create and communicate theoretical and practical knowledge relating to equality that can be applied by public authorities, private enterprises and volunteer-based organisations. We do this primarily through research, counselling, courses and workshops, and the publication of reports, analyses and issue briefs.
Although much of our work concerns itself with gender-based equality issues, we work with a broad definition of equality that includes most potential reasons for discrimination: ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities.
Our work focuses on four main issues:
Equality is the foundation of democracy. Every citizen, regardless of their background, disability or identity, must have the opportunity to participate in democratic decision-making and civil society. A democracy thus need to ensure that the diversity of perspectives and experiences in the civil population are represented on all levels of decision-making.
Norwegian equality policies require that all public authorities and institutions work methodically and purposely to increase equality and combat discrimination. This in turn requires a systematic, continuous and research-based approach, as many of the obstacles to equality in civic participation cannot be found in overt prejudices and attitudes, but hidden in the structures of public authorities and practices.
The Centre for Equality:
- Runs courses in practical democratic participation, helping youth understand how they can influence decision-making in various levels of government.
- Runs courses and workshops helping people to recognise and resist the use of master suppression techniques – which are often used to assert dominance over others in decision-making processes.
- Provides tailored consulting to actors in public and private sector helping them achieve a holistic approach to equality in short-term projects or long-term development.
Children, Youth and Development
To create an equal society, it is essential to address equality in the social environment in which our children grow up.
The learning and reproduction of gender-based stereotypes begins even before a child is born, and continues throughout their childhood and adolescence. This is when narrow norms of gender identity and behaviour becomes internalised.
In order to ensure that children are allowed to grow and unfold to their full potential, it is necessary to prevent pedagogical practices that encourage limiting notions of gender identity. The goal is not to make girls and boys as alike as possible; it is rather to help them understand that there are hundreds of different ways of being “boys” and “girls” – and that none of them are “right” and “wrong”. Our research show that current practices in kindergartens and early education fall far short of this ideal.
The Centre for Equality’s work addresses:
- Gender issues in early education: Arranges workshops for and giving guidance to employees in kindergartens and primary schools, with the aim to raise awareness around and increase knowledge of gender and equality.
- Sexual harassment: Runs courses and workshops for youth and health professionals working with youth.
- Disability and access to education: Arranges workshops for counsellors, teachers and other education professionals, aiming to improve their ability to help pupils and students with disability meet their educational goals.
Equality at work
Equality at work entails giving every employee, regardless of age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability equal rights and opportunities in their workplace and in building their careers.
Despite being one of the countries with the highest level of measured equality, Norway still experiences significant equality issues in the workforce. The gender distribution between the private and public sector is skewered, with women vastly underrepresented in the former and overrepresented in the latter. Men still occupy the majority of leadership positions. Women are far more likely to be employed on part-time contracts, and the gender wage gap is far from eradicated.
Similar disparities can be found based on ethnicity, disability and age. In order to develop a workforce that reflects and benefits from the full spectrum of diversity in our society, both employers and employees need knowledge relating to the structures, practices and attitudes that prevent equal opportunities for all. It is of paramount importance to increase awareness about the explicit and implicit prejudices that influence work environments, hiring, salaries, and promotions.
The Centre for Equality:
- Offers workshops and lectures designed to help employers create a working environment rooted in principles of equality.
- Has run several research-based mentoring programme, and offer help and guidance to others wishing to establish similar mentor programmes.
From schools and hospital to waste management and libraries, public services touch upon and influence many aspects of the lives of all citizens. Public service providers thus have to be able to recognise and meet the diversity of needs in a diverse population. Attitudes and prejudices may, implicitly or explicitly, influence one’s professional sense of judgement. Our work has documented how men and women are treated differently by public service providers, resulting in tangible differences in the services provided based on gender.
Stereotypes pertaining to gender, ethnicity, age or disability may therefore shape the quality of the services provided to citizens. Through research, assessments and awareness-raising, the Centre for Equality aims to ensure that public services maintain high standards of quality, efficiency and equality.
The Centre for Equality:
- Has worked closely with the regional administration in Vest-Agder, assisting with their plan of improving equality practices in municipal administration.
- Offers equality-based assessments of public directives, ensuring that they comply with legal requirements concerning equality, and pointing out strengths and weaknesses from an equality perspective.
- Provides assessments, consultancy at all levels of government in questions of equality.