For women who Rock their Role in work and life

Archive for the category “Boards”

Is it easier for women to be breadwinners in Denmark than in the UK?

The guest blog is written by Rachael Sterrett, founder of Getting it write dk she works with companies in Denmark who wish to develop an international focus to their marketing.  Rachael moved to Denmark with her husband and two children in 2011 and started her own company last year.   

Rachael Sterrett

Rachael Sterrett, founder of Getting it write dk

“In Denmark it is not necessary to choose between job and children – it is possible to have both.” Kirstie Wild

In the UK as the number of female breadwinners increases significantly, there is intense debate around the challenges of managing “breadwinner status”, the need for better more cost-effective childcare and demands for more flexible working conditions for both men and women.

However, the social system already in place may put Danish women ahead of the game, facilitating an easier transition into new working roles. Denmark has had a head start on equality for many years and already has very generous maternity benefits, flexible working conditions and affordable high quality childcare.

Kirstie Wild, EU Science Funding Consultant at the Danish Institute for Technology moved to Denmark with her husband and 6 year old twins in December 2008.  Despite planning a career break in Denmark she soon realized that, “It was not necessary to choose job or children – it is possible to have both. The Danish work-life balance is so much better than in the UK.”

In my experience, the economy in Denmark is built on two incomes. There isn’t a term for “breadwinner”, as it is expected that both partners will be working. However, the working conditions and childcare provision also accommodate this. There is very little requirement for parents to attend school events during the day (sports days/nativity plays) alleviating the guilt felt by missing these events, and the stress spent trying to “make” them on time. Danish children are self-reliant from a very early age, with many going to school on their own from the age of 7, relieving parents of “school run” stress.

There is a high degree of self worth amongst Danish women and much less guilt. So what happens when Danish women, despite being equal, start to by-pass their men and earn more than their partners? In the last 15 years women’s share of top earners, the Golden Percentile (gyldne procent), has doubled to 18%. The number of women starting their own businesses has increased to 33% and Denmark is ranked 7 overall for gender equality in the Global Gender Gap Report 2012 (with the UK at 18).

Whilst there is some discussion in the Danish media on the impact of “TopKvinder” (top female earners), there is also notable discussion on the challenge it poses for men. Kenneth Reinicke from Roskilde University is often quoted in articles about gender roles from the male perspective. There is also growing interest in how relationships are affected by changes in earnings. Recent research, In Sickness and in Wealth published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin concluded that Danish men were more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction when their wives earned marginally more than them, and that women who earned more than their husbands suffered from increased anxiety and insomnia.

So when all things are equal, even in Denmark, the last taboo of women earning more than their partners can still be threatening for some couples remaining hidden from public view behind the closed doors of the bedroom.

Rachael Sterrett, Getting it write dk.

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I am Jenny Garrett, Executive Coach, founder of Reflexion Associates, a leadership and coaching consultancy and author or Rocking Your Role – the how to guide to success for female breadwinners. Find out more about me, my programmes, speaking engagements and training at and sign up for my newsletter


Doing the David Cameron shuffle

I am never one to force, more to encourage, or coerce. I do it with my daughter all the time, ‘oh you don’t want to do your homework, oh that’s fine, just clean your room instead then’, suddenly homework seems more appealing!

Why am I telling you this? Well yesterday my feelings changed, thanks to David Cameron, I realised that sometimes a bit of force is needed.

It started with a twitter discussion that was led by the Evening Standard on how to achieve more women on boards. You can look up the twitter feed #womenonboards or @standardnews. I was still on the fence on quotas at the end of it, even with the knowledge that those smart women in Norway have used quotas to achieve a representation of women making up 40% of their boards. Instead I idealised working with men to make change happen together, an evolving and iterative process. Walking side by side, creating this diverse, inclusive and valued board.

Then I watched with horror as David Cameron did what felt like going back on his 2008 pledge to end the “scandalous under-representation” of women in government, (his words, not mine) by sacking the few women in his cabinet. There are now only 4 women out of 31 cabinet members, which is shocking.

According to the Telegraph, the UK is 57th in the world for representation of women in the cabinet, yes, I said it right 57th! How can we then be a forward thinking developing economy? This put’s my comment ‘shocking’ into context for you.

You see even if the women he shuffled out weren’t performing; why not shuffle some women back in? After all we all know in the shuffle dance, we don’t just go in one direction, we go back and forth and side to side.

I suspect that the truth has leaked out in his action, his words may lyrically entice us, but his actions definitely don’t. They represent that David wants his old boys network by his side.

Consciously or unconsciously, David is doing the very thing that boards do all the time, although with much more public scrutiny.

It will be no surprise if any of these last women standing resign, as any requests for flexibility will stand out amongst their peers, the sense of isolation will be deafening and getting their voice heard will be a gargantuan feat.

So you know what, I am now for quotas and fast, especially in government.

If David can shuffle, so can I.

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