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First open call for Nordic Research Initiative opens today

Photo: Carina Elmäng

Research and evidence-based knowledge is essential to be able to develop new and effective measures to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. Today opens the first of two open calls within a Nordic Research Initiative, focusing on these issues. In order to develop new and effective efforts to combat sexual harassment in the workplace, evidence- and research-based knowledge is essential. In light of this, the Nordic Council of Ministers has decided to support a Nordic research initiative, in co-operation between several sectors within the Nordic collaboration. Sectors involved include gender equality, culture, working life and the Nordic Committee for Children and Young People. The research initiative consists of two open calls for proposals, both will be launched in 2021.  Open Call 1 opens on 20 April.


About Open Call 1

The open call 1 is aimed at currently ongoing research projects, which through approval of a Nordic grant could contribute to new knowledge regarding sexual harassment in Nordic working life. The focus will be on preventive measures, as well as methods for intervention.  

Key dates:

  • Open Call 1 opens: 20 April 2021
  • Open Call 1 closes: 10 June 2021 at 14:00 CET
  • Preliminary time for decisions: September 2021

Assessment and decisions

Applications that meet the criteria will be assessed by external academic reviewers. Decisions will be announced by NIKK, after consulting the interdisciplinary reference group appointed by the Nordic Council of Ministers in connection with this initiative. Decisions are final.

Guide for applicants – applying for Open Call 1

Information about aim, criteria and application contents can be found in the Guide for applicants. 
Please read the guide carefully and prepare any required attachments to be uploaded before you fill out, and submit, the application form.

Digital information meeting on 6 May

A digital info meeting will be organised for those who have questions about the call and plan to apply: Thursday, 6 May, 13.00-14:30 CET

Interested in participating? Please email maria.gronroos@genus.gu.se no later than 3 May.

Communication and dissemination from the research initiative

NIKK will administer the research initiative and disseminate information about and knowledge from the projects that are awarded grants. In the winter of 2022/2023, a Nordic dissemination conference is planned, covering both calls of the research initiative, in co-operation with the Norwegian Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers for 2022.

Read more about the Nordic research initiative here

Ministers initiate research on sexual harassment at work

The Nordic Council of Ministers supports joint research on sexual harassment at work with 3,7 million Danish crowns.  The initiative is especially focused on prevention and methods for intervention through industry studies and comparative studies of different industries. Other topics for the Finnish presidency are hate and threat, men’s care responsibility and norms in preschools.


Violence, harassment and other forms of vulnerability at work are major societal challenges with serious consequences for individuals and workplace organisations. At the same time there are major gaps in our knowledge about methods for preventing and stopping violence and harassment, protecting victims and being proactive in workplace environments. 

 “Although our awareness about sexual harassment has increased in recent years, the phenomenon has by no means disappeared. Research and evidence-based knowledge has an important role in developing new and effective measures to combat sexual harassment, says Thomas Blomqvist, Finnish Minister for Gender Equality and Nordic Co-operation and newly appointed Chairman for the Nordic gender equality and LGBTI cooperation. This is an extremely important issue, where Nordic cooperation and exchange of knowledge can bring great added value.” 

Thomas Blomqvist. Photo: norden.org
Thomas Blomqvist. Photo: norden.org

This is a cross-sectoral research initiative jointly with several sectors within the Nordic cooperation. The collaborative sectors are gender equality, culture, working life and the Nordic Committee for Children and Young People. Further sectors may be added at a later date. 
 

Objectives for the initiative 

The overarching objectives of the initiative are:  

  • To contribute towards new knowledge on sexual harassment at work in the Nordic countries, with a focus on preventive measures and intervention methods.  
  • To contribute towards a good knowledge base for policy development and to cross-sectoral Nordic collaboration.  
  • For the research to be of high academic quality, practice-based and well communicated.  
  • To be relevant to the collaborative sectors involved, for affected industries and for the working life actors  

 
The research initiative spans over 2021 – 2023 and is administered by Nordic Information on Gender, NIKK, on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers. Two calls will be made during 2021.  

Activities against hate and threats

Apart from the research initiative the Finnish presidency will, within the Nordic gender equality cooperation, also focus on activities against hate and threats, especially harassments on the net. Issues about norms and gender stereotypes will also be in focus, especially concerning preschools. Regarding these issues a Nordic survey will be made, with present research, reports and legislation and a Nordic conference will be arranged, to present new knowledge and exchange experiences.  

Men’s care responsibility, fatherhood and parental leave are also issues that will be highlighted during the year. The Finnish presidency continues to establish the new policy area concerning rights, treatment and possibilities for LGBTI people. In November this will be the focus of a conference.

NIKK and NIVA arrange webinar on sexual harassment in the health care sector

Photo: Luke Jones

Health care workers are crucial to the functioning of society. They work on the front line and meet a large number of people every day – colleagues, patients and their relatives. Research shows that sexual harassment is a big problem in the workplace. That includes health care. On March 2 these issues are highlighted in our webinar ‘Sexually harassed in health care – doubly vulnerable in a hard-hit sector’.


Many health care workers report that they have been subjected to sexual harassment at work. The ongoing pandemic has also starkly highlighted shortcomings in the health care sector’s working conditions, which is already a vulnerable sector. The Nordic countries have similarities and differences in how this sector is organised as well as in the format and design of measures and initiatives undertaken. Nordic Information on Gender, NIKK, and the Nordic Institute for Advanced Training in Occupational Health, NIVA, invite you to the webinar Sexually harassed in health care – doubly vulnerable in a hard-hit sector on these highly topical issues.

Learn about the experience of the Icelandic health care sector, the Norwegian Nurses Federation and the newly appointed Swedish Equality Ombudsman, in conversation on the problem as well as important measures and solutions to it. Results from the new report Sexually harassed at work – An overview of the research in the Nordic countries will be presented and discussed from the different perspectives of the panel participants.

View invitation

What do we know about sexual harassment? Overview presents knowledge

It is three years since Metoo started and rapidly spread around the world. We highlight this day by publishing “Sexually harassed at work –
A brief overview of the research in the Nordic countries.” The brief publication presents the current knowledge about sexual harassment in the workplace in the Nordic countries, while also making apparent key knowledge gaps where more research is needed.


The Metoo Day, 15th of October, is a way to check on how the power in the revolution metoo came to be is being held on to today. In the Nordic countries the Metoo movement is a pressing issue. One example is the many calls for action against sexism in several sectors in Denmark during this fall.

The publication briefly presents the current knowledge about sexual harassment in the workplace in the Nordic countries, while also making apparent key knowledge gaps where more research is needed. What do we know today? How do different sectors differ from each other? The publication is a great way to get an overview of the Nordic research on this burning issue.

Nordic research on sexual harassment presented in new report

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a major social problem in the Nordic countries. The many #MeToo calls for action during the autumn of 2017 in particular are testimony to this. Knowledge on this issue in the Nordic countries has been compiled for the first time in the report “Sexual harassment in the workplace – An overview of the research in the Nordic countries”.


The report outlines current knowledge about sexual harassment in the Nordic countries and identifies needs for additional knowledge. This research overview was produced by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) and commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers as the basis for a Nordic research initiative in the area. The Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, sees the report as an important step toward a society in which gender equality prevails, free from violence and harassment.

“This report offers an important overview of the gaps and indeed chasms in our factual knowledge of sexual harassment in the workplace. It highlights the importance of multidisciplinary research and of continuing Nordic collaboration on ending sexual harassment at work and other forms of violence against women and girls. Such violence is both the cause and consequence of wider gender inequalities and we have both a legal and a moral obligation to end it.”

Great need for more Nordic knowledge

The report charts how sexual harassment takes different forms in the workplace depending on the occupation. The report shows that, regardless of the industry investigated, the consequences of sexual harassment in the workplace are devastating for both individuals and organisations. Some common consequences are mental ill-health, sickness absence, diminished career opportunities, and burdensome staff turnover as a result of terminations.  Malin Svensson, PhD in child and youth studies, has written the report and in it she identifies the need for cross-sectoral knowledge.

“Sexual harassment can look different depending on the nature of the occupation, and experiences may differ between occupational groups, for example whether or not the employee’s physical body is central to performing their work. That is why we need cross-sectoral knowledge from many countries that can identify broader patterns in the Nordic labour market. The report also shows that a focus on gender and age is too narrow. We need knowledge about how gender, age, ethnicity and skin colour, functionality/disability, and sexual identity operate in tandem with the risks of being sexually harassed at work.”

The report also identifies the need for more and deeper knowledge about why sexual harassment occurs and about structural conditions that contribute to or prevent the incidence of sexual harassment if we are going to be able to understand and counter harassment. Malin Svensson identifies a number of key knowledge gaps where more research is needed to be able to tackle this social problem energetically.

“There is agreement within the research field that the number of unreported cases is high and that women, as well as other groups, who have been the victims of harassment do not report it for various reasons. We also need to know more about the perpetrators – who they are and what drives them to offend. There is also a need for more knowledge about the working conditions and conditions of employment that can constitute particular risk factors for being sexually harassed.

The research overview is based on a systematic review of the research and other relevant literature from the Nordic countries between the years 2014 and 2019. Read “Sexually harassed at work – an overview of the research in the Nordic countries” here.

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland

New assignments for NIKK on sexual harassment, working life in the future and LGBTI issues in the Nordic region


NIKK has been assigned three new projects, all beginning in 2019. These assignments focus on mapping research and knowledge about sexual harassment in working life, sustainability and gender equality in the high-tech working life of the future, and mapping and analysing the LGBTI field in the Nordic region. The projects will contribute towards increased knowledge and quality within Nordic gender equality work in each individual area.

Sustainability and gender equality in the high-tech working life of the future

The future labour market will be digitalised, robotised and automated, resulting in certain jobs disappearing and a growing demand for employment in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector. In view of the fact that the labour market is divided up by gender and that the proportion of women within this sector is low, this may have long-term implications in terms of gender equality in the Nordic labour market. The Nordic Council of Ministers’ working life, gender equality, education and research sectors and the Nordic cooperation programme Generation 2030 have therefore tasked NIKK with producing a knowledge base. This will involve investigating how the Nordic nations are working to achieve a better gender balance in education and professions as demanded within the natural sciences and technology, and how this is expected to contribute towards sustainability and gender equality in future labour markets.

The assignment will result in:

  • A Nordic overview of existing research in connection with gender-related study choices within the STEM sector
  • An inventorying of concrete initiatives within the Nordic region to reduce the gender imbalance within STEM
  • An analysis of inventoried initiatives
  • An outlook of how a selection of other countries outside the Nordic region promote a gender balance within STEM

Project period: June 2019 to December 2020
Project budget: DKK 800,000


Mapping and analysis of the LGBTI field in the Nordic region

New formal Nordic cooperation on equal treatment and rights for LGBTI individuals began in 2020. In order to ensure that this cooperation is reliable, effective and lasting, NIKK has been tasked by the Nordic Council of Ministers with mapping and analysing the LGBTI field.

The assignment will result in:

  • Mapping that highlights national conditions regarding legislation and administrative structure within the LGBTI field, the themes and initiative areas in focus at national level, and inspiration models for Nordic cooperation.
  • A consultation process in which organisations within civil society, agencies and other players working for the equal rights of LGBTI individuals in the Nordic region will be given the opportunity to contribute towards identifying the themes and initiative areas that should be prioritised by Nordic cooperation within the LGBTI field.
  • Analysis and recommendations based on this mapping and consultation. These recommendations should be aimed at the Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality, and should indicate the themes and initiative areas, initiatives and partners for the LGBTI field.

The Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality shall discuss the recommendations and then adopt the strategic initiative areas that bring the greatest possible Nordic benefit within the LGBTI field. The overall objective, initiative areas and subsidiary goals shall subsequently be compiled in a supplement to the Nordic Co-operation Programme on Gender Equality 2019-2022.

Project period: September 2019 to May 2020
Project budget: DKK 500,000


Nordic knowledge boost on sexual harassment: a pilot study

Through its gender equality cooperation, the Nordic Council of Ministers has initiated a research-based pilot study to highlight gaps in knowledge on sexual harassment in working life, and to draw up proposals on the action to be taken. NIKK has been tasked with carrying out the pilot study, to be completed in March 2020. The Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality have also decided to fund a Nordic research initiative which, based on the proposals from the pilot study, will contribute towards increasing knowledge of sexual harassment in working life and will form the basis for future initiatives to combat sexual harassment. There is an obvious need within the Nordic region for greater knowledge about gender-based vulnerability in working life and sustainable ways to tackle the problem. Investigations and mappings have previously been initiated in the individual countries, but there is no joint Nordic overview.

The assignment will result in:

  • Research-based mapping of recently completed and ongoing research projects, mappings and other relevant studies within the Nordic region related to gender-based vulnerability in the labour market.
  • A summary of the comparative Nordic need for knowledge that has emerged within the framework of Nordic cooperation work on #MeToo issues.
  • A presentation of how a three-year research programme should be structured. Thematic content, funding, advertising formats and follow-up and evaluation are included in the assignment.

Project period: September 2019 to March 2020
Project budget: DKK 500,000

#MeToo Moving forward: International conference on combatting sexual harassment

What impact has the #MeToo movement had so far and how do we move forward? These are some of the issues discussed at the international conference #MeToo Moving forward in Reykjavik 17-19 of September. The conference is a part of the Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2019 and is organised in collaboration with RIKK, Institute for Gender, Equality and Difference at the University of Iceland.


Since the #MeToo movement gained traction in 2017 millions of people have used the hashtag #MeToo on social media across the world. Anonymously or not, they have revealed epidemic levels of harassment, violence and everyday sexism. They have called upon people in position of power to act and to help bring an end to gender inequality and systematic sexism. In some countries the impact of #MeToo has been minimal while in others the movement has led to a robust review of structural inequalities, within specific sectors or in society at large. The impact of #MeToo has been significantly different amongst the Nordic countries, which normally rank high on gender equality indexes.

The conference will explore the #MeToo movement in an international context. Why did the movement gain such momentum in 2017 and what was the different impact on sectors, societies and countries? What does #MeToo tell us about the intersections of gender, sex, race, class, religion, ethnicity, age, disability and sexualities? What impact will #MeToo have on gender equality in the Nordic countries and beyond?

Scholars, politicians and activists from all around the world will gather for the conference in Reykjavik. Speakers include high-level representation from politics as well as research and the civil society. The well-known professors and feminist writers Angela Davis and Cynthia Enloe are some of the many speakers and all of the Nordic ministers for gender equality will be gathered for a panel discussion.

#MeToo Moving forward is a part of the Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2019. The conference is free of charge and open to the public, but registration is necessary. Registration closes on 10 September 2019.

Strong focus on Me Too movement during Sweden’s Presidency year

The Me Too movement had just erupted when Sweden took over the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers one year ago. And its impact has been visible in Nordic cooperation during the year. Sexual harassment has been on the agenda and gender equality has had extra priority.
“It’s important now not to lose this momentum,” says Sweden’s Minister for Gender Equality Lena Hallengren.


After the Me Too call to action, the Swedish Presidency decided that gender equality issues and sexual harassment in particular would have extra focus in 2018.  This resulted in the Nordic countries’ gender equality ministers, and even the ministers for culture and justice for example, having put issues related to the Me Too movement on their agendas.

“I think it’s great that we have been able to embrace the Me Too movement in our Nordic cooperation and profile these issues as strongly as we have done,” says Karin Bengtson, who has coordinated these efforts in gender equality during the Swedish Presidency.

She explains that efforts in the Nordic countries to counteract and prevent sexual harassment have led to a number of concrete initiatives. For example, a Me Too manual for the Nordic countries’ justice systems is due to be published and the Nordic ministers for culture have initiated training aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the cultural sector. In November, NIKK also held a Me Too seminar in Stockholm on behalf of the Swedish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers with participants from the Nordic and the Baltic countries. These countries have also raised these issues at the national level, and tightened the legislation in this area. For example, Sweden and Iceland have introduced consent laws and Denmark has tightened its legislation aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the digital world.

Masculinity questions a priority area

Aside from the Me Too movement, over the past year the Nordic countries’ efforts in relation to gender equality have had special focuses on gender mainstreaming, men’s violence against women, and men’s participation in gender equality efforts. During the spring, Sweden hosted the International Conference on Men and Equal Opportunities (ICMEO), and in connection with this conference the Nordic Council of Ministers held several meetings and seminars on Nordic themes. One of these focused on the roles of men and boys in combating prostitution and the sex trade. Another was about strategies for the prevention of gender-based violence.

The new focus this year for gender mainstreaming of the organisation of the Nordic Council of Ministers has been on the Presidency itself. Everyone who works with Nordic cooperation issues at the Government Offices of Sweden have been offered gender equality training.

“We wanted to make absolutely sure that everyone participating in the Swedish Presidency was knowledgeable about and able to work with these issues,” says Karin Bengtson.

Wants to see more focus on working life

Sweden’s Minister for Gender Equality Lena Hallengren is pleased that gender equality issues have received so much attention in Nordic cooperation over the course of the past year.

“The focus we have had on gender equality in general in the Nordic Council of Ministers as a whole is what I am most proud of,” she says.

At the end of the year, Sweden will hand over the Presidency to Iceland, and Lena Hallengren has highlighted gender equality in working life as a particularly important issue to continue working with.

“The Me Too movement pinpointed problems that exist generally in the labour market and we have much more work to do. Iceland is a forerunner in the area, in particular when it comes to equal pay. I think they can take the matter further and develop efforts in the Nordic countries to make the workplace safer and a place where more people will dare to speak out,” she says.

Like other important questions for the future, she highlights the challenges arising from the Nordic countries having an ageing population and from the conditions in female-dominated occupations in the public sector.

“Without decent conditions in these occupations, we will find it difficult to offer the standard of welfare that we are used to in the Nordic region. We must ensure that these occupational groups can live on their salaries and pensions,” she says.

New Nordic programme for gender equality

It’s not just the Presidency that will change at the turn of the year. The Nordic cooperation’s gender equality programme will also be replaced by a new programme for the period 2019-2022, which will set the terms of reference for the Nordic cooperation on gender equality during that time.

The new programme will focus on health and men and gender equality as two new sub-goals.

“We have worked with both of these areas previously but our aim is to put even more focus on them by making them sub-goals. In the case of health, we can see for example that men are over-represented in the suicide statistics and that women suffer more frequently from mental health problems than men. So these are important areas for gender equality,” says Karin Bengtson.

The new Nordic cooperation programme stresses that gender equality efforts must assume that men and women are not homogeneous groups. The programme also makes it clear that perspectives other than gender are important in promoting gender equality and these include background, functional capacity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

“It’s important to jointly stand up for gender equality efforts” 

Lena Hallengren believes that the Nordic countries have a lot to gain from cooperating and learning from each other in the area of gender equality.

“Our countries are very similar even though we don’t always do things the same way. We are also quite small, so we get a lot out of exchanging experience and building networks,” she says.

She also thinks that in the future, it will be especially important for the Nordic countries to jointly stand up for gender equality as a positive global force.

“Internationally, in Europe and in the rest of the world, we are seeing gender equality issues being perceived as provocative. So I think that it will become even more important that we stick together and jointly stand up for gender equality efforts,” she says.

Initiatives and action in the wake of the Me Too movement

How has the Me Too movement influenced the political agenda in the Nordic countries and the Baltic States? A recent survey by Nordic Information on Gender, NIKK, shows that these countries have taken a number of initiatives to deal with and prevent sexual harassment. These range from tougher legislation and expanding the remit of the responsible authorities to broad-scale information campaigns.


In autumn 2017, the Me Too movement went viral across the world. Women from many different industries shared their experiences of sexual harassment and united call for action. Women’s testimonies were given more space in the media and generated debate. In the Nordic and Baltic countries, the Me Too movement became part of the national political agenda, but what happened afterwards?

The new survey “One year after Me Too – Initiatives and action in the Nordic and Baltic countries” was developed on the initiative of the Swedish presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2018. The material was compiled by NIKK and is based on data from these countries and supplemental interviews with key individuals.

Four areas in particular have emerged from the survey in which these countries have acted based on Me Too: New and updated legislation, mission and organisation, requirements for employers, and surveys and spreading knowledge.
In the Nordic countries, sexual harassment is prohibited in the workplace and in the community at large. Legislation in each of these countries regulates this in working life. There is also criminal law legislation which makes it clear that sexual harassment is a crime that must be reported to the police. But the legislation are not always entirely clear and need to be supplemented and developed further. In the wake of Me Too, many countries in the Nordic and Baltic regions, have strengthened their legislation concerning abuse, harassment and sexual violence against women.

Another key issue has been ensuring compliance with the legislation. In the Nordic countries, employers have a responsibility to create a work environment that is free from sexual harassment. In connection with Me Too, various steps have been taken to strengthen and expand the remit of the supervisory authorities, with the aim of empowering them to ensure that employers know about the legislation and shoulder their responsibilities under it. In several countries, the chain of justice has also been discussed and steps have been taken to strengthen the judicial follow-up of sexual harassment.

But to put a stop to sexual harassment, you need more than just political will: decisions must be well anchored, and abuses must be prevented and combated at every turn – at work, at school and in the public domain. This requires broad cooperation and dialogue between social institutions and other parties. In the wake of Me Too, broad-scale information campaigns have been initiated targeting employers as well as other civil society actors. Several countries have also initiated surveys and investigations aimed at gathering facts and knowledge on which to base ongoing efforts to put a stop to sexual harassment.

NIKK’s survey of initiatives and action was presented at a seminar in Stockholm in November. It was attended by government representatives from the Nordic and Baltic countries, as well as stakeholders from civil society, the Nordic Association, and the international arena. One of the speakers was Åsa Regnér. When the Me Too campaign was gathering momentum, she was serving as the Minister for Gender Equality in Sweden. Today, she is the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.
“When the Me Too movement began, in my role as the Minister for Gender Equality I felt immediately  that I wanted to act. But what struck me was that in Sweden we already had the regulatory framework in place. It was clear what the employer and the trade unions were to do, but almost nobody was doing anything! It was a shock.”
In her view, a positive aspect of the campaign in Sweden was that it really was a wake-up call which led to additional political action. On the global stage, Åsa Regnér has seen how Me Too is continuing as an ongoing, live debate. But she also expresses concern over an ongoing backlash against gender equality and questions related to sexual and reproductive health.

NIKK’s survey highlights various initiatives that have been taken in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Estonia amended in its criminal law legislation in 2017 to introduce sexual harassment as a separate category of offence. One of the participants at the conference was Kadi Viik, editor of the feminist platform and Internet magazine Feministeerium, which published the Me too manifesto in Estonia. In her opinion, the campaign has had a huge impact in Estonia and been discussed at many levels.

According to Kadi Viik, the political response in the wake of Me Too in Estonia has been mixed. She believes that one of the reasons for this is the influence of conservative forces on current politics.
“The government is so afraid of extremists gaining more power that they are being accommodating,” she says.

Read NIKK’s survey “One year after Me Too – Initiatives and action in the Nordic and Baltic countries” here.

Updated 2 July 2020