Majbritt Skov, partner and head of Deloitte Economics, only recently realised how skewed the Danish labour market was against women. Now, she uses her economist’s toolbox to shed light on these gender inequalities

How can you reach your destination if you do not know where you are starting from? How can we track progress if we do not know where we are heading? These are the kinds of burning questions that motivate partner and head of Deloitte Economics, Majbritt Skov.

And more than just motivating her, these questions have also propelled Majbritt to professional success. But it is only recently that she has been forced to reflect on the realities faced by many women in the workplace.

“Until recent years I had a feeling: ‘We can make it if we want to’ – but now, I have started to doubt that. I think systemic errors are occurring in the labour market.”

In fact, for the first five years of her consulting career, she was the only woman. In hindsight, this strikes her as bizarre – and, with her economist’s hat on, a staggering waste of potential: both human capital and the hefty public resources spent on education.

Recent realisations

Majbritt is incredibly open about the journey she has been on. It was when having children that the differences in cultural expectations and gender norms became most obvious to her. Having decided, with their first child, to broadly split the parental leave, Majbritt and her partner were shocked by the differing questions they were confronted with

“When people heard our plan, I got the immediate reaction: ‘Why don’t you want to take more leave?!’ – and my husband was hit with questions like: ‘Don’t you have a career?’ or ‘Don’t you have a wife?’”

This reaction led her to change her views: “Before this, I was against the idea of the government legislating on the issue of parental leave. Now, I believe it is, and was, the right thing to do.”

This is because, in part, what seemed entirely natural to Majbritt as a woman, a mother and a partner, was met by such surprise from others:

“It means so much that my husband is just as good at giving our children comfort, making them feel safe and looking after them. It is a matter of showing our children that mum and dad are equal, and the first, important step in that is being able to tell them: ‘We looked after you equally when you were a baby’.”

Where do we stand with gender equality?

These experiences have, in turn, led Majbritt – and Deloitte – to work together with the think tank EQUALIS in producing the Diversity Barometer, which provides insights on the current gender inequalities in the Danish labour market.

There is a lot of discussion about gender inequality, but an all-encompassing barometer, showing the reality of gender inequality in the labour market, has been missing. That is why Deloitte Economics entered into a collaboration with EQUALIS – supported by an advisory board of Denmark’s leading researchers on gender – to create precisely this.

For Majbritt, this kind of work is Deloitte’s alpha and omega:

“It is in our DNA to contribute to the society that we are part of. We have a huge knowledge base, and we can contribute with analyses that can make the debate more fact-based.”

Unsurprising findings – but the data can spark a change

In Denmark, we track huge amounts of data. By standardising it, Majbritt explains, we gain the ability to see if women are over or underrepresented across different metrics relating to the labour market.

“It looks simple, but we spent a lot of time developing this methodology” she says.

The barometer breaks a mass of data down into five sections: Education and career progression; work environment; connection to the labour market; responsibility and leadership; and income and wealth.

It is, perhaps, not a surprise to learn that there is a long way to go. But the scale of some of the inequalities is stark. Even in traditionally “female” fields, men are the bosses. Men have almost 1 million DKK more in net wealth than women. Across almost every metric measured, from psychological stress at work to getting promoted, to entering leadership positions, women have worse conditions. All of this reinforces the questions which Majbritt admits have confronted her in recent years.

“In a country like Denmark, where we have free access to education and labour markets, why are we not more equal?”

Ready to be a role model

For Majbritt, this work bridges the personal and the professional.

With an economist’s hat on, the case in favour of action is inarguable. For companies, the talent pool gets much bigger if they are looking at both men and women. And swathes of economic analyses show that diversity – not just gender diversity, but also in terms of background, nationality and sexual orientation – is a big positive for economic performance.

She underlines, in turn, how significant the changes Deloitte has made regarding parental leave are:

“The fact that women are taking the majority of parental leave is also a reason why their pensions are lower. It is also logical that, if you are away from the labour market, your income will be reduced.”

By adopting pioneering policies internally, whilst undertaking work that shows the picture across the entirety of the Danish labour market, Majbritt hopes that Deloitte can inspire change – amongst policymakers and businesses alike.

“We are making progress – but as the barometer shows us, we still have a long way to go. I hope that by participating, I can use myself as a role model to my colleagues. In the wider society, there is a lot to be gained, and very little reason not to make these changes.”

You can read more about the Diversity Barometer here.

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