Department of Culture and Learning


Mira C. Skadegård: Denmark is against affirmative action - but we already have quotas favoring men

In a recent opinion piece in Berlingske, Skadegård argues (in Danish) for the importance of investigating and paying attention to what happens in the hiring process and how we locate qualified applicants no matter their background.

Last modified: 07.02.2022

research shows requirements and affirmative action have a positive effect, yet denmark is reluctant

Assistant professor in Centre for Education Policy Research (CfU), Mira C. Skadegård, recently penned an opinion piece in the newspaper Berlingske on Denmark's resistance to affirmative action and quotas. You can find the piece in Danish by pressing here

EU and others argue for affirmative action to ensure better representation in powerful positions, as initiatives have shown positive results in research. In Denmark, however, the support for these actions is lukewarm at best, despite implicit bias which would suggest that we need them. In Denmark, we tend to hire through our network or hire those that look like us or are perceived to have similar competences or simply underestimate the competences of minoritized people, including women.  

Mira C. Skadegård highlights in her piece how we already have affirmative action, albeit implicitly and not officially regulated. These implicit and explicit structures in our system favor majoritized men, who are currently positioned in the most powerful positions across sectors including culture, media, business, and universities. This is not due to a lack of qualified minoritized people, but the structural inequalities that persist, likely due to the implicitl character. When hiring, "chemistry" or a "good fit" are for instance often used as vague descriptors and arguments for hiring or not hiring certain people. Skadegård argues it is important to investigate what happens in the hiring process and how we locate the qualified applicants no matter their background. She encourages measures such as the new paternity leave rules (read Skadegård's comments on that by pressing here) and critically working with knowledge, habits and competency development within this area.

Today, most Danes recognize that there is a bias in hiring. Skadegård argues we need to talk about the implicit quotas that currently exist and how we need to try to make more transparent and formalized practices. Quotas and other affirmative action measures tend to get people riled up, even though the knee-jerk responses are often a reaction to myths. While affirmative action measures are useful tools, they can feel unnatural at first, but while there are no perfect solution, they are a concrete and effective measure against inequality. No matter what measure is selected, Skadegård calls for actual action to be taken. When the system historically has been designed with a divided labor market, we need to take a close and proper look at what barriers exist and how we can remove them to obtain equal opportunities for generations to come. Equal opportunities are even good for the fiscal bottom line, so it is all about getting to work and implementing creative and innovative measures!