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Ministerens tale ved Womenomics Nordic Business Conference, den 29. maj 2018

“When we go out for a cup of coffee, it is to confirm our friendship – or for hygge. It is only rarely that we have analyzed the professional value of this particular appointment. When we go to a reception, we small talk with people we know, or we hide in a corner. It is only rarely that we have studied the guest list and know who to focus on and spend the limited time on.”

The words belong to Danish writer Hanne Vibeke Holst. In her recent article called “Women are terrible networkers”, she argues that women are just that: Terrible networkers. She further states that “The established business networks – in Denmark known as VL Groups – do not attract women. For what are women supposed to do there, where they become a minority between dull and boring alpha males?”

It may seem strange to address this question to a crowd of women who are obviously good and active networkers. Women with splendid careers or splendid careers in the making. But maybe Hanne Vibeke Holst is right? Maybe we could achieve more as individuals by having a more professional approach to networking. Maybe the companies could benefit from more female leaders if more women cared about their professional networks. And perhaps our society would be richer and more prosperous with more successful companies.   

A new study shows that 60% of all leaders in Denmark have been recruited from the same three educations. And on these three educations only 30% of the students are women. Leadership means you have to prioritize and dare make the sometimes tough decisions. Decisions like choosing a typically male dominated education, sharing your parental leave with your partner, accepting that you won’t be making homemade cookies for the school bake sale, driving around to after school activities or running a marathon.

I agree with those who think that being a member of a VL group may seem boringI am a minister and member of parliament working here in Copenhagen. But my family lives in the South of Jutland. That’s a three hour ride from here. It’s not always easy – but you make it work. And today I am happy that I have been able to show my three daughters, that it is perfectly natural for a woman to follow her ambitions. Because as many of you know – it’s exciting and fun to be the one calling the shots. But also that it means sometimes making sacrifices.

And that’s what these role models are showing the next generation. As Nana Bule puts it: I have learned, that you can achieve anything, but you won’t get any hand-outs. You have to take responsibility yourself. And that’s what I’ve done”. That’s why role models work. They inspire and motivate young people to make ambitious decisions for themselves. They also tell young people, that being ambitious means hard work and tough decisions. And that it pays off.

I read an american study of how letting young women read about a female leader that inspires them, like Hilary Clinton, in the beginning of a test – their performance is strengthened. That’s how role models create empowerment.
I hope all you strong women here also will think of yourselves as role models.