Students Study Nordic Gender Equality

April 15, 2015

Cynthia Ingols

Management professors took 20 students to explore how Denmark and Sweden support working women. Professor Cynthia Ingols filled us in on the trip!

What do you teach at Simmons?

I teach the Business & Management majors’ capstone course, Leadership & Organizational Change in the School of Management. I also run the internship program for undergraduates and teach a course on career management in conjunction with the program. 

For the Executive Education programs, I am the faculty director for the leadership course called, Strategic Leadership for Women. This is a one-week program where executive women from around the world come together to strengthen their leadership skills.

What made you decide to lead a student trip to Denmark & Sweden?

In Spring 2013, Associate Dean Patricia Deyton and I took a group of students to Japan where we studied women’s involvement in the workforce and equity issues. Traditionally Japanese women leave the labor market when they get married; more recently Japanese women leave the labor market when they have their first child and they tend not to return. 

In contrast, women in the Nordic Countries have a very high rate of participation in the labor market and we wanted to learn firsthand what governmental and corporate policies encourage women to work.

What kind of conclusions did you come to about gender equality?

In Denmark and Sweden, we learned that governmental, corporate, and organizational policies and practices encourage women to participate in the labor market. For example, in Sweden the government provides maternal and paternal child-care leave and has an extensive system of high-quality childcare facilities, encouraging women’s participation in the work force. However, just like the USA, the number of women in CEO positions is low. It seems that organizations can do a lot to get women into middle management positions but that it takes internal drive for women to reach senior management positions.

What was your favorite part of the trip?

Our ability to visit places and meet and learn from people that were accessible to us only on a study abroad trip. For example, we visited the Copenhagen School of Business and learned how they define leadership in a country with notable equality; later in the week we visited the University of Malmo and heard how they partner with the City of Malmo to promote social sustainability in their city. We were welcomed at three multinational corporations (FL Smidth, IBM and Novo Nordisk) and heard how they work to integrate women into their work forces. These were wonderful opportunities and were open to us because we traveled as a college-sponsored program.

What was the most important lesson you learned on the trip?

People were wonderfully generous with their time and expertise and welcoming us into their organizations. I learned how important it is to host global visitors who come to Boston.

How could a student get involved in the next trip like this?

The School of Management’s trips are open to students across Simmons. Like SOM students, people need to apply and be accepted into the course. In spring 2016, Professors Guertler and Gutlove are planning a trip to Cuba -- a truly exciting place to explore right now. 

Photo by Jen Eno-Ballbach. Professor Ingols (right) and students on the trip.