Gender Equality in the Arctic

GEA is an international collaborative project focusing on gender equality in the Arctic. We highlight the importance of recognition and appreciation of diversity in terms of discourses, gender, indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, governance, education, economies, social realities, sustainability and balanced participation in leadership and decision making both in the public and private sectors.

Project Background

The geopolitical and global economic significance of the Arctic region has been growing fast, inter alia because of climate change as well as resource and economic development. The changes we witness in the Arctic – ecological, social and economic – affect both men and women although sometimes in different ways.

The gap between women and men with regard to economic participation and political empowerment remains wide and must continue to be addressed. Our common goal is to secure equal opportunities for men and women, to enable boys and girls to lead the lives they desire in a world without discrimination. This subject must become an integral part of Arctic policies in order to strengthen social well-being and support sustainable development in the region.

In the autumn of 2013 a proposal was submitted to the Arctic Council for a project aimed to promote a dialogue on gender equality in the Arctic region and to raise awareness of the situation of women and men in the Arctic. This would include addressing key issues such as control over resources, representation in decision-making, political participation, and material and cultural well-being.

The purpose of this project would be to promote an extensive, policy-relevant dialogue on issues of gender equality in the Arctic region in the context of current realities in terms of economic and social development as well as current and future challenges, inter alia relating to climatic and environmental changes.


 Phase I  \\  2013-2015

Conference and Report

Project partners in the circumpolar region joined hands to organize the international conference Gender Equality in the Arctic – Current realities, future challenges.

The conference took place in Akureyri, Iceland in October 2014 and attracted 150 scholars, NGOs, politicians, government and business representatives from all the Arctic States. Information about the conference itself, partners and sponsors, as well as recordings of all conference sessions can be found on the conference website


The report Gender Equality in the Arctic: Current realities, future challenges (pub. 2015) builds on the comprehensive presentations and discussions that took place during the conference in Akureyri. The report contributes to advancing debate and research on gender issues and calls attention to the continued disparity between women and men with regard to economic participation and political empowerment.


Key outcome of the report are policy relevant highlights derived from the conference material:


Gender issues and equality should be a priority in the Arctic region

Women’s access to and participation in political and economic spheres in the public or private sectors must be improved.

Arctic states bear an obligation to ensure gender equality and eliminate all forms of discrimination.

Diversity within gender categories must be respected and complex gender identities taken into account.

Economic diversity and knowledge based companies will be a key to sustainable northern development in the future. Innovation and entrepreneurship are vital to community and regional development in the north.

Policy concerning climate change must include women’s and indigenous peoples’ perspectives.

Gender roles are in the process of gradual transition. Men need to be more actively engaged in the gender debate.

A greater understanding of social contexts and determinants is needed for effective suicide prevention.

Migration patterns must be taken into account in policy-making.

Achieving gender equality requires a combination of different tools, f.ex. Gender Based Analysis (GBA) and Gender mainstreaming.

State centered discourses continue to set the agenda in the Arctic. The traditional “state security” framework needs competition and critical analysis.

Diversity in educational opportunities and in the labor market must be created or maintained. Education has a gendered dimension and attitudes towards education must change.

Responses to change are diverse and context based, and require adaptive capacity from individuals as well as communities. Males and females respond and adapt differently to change.

Analysis reveals a contradiction between a “masculine” discourse of resource utilization and “feminine” discourse of climate change threats.

Health and well-being in Arctic communities must be taken into account in policy making

The concept of historical trauma can be useful in explaining social realities in troubled Arctic communities.

Alternative media provides opportunities to view, re-view, observe and recreate representations of gender.


 Phase II  \\  2017-2019

Network and Project Website

Phase II builds on the success of the conference and report, both of which were well received. The purpose and expected outcome is to:

  • Promote and expand the dialogue on Gender Equality in the Arctic.

  • Provide a formal network of groups and experts, interested in issues of Gender Equality in the Arctic.

  • Encourage cooperation with and between existing networks on Gender Equality in the Arctic.

  • Provide an online platform for material and events relevant to Gender Equality in the Arctic.

  • Organize, collaborate on and participate in workshops and conferences relevant to Gender Equality in the Arctic.

See our one pager (300 kb PDF) for information and dissemination purposes.


The project has been in involved with organizing the following sessions on gender in the Arctic:


Arctic Circle

Contemporary Issues of Gender in the Arctic
October 2017, Reykjavík, Iceland
Read more...  

Arctic Leadership: Gender and Diversity in Politics, Science and Industry
October 2018, Reykjavík, Iceland

Arctic Circle Forum

May 2018, Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Gender and Mobility: Integrating Realities into Policy

Panel on Gender Equality in the Arctic: Challenges and Situated Policies

UArctic sessions

September 2018 Helsinki, Finland

Networking on gender equality in the Arctic Region: Round Table
Read more... 
Download final summary

Gender Equality and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Download final summary

Health and Gender Equality. Changing quality of life: Women, men and health
Download final summary

Calling for Material


An important output of phase II is to provide an online platform for an inventory of existing networks, projects, reports, books and articles as well as videos and events related to issues of equality in the Arctic.

If you can contribute to these endeavours we would be very grateful. Please contact Embla at The Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network. 


 Phase III  \\  2019-2021

Together Towards a Sustainable Arctic

We are proud to announce that Gender Equality in the Arctic is now moving into its third phase (GEA III), following the handover of the Arctic Council Chairmanship from Finland to Iceland. The GEA is a Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) project as well as a project under the Icelandic Chairmanship Programme 2019-2021.

The Icelandic Chairmanship Program - Together Towards a Sustainable Arctic – will include four main priority areas: the Arctic Marine Environment; Climate and Green Energy Solutions; People and Communities of the Arctic; and a Stronger Arctic Council. The GEA III falls under the priority People and Communities of the Arctic which includes initiatives that aim to promote the wellbeing of the roughly four million people living in the region.

Gender equality is an important element for achieving sustainable development. Iceland will continue to lead a project that aims to promote dialogue on gender equality in the Arctic and strengthen a network of experts and stakeholders in the field.

For more information, visit People and Communities of the Arctic on the Icelandic Government’s website.

Together Towards a Sustainable Arctic logo

 Gratitude and acknowledgemenT

Partners & Collaborators

We are grateful for the sponsorship of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, the Icelandic government’s Equality Action Fund, the Foreign Ministry of Sweden, and the Nordic Council of Ministers. We are further grateful for the important support of the Arctic Council, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the Faroe Islands and the Aleut International Association.

Partners and Collaborators

Contact us

Your contribution to the project is valuable to us. Please contact us with information concerning interesting material on gender in the Arctic. We also welcome your feedback and ideas.

Embla Eir Oddsdóttir, Director
Icelandic Arctic Cooperation Network
Akureyri, Iceland
mobile +354 864 5979