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The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Women and old people first

First, belated best wishes for the New Year. I’m sorry this blog resumes after a longer than expected interval.  I’ve been out of town a bit, as I’m serving on a UN advisory group on the future of peacekeeping. More of that later.

And I’ve been busy preparing for and hosting high level visits.  Our Minister for trade and investment, Lord Green, was here last week, promoting co-operation between the UK and Sweden, particularly in the field of smart grids.

He and I saw an Iphone app produced by a British company which showed in real time the electricity consumption in the CEO’s flat back in the UK.

The CEO could tell from the graph on the screen when his wife had boiled the kettle! All that is fun, but the real purpose is to enable consumers to make intelligent choices about when and how to use energy, saving bills and helping save the planet, too.

Talking of emergencies, when evacuating people in a crisis, the usual mantra is “women and young children first”.

This week my Prime Minister will be joining his Nordic and Baltic counterparts at a summit to put women and older people first.

Specifically, the Northern Future Forum in Stockholm on 8 and 9 February will consider how to unlock two under-exploited sources of economic growth:

-    encouraging more women into senior positions in businesss; and
-    encouraging older people to stay in the work force longer, increasing the output of the economy and reducing the pension burden.

The statistics are striking:  although women are over half the workforce in many countries, they are only a tenth of members of the boards of big companies and hold only a twentieth of the top executive jobs in such firms.

For the ageing workforce the change over the next three decades will be striking – in most European countries the number of over 65s as a proportion of total population will increase by around a third.

We all have a lot to learn from each other in these areas – how to get more women into business leadership (Lehman sisters, rather than Lehman brothers…) and how to make employment more feasible and attractive for older people.  You can follow the conference as it happens via the internet on www.sweden.gov.se/nff

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