In Memoriam - Professor Hege Skjeie

It is with a great sadness that ECPG learnt of the passing of Professor Hege Skjeie on October 5th, 2018. Hege Skjeie was a pioneer of gender research in political science, a hugely influential figure in the field, and a vibrant and generous presence in our Gender and Politics community.hege-skjeie1dti.gif

Hege's innovative research on a range of themes, including, but not limited to, power, ethnicity, intersectionality, and political representation, has advanced our knowledge of European gender and politics, both theoretically and empirically. She also took a highly active role in advocating for gender equality: she served on numerous commissions and advisory bodies, she chaired the Norwegian Government’s Equality Commission, the Skejie Commission (2010-2012), and wrote weekly columns on human rights, integration, and equality policy in the leading Norwegian financial newspaper, Dagens Naeringsliv. Hege Skjeie was the first female scholar appointed to a full professorship in political science in Norway in 2000 and received the ECPG Gender and Politics Career Achievement Award in 2017 for her outstanding contribution to the field. Hege was also appreciated immensely for her dedication, her passion, her generosity, and her zest for life in all circumstances.

Throughout her path-breaking career, Professor Hege Skjeie unremittingly demonstrated how excellence in academic research can contribute to society and promote gender equality. In these times of political uncertainties where gender research is being contested, if not attacked, and where gender and sexual equality is too often at risk, Hege Skjeie’s legacy is here to show us the way forward. Hege has been and will always remain a true inspiration for our research community. She will be dearly missed.

There is no better way to honour Professor Hege Skjeie’s career than to reproduce in full her nomination letter for the 2017 ECPG Gender and Politics Career Achievement Award*:

“First of all, Hege Skjeie has been a leading scholar in advancing theory and research within Nordic and European gender and politics for the last 25 years, not only in the academy as a professor of political science but as an influential expert on gender equality, power and politics as well as a powerful voice in public debates on gender equality. Her field of expertise in political science is gender equality and human rights law and policy, feminist and intersectional theory and citizenship and multiculturalism. Her doctoral thesis from 1992 was an early contribution to the study of the link between descriptive and substantive representation; empirically the thesis was based on document analysis and interviews with the world’s first gender balanced cabinet and parliament (Brundtland ll: 1986-1989). Her dissertation included articles published in major international journals and thus broke new ground in international research on gender and political representation. 

Hege Skjeie’s innovative research on ethnicity, diversity and intersectionality, human rights law and policy, and political representation, power and elite politics has contributed to advance the theoretical thinking of European gender and politics research. One major contribution is her research on the intersections of gender, ethnicity and religion in the Nordic and European institutions, for example in the path-breaking and collaborative project on institutionalizing intersectionality and the changing nature of European Equality Regimes (see the book Institutionalizing Gender Equality, 2012). Another major contribution is her research within in the field of human rights’ law and policy. Analyzing the role of individual human rights, including religious rights, she coined the provocative concept ‘likestillingens vikeplikt’ referring to the fact that women’s equal rights must often make way for other more important concerns, published first in the Power and Democracy Commissions book series in Skjeie and Teigen (2003), Menn imellom, Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk; then in Skjeie and Teigen (2005), «Political constructions of gender equality: ”Travelling towards … a gender balanced society”». NORA Nordic Journal of Women’s Studies. Vol. 13. No. 3, 187-197; and in Skjeie (2007). “Religious exemptions to equality”, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Vol. 10(4):471- 490.

Secondly, Hege Skjeie’s analytical capabilities, critical voice, and public leadership have made a strong contribution to advance Nordic gender research on political institutions, power and democracy. She boldly took up the heritage after the first Norwegian political scientist and feminist Helga Marie Hernes’ path-breaking gender theory and research assessing potentials and problems of the Nordic institutions, welfare and gender model under conditions of migration and multiculturalism. In 2000, Hege Skjeie became the first woman appointed to a full professorship in political science in Norway. 

One of her most powerful contributions has been the criticism of the dominant approach in Nordic gender equality research and politics arguing for an intersectional approach to gender equality that includes gender, class, ethnicity and individual life-course. Another important contribution has been the defense of women’s equal individual rights through the integration of European and international human rights conventions that strengthened individual civil, political and social rights as a way to evolve, not threaten, democracy. As member of the Norwegian Power and Democracy Commission (1998-2003) she challenged the majority claim that the integration of the human rights conventions is a problem that weakens parliamentary democracy. The main conclusions from the Commission were published in the Official Norwegian Report NOU 2003:19, Makt og demokrati (Power and Democracy), where Skjeie’s dissent was included (pp. 74-83).

The results of Skjeie’s empirical work have had a profound influence on the Norwegian policies and public debates on (gender) equality and democracy, for example as the powerful Chair of the Norwegian Government’s Equality Commission, the Skjeie-commission (2010-2012), and main responsible for the official equality reports, criticizing the dominant mainstreaming policy as a failure unable to solve the problems related to the gender division of work and gender stereotyping in education and on the labour market. The equality reports presented a holistic and multidimensional approach to gender equality, which is now generally accepted.

In recent years Hege Skjeie has initiated and managed several large projects to establish intersectional studies in Norway financed by the Norwegian Research Council: PLUREQ - Gender equality, cultural diversity, religious pluralism: State policies and feminist interventions; DEMROK- Democracy, freedom of religion and women’s human rights; and together with Mari Teigen; MULTIDIM – Multidimensional equality: Legislative reforms and judicial practices. She has also held several public positions; as a Member of the Standing Committee on Outside Political Appointments (2009-2017) (Karantene-nemnda), which decides on interim periods for former cabinet ministers, state secretaries and political advisers when they leave public office for private sector jobs/appointments; of the Centennial for women’s vote committee (2009-2013) (Stemmerettskomiteen); and of the Equality Tribunal (2006-2010) (Likestillings- og diskrimineringsnemnda), monitoring all Norwegian non-discrimination and equality legislation (four comprehensive laws). In addition she has written commentaries for the leading Norwegian financial newspaper (Dagens Næringsliv) sharing a weekly column with the Prime Minister, the leader of the main opposition party and two professors in economics, mainly dealing with human rights, integration, and equality policy issues.

Thirdly, Hege Skjeie has been an inspiring leader and member of many collaborative gender research projects cooperating closely with leading Norwegian and Nordic/European gender and politics scholars, for example in the European GEPP-project ‘Gender Equality Policy in Practice’, in ‘Elites and Society’, as Professor II at the Institute for Social Research (since 2013) and member of CORE – The National Centre for Research on Gender Equality,3 adjunct professor to Aalborg University (since 2012) and a member of the Dialogue Forum for EDGE, the Equality, Diversity and Gender, Aalborg University. In addition in 2015 she contributed to the EU Commission’s report on Visions for Gender Equality, on how to tackle multiple discrimination, and is engaged in the preparation of a Round Table on European gender equality politics for the ECPR General Conference in Oslo, 2017.

Finally, and most importantly, her courage, sense of justice, perseverance and commitment to challenging inequality norms in all spheres of life, from theory over politics to active citizenship, is impressive. These qualities make Hege Skjeie a lighthouse in Nordic and European gender research able to combine serious work with fun, which makes her an inspiration for colleagues and friends and a model for younger gender scholars”

* The nomination was submitted by Birte Siim and Mari Teigen on the behalf of Petra Ahrens, Christina Bergqvist, Anette Borchorst, Hanne-Marlene Dahl Drude Dahlerup, Christina Fiig, Lenita Freidenvall, Anita Göransson, Beatrice Halsaa, Cathrine Holst, Johanna Kantola, Andrea Krizsán Mona Lena Krook, Anne Phillips, Helene Pristed Nielsen, Lise Rolandsen Agustín, Malin Rönnblom, Judith Squires, Pauline Stoltz, Sofia Strid, Mieke Verloo, and Lena Wängnerüd.