Risk & Compliance

Mixed-Gender Mandate for Norway’s Boards

The country recently ruled that a corporation's directors must consist of at least 40 percent of each sex.
Stephen TaubApril 28, 2004

The glass ceiling for women in Scandinavia has turned into a major corporate-governance issue.

Norway recently mandated that boards of directors must comprise at least 40 percent of each sex or face legal action, according to Reuters. “There is no slack,” Ansgar Gabrielsen, the country’s industry minister, told the wire service. “I would be surprised if businesses don’t take care of this themselves, but if they don’t do their job right, they know what will happen.”

Most companies still have a long way to go to meet the requirement, noted the wire service. Women reportedly comprise 8.9 percent of boards of all publicly traded firms in Norway, up slightly from 6 percent in 2002 when the 40 percent plan was installed.

Further, most of the smallest companies still have no women on their boards at all, added Reuters. Companies have until mid-2005 to reach the 40 percent quota, after which the center-right government will impose affirmative action to ensure more-equal representation, reported the wire service.

Similar changes are occurring elsewhere in Scandinavia. In Sweden, the percentage of women who sit on company boards nearly doubled to about 11 percent from about 6 percent after the government threatened to impose quotas last year, according to the news service.

“So far everyone has been scrutinizing women. They should be looking at the 85 percent who are men and ask: ‘Are they really the best skilled, or is it a gentlemen’s club?’,” Mona Sahlin, Sweden’s Equality Affairs Minister, told Reuters.