Risk & Compliance

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A new law in Norway leads to a massive recruitment drive for female board directors.
Jason KaraianFebruary 4, 2008

In 1985, Norway’s government introduced a target of 40% female representation on public committees, a quota not met until 1997. The country’s listed companies were given less time to meet a similar quota. Under a law introduced in 2006, at least 40% of corporate board member posts were required to be occupied by women by January 1st 2008.

Last March, only 38% of companies had met the quota, according to the Centre for Corporate Diversity, leading to a raft of recent appointments. The handful of firms still not in compliance face dissolution if they don’t recruit more women by the end of this month.

Trine Sæther Romuld, CFO of offshore drilling contractor Aker Drilling, joined two boards last year — seabed-surveying firm EMGS and DnB NOR, Norway’s largest bank. With 15 years of finance experience, she’s clearly an attractive candidate. But how many of the eight board membership offers she received were due to her financial and industry experience, and how many because she is a woman? “I have to be honest,” she says, “it was probably due to both reasons.”

She accepted the two offers — the most allowed by her current employer — because they offer “win-win” opportunities. At EMGS, Romuld learns about new technologies in the drilling industry while sharing her past experience from similarly fast-growing firms. At DnB NOR, the CFO gains valuable insight to the capital markets while using her experience from key industries like oil services and fisheries, having spent four years as CFO of seafood company Marine Harvest.

In response to the quota’s critics, minister Karita Bekkemellem dismissed the notion that “women will enter the boardroom over qualified men.” Rather, the quota “will make it more difficult for men to recruit mediocre men over excellent women,” she argued.

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