Norway's New Quota: Corporate Board 40% Women Or Else!

It's now a law in Norway that large, publicly-traded companies must have at least 40% women in their corporate boards ... or risk dissolution:

"A woman comes in, a man goes out. That's how the quota works; that's the law," says Kjell Erik Øie, deputy minister of children and equality, in the centre-left "Red-Green" coalition government in Oslo. "Very seldom do men let go of power easily. But when you start using the half of the talent you have previously ignored, then everybody gains."

Businesses fought hard against the legislation, but they lost:

... even in Norway the quota went ahead only after years of ferocious debate and some resistance. As one male non-executive director who has survived the recent cull of boards put it, "What I and a lot of people don't understand is why it is seen as good for business to swap seasoned players for lip gloss?"

But such scepticism was not as widespread as one might expect. Ansgar Gabrielsen, 52, a Conservative trade and industry minister, and former businessman, is the unlikely champion of the quota. In 2002, in the then centre-coalition government, he publicly proposed a 40% quota on publicly listed boards without consulting cabinet colleagues. The law would be enacted in three years, he announced, only if companies failed to comply. The challenge was huge. Out of the 611 affected companies, 470 had not a single female board member.

Gabrielsen's reasoning at that time set the terms of the debate that followed. The quota was presented less as a gender-equality issue, and more as one driven by economic necessity. He argued that diversity creates wealth. The country could not afford to ignore female talent, he said. Norway has a low unemployment rate (now at 1.5%) and a large number of skilled and professional posts unfilled. "I could not see why, after 30 years of an equal ratio of women and men in universities and having so many women with experience, there were so few of them on boards," he says.

Link (Photo: Mr. Tea [Flickr])


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Answer to woman,

You are right.

Women are usually better qualified than men. Therefore, it would be good to promote them to significant positions.
In fact, I would promote 60 % women and 40 % men, in order to change significantlly the present situation.

I would like to comment personally my opinions with any participant, in Messenger (my contact information is jaim3mur@hotmail.com).

Greetings from Spain, Jaime
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WOW, the comments here! Men do think that women are just not as qualified as their male counterparts, and that there's no bias against women preventing them from achieving certain positions, amazing. I want to move to Norway...
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At the Veterinary school my wife attended each class was about 75 people and of those only 3-5 were men (1 or 2 will be Asian/Indian but no other minorities, just a bunch of white girls). Implementing a socially accurate quota would drastically reduce the number of better qualified women that have been striving to work in this field their whole life. Veterinary medicine just isn't as popular of a profession for men any more. It is not that women are being chosen over men, the men simply aren't applying. To force acceptance simply to meet quota levels is absurd for the vet school and for corporate boards.
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This is good. Before behind-screen auditions were widespread for musicians, hardly any women at all were accepted into symphonies. Now women make up half of these orchestras.

However, for a position on a corporate board, there's no similar way to get rid of inherent bias. In a study where the exact same resume was sent out with either obviously white names or obviously black names, only the obviously white resumes were really looked at. Similarly, I would suspect that people would be dismissive of resumes with female names on them in addition to falsely perceiving, once they actually meet the person and find out that she's female, that there's something not as strong, or willful, or collected about this woman, just as the judges in the pre-blind auditions falsely perceived a lack of emoting and virtuosity when they saw the performer was a woman.

In the end, when these companies ignore half the talent in creating their corporate board, they're only hurting themselves.
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