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How Norway increase women’s participation

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to increase the proportion of women on the boards of UK companies is now regularly in the news. As a way of tackling this problem Norway introduced a quota of a minimum of 40% men and 40% women on the boards of their public companies and the EU recently proposed such a quota. The government commissioned Lord Davies to produce a report on the issue and this recommended a voluntary target of 25% women on FTSE 100 boards by 2015.

Meg Munn MP recently attended a meeting to hear more about Norway’s experience from a panel of Norwegian experts. The panel comprised Mai-Lill Ibsen, an experienced non-executive director, Agnes Bolso, Associate Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology Trondheim, Elin Hurvenes, Founder of Professional Boards Forum, Arne Selvik, Director of Communication Norwegian School of Economics, Morten Huse, Professor at BI Norwegian Business School and chaired by Joan Ruddock MP.

The evidence provided at the meeting showed that despite many voluntary efforts over many years little progress was made until the quota was introduced. This led to a big jump in women on boards. While compulsion is still resented by many company chairmen they are clear there has been benefits to increasing the number of women on boards.

Some contributors said that what Norway has done could not and should not be copied elsewhere. The structure of companies is different to other countries with small boards of predominately non-executive directors elected by shareholders, and the importance of wider cultural change was identified.

Meg said:

“This fascinating event was attended by a wide range of people involved in trying to increase the number of women on boards in the UK. It is an important signal of gender equality but there remain many other areas of our national life where action is also required.

Ultimately there seemed to be most support for achieving change without quotas. The target in the Davies report requires only the appointment of an additional 70 women by 2015 which should be achievable.”

The Davies report is at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/31710/11-745-women-on-boards.pdf

 

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