Women’s Quotas – The Norwegian experience
NORDIC HORIZONS with Mai-Lill Ibsen and Arne Selvik
Lecture Theatre Moray House, EH8 8AQ 6pm 2nd December 2014
Free but please register
In 2002 the Norwegian conservative Trade Minister announced a ‘Quota Law’ requiring publically listed companies to appoint 40% of the under-represented gender to their boards or face being closed down. Despite criticism the law came into force in 2006. Around 500 PLC’s were affected and during a two year transition period a hundred opted to delist from the Oslo Stock Exchange – some to avoid the quotas.
Since then numbers of women on PLC boards has risen from 10% to 40%. Research suggests board selection is now more professional and international, and female board members are more risk averse than men and in tune with customers. Norway’s legislation was a world first but the country does have a long history of quotas in other parts of public life. Nonetheless Spain, Italy, Belgium, France, Iceland and the Netherlands have followed suit and the European Parliament has backed mandatory 40 per cent quotas by 2020. Britain looks set to opt out – Scotland looks set to forge ahead. If it can.
Equality legislation is reserved to Westminster, but a 2009 report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission described it as a grey area of devolution and suggested UK ministers could give Scottish ministers the power to impose “positive equality duties on Scottish public bodies.” They could. But will they? Or could the Scottish Government act now? And are public boards the real problem -- female representation in Scotland is 35% but numbers on corporate boards are far lower. So should 40% be the Scottish target? The campaigning charity, Engender wants a 50% target.
Two Norwegians with years of practical and academic experience in business and corporate governance share their thoughts and observations of the Norway experience.
Mai-Lill Ibsen is a business woman with more than 20 years of top level management experience in financial institutions. Mai-Lill has been a board member of listed and private companies and foundations. On the Quota Law she says: “We got there in terms of quantity, but did we succeed in terms of quality? The jury is still out. There is also disagreement on how to measure quality. But board culture is changing and women are in for the long haul.”
Arne Selvik has been a Programme Director and executive trainer at the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen with extensive experience as a member and chair of private and public companies in five countries. While he warns against ‘copying’ Norway he believes it may be a good model for Scotland.
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