A Snowball Starting in Norway
Edited by Silke Machold, Morten Huse, Katrin Hansen and Marina Brogi
The world is looking to Norway (FAZ, 2011; La Repubblica, 2011). In February 2002 Ansgar Gabrielsen, the Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry, announced that a law should come into force regulating gender balance on corporate boards. Ambitions about achieving gender balance in the upper echelons of Norwegian companies had existed for a long time, as had efforts to attain these ambitions. However, any advances in increasing the number of women on corporate boards had little visible effects. In 1992, only 4 percent of the members of boards in corporations listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange were women, and in 2002 this figure had increased to only 6 percent despite a multitude of voluntary efforts. This was the background for the Norwegian law on gender balance in corporate boards, and in 2008 about 40 percent of the board members in Norwegian publicly traded companies were women. The Norwegian story is about how legal requirements succeeded in achieving gender balance and increasing the number of women on boards. And the world is looking to Norway. Can and should similar means be used in other countries? The Norwegian snowball has started rolling, and the effects seem to be dynamic and accelerating. Some will even compare the developments to an avalanche. One country after another is following the Norwegian example. The discussion on this topic is spreading fast, and there are indications from a number of countries that the trend is in the direction of favoring legal regulations.