A Snowball Starting in Norway
Edited by Silke Machold, Morten Huse, Katrin Hansen and Marina Brogi
Chapter 3: Women mean business: why and how Norway legislated gender balance on the boards of listed companies
No country can afford not to focus on gender equality as a key to economic stability, innovation and growth. We have strong indications to support this, and I think no one would disagree. Human capital is a vital part of our economy and represents close to 80 percent of our national wealth. Oil only accounts for 7 percent. Therefore, it is important how we make use of our hands and heads. Traditional patterns die hard, and sometimes it takes legal and radical affirmative actions such as quotas to produce results. There are two major reasons for why we need affirmative actions such as quotas. First, fundamentally, it is a moral issue. Equal opportunity for all is about democracy and representation. Quotas may be necessary to ensure equal outputs. Second, it is sound economics! Our human capital is vital. A modern, competitive economy needs all talents, and the best brains regardless of gender. Let me give you a brief picture of the quotas we have introduced by law, in some areas in Norway. We have a history, spanning several Cabinets, of combining traditional efforts for equal opportunities with radical affirmative actions. The use of so-called ‘quotas’ started in the 1970s with voluntary gender balance in all the political parties but one. Today we have gender parity in the Cabinet, 40 percent women in Parliament, and 38 percent women in the elected municipal councils. Further, in 1988 the Gender Equality Act introduced a demand for 40 percent of either gender to be represented on all governmental commit- tees, councils and delegations.
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