Table of Contents

Getting Women on to Corporate Boards

Getting Women on to Corporate Boards

A Snowball Starting in Norway

Edited by Silke Machold, Morten Huse, Katrin Hansen and Marina Brogi

This book provides unique insights into how the idea of quota laws to get women on to corporate boards gained international momentum from its origins in Norway. Invaluable insights are gained through the stories of actors involved in shaping the discourse and practice on women of boards.

Chapter 20: Gender quotas on corporate boards in Norway, necessary but not ideal

Cathrine Seierstad

Subjects: business and management, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, gender and management


The lack of women on corporate boards has over the last few decades become a key concern globally for states, corporations, policy-makers and researchers (Huse, 2007, 2009; Seierstad and Opsahl, 2011; Teigen, 2003; Terjesen et al., 2009; Vinnicombe et al., 2008). In particular, the use of quotas to increase the share of women in positions of power and influence, although controversial and debated, is a timely concern. This has been predominantly visible in terms of corporate boards in the private sector, an area where equality strategies have previously been avoided. Norway was the first country to introduce a gender representation law in 2006. It had a two-year implementation period, and required boards of directors to have at least 40 percent representation of each sex by January 2008. Recently, other countries, such as France, Spain, the Netherlands, Iceland, Belgium and Finland have followed similar paths. In addition, softer initiatives have been introduced in a variety of other countries such as the UK, Sweden, Canada and Australia. Moreover, the European Union (EU) is closely watching the gender balance on European boards, open to the possibility of strategies at the EU level if the share of women does not increase further. This chapter builds on data from a larger study (Seierstad, 2011) and explores views from women directors that have benefitted from the use of quotas on boards in Norway. In particular, this chapter discusses women directors’ opinions on quotas.

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