A Snowball Starting in Norway
Edited by Silke Machold, Morten Huse, Katrin Hansen and Marina Brogi
Chapter 5: Institutionalizing women’s representation on boards: an introduction to the advocacy movement
In Part I, we described how the Norwegian gender quota law emerged, its passage through the political system, and finally its implementation and results. The focus then was on the actors in the political sphere, and especially the political ‘parents’ of the law. In Part II we turn to the story of other actors that were and are involved in shaping at various levels gender diversity on boards, both in Norway and internationally. Further, Part II focuses on the processes and mechanisms by which women representation on boards may become accepted business practice. A common theme throughout this book is that action is needed to address the low levels of women representation in the upper echelons of business. Yet, outrage, disbelief and opposition have been almost universal reactions of the business community, some businesswomen included, to the mooting of quota laws (see, for example, Chapter 2 by Dåvøy, Chapter 7 by Hurvenes and Chapter 27 by Brogi, in this book). Gay Charles, a senior consultant at the international recruitment company Odgers Berndtson, described at the Oslo Think Tank how senior Dutch business figures lambasted the corporate governance recommendations on gender diversity in boards as ‘absurd’ because boards would not be able to find suitable women candidates. In the face of such adversity, is it possible that women representation on boards will ever be taken for granted? Sociologists have long been interested in understanding how and why organizational structures and practices become institutionalized (or not); that is, how and why some practices become habitualized and enduring (Scott, 1987).
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