A Snowball Starting in Norway
Edited by Silke Machold, Morten Huse, Katrin Hansen and Marina Brogi
Chapter 7: Professionalizing boards: the work of the Professional Boards Forum
In Norway in 1993, there were only 3 percent women on our corporate boards. By 2002 this had risen to 6 percent. At that rate of growth, experts estimated it would take about 100 years to reach some resemblance of gender parity in Norwegian boardrooms. If you were not in Norway when the women on boards quota legislation was first introduced you would be forgiven for assuming that the legislation received a warm welcome, that we in our egalitarian society simply embraced the concept of 40 percent women on our corporate boards as the natural next step. The truth is that there was a public outcry. The media reported strong objections to the law. Women came forward claiming they feared becoming second-class board members and maintained that they wanted to be appointed to boards on merit and not via quotas. This was despite the fact that boards up until that date had shown little, if any, interest in their merits. Chairmen and investors, in fact most of the Norwegian business community, came forward opposing the quota law as a bad idea that would be impossible to implement, mainly due to a lack of qualified women candidates. One chairman explained to me: ‘Women are not interested in board work. If they were interested, there would be more than six percent of them on our boards’. Others argued that ‘women don’t have relevant experience’ and ‘we don’t know where to find them’. It was the latter argument that directly led me to founding the Professional Boards Forum in 2003, Styrefaglig Møteplass.
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