A Snowball Starting in Norway
Edited by Silke Machold, Morten Huse, Katrin Hansen and Marina Brogi
In an article about the rise of women appointed to corporate boards in the UK, Tom Bawden optimistically notes that female membership is now edging up to 13.3 percent (Bawden, 2011). Norway’s legal quota of 40 percent women is in the same paper said to provide ‘mixed blessings’ for the country’s ‘Golden Skirts’ – a derogatory expression used repeatedly by the Guardian, this time by Mark Lewis – serving in its boardrooms. Norway’s quota has brought the country to the very top of world indices of gender equality, although these of course can reflect legal rather than social and economic equality. A possible increase in company value production was one of the central arguments when the law was debated in the Norwegian Parliament in 2003. Numerous factors contribute to the profitability of a business. It is analytically difficult to isolate the economic effect of an increased number of women on a board, and most likely it is impossible. A great deal of research has proved inconclusive: female participation seems to be correlated with financial loss based on some data sets and gain in others. There are good reasons to think that the bottom line primarily depends on other factors than the genitals of the board members. In spite of this, a ‘corporate feminism’ in which the concern for the bottom line was a key argument overshadowed more traditional gender equality arguments when the quota bill was passed.
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