International Research and Practice
Edited by Susan Vinnicombe, Val Singh, Ronald J. Burke, Diana Bilimoria and Morten Huse
Chapter 8: Women on Corporate Boards of Directors: The Icelandic Perspective
Thoranna Jónsdóttir INTRODUCTION By international standards Iceland ranks high in terms of gender equality and equal opportunity. In 1980 Icelanders elected the world’s ﬁrst female president. A few years later the female party was established, and in the 1983 parliament elections the number of female parliament members increased from the stagnant 5 per cent to 15 per cent (Statistics Iceland, 2007a). Iceland frequently ranks high on gender equality indexes. When it comes to powerful positions in the business arena, the situation is surprisingly diﬀerent. The Icelandic business world could be considered to have been somewhat isolated up until the last decades of the twentieth century. The recent changes can be attributed mainly to the establishment of the Icelandic Stock Exchange (ICEX) and removal of currency trade restrictions in 1992, and membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1994. Furthermore, ﬁnancially strong pension funds and the privatization of the banking system provided increased capital for foreign investment which has increased dramatically in the past decade (Tómasdóttir and Olafsson, 2007). The Icelandic stock exchange became part of the Nordic Exchange (OMX) in late 2006. In June 2007 just over 20 Icelandic companies were listed on the OMX (Nordic Exchange, 2007). Icelandic companies can be considered to have two tier boards; a supervisory board composed of non-executive directors and usually an executive board composed of the chief executive and other executive directors of the company. It is the supervisory board, however, that holds the legal responsibility towards...
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