Getting Women on to Corporate Boards
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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.
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Chapter 10: Research and considerations regarding women on boards

Heather Foust-Cummings


In 2012, Catalyst celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. Established as an organization devoted to helping educated married women and mothers return to the workforce, Catalyst has seen progress over the years for women and advancement opportunities at work. Yet at the highest levels of corporations, women’s rate of progress has not kept pace with other demographic developments. For example, in 2012, while women comprised more than 50 percent of the managerial and professional labor force in the United States (Catalyst, 2012a), they represented only 16.1 percent of Fortune 500 board directors (Soares et al., 2011). Indeed, over the past few years, women’s representation on corporate boards has generally stagnated below 20 percent, not only in the United States (Catalyst, 2012b), but globally (Catalyst, 2011a). The notable exceptions to women’s less-than-stellar representation in the boardroom are in those countries where, through legislation or policy regulation, the state has intervened to establish quotas or targets that require certain types of companies to achieve some measure of gender diversity on their boards (Catalyst, 2012c). In these countries, significant change is apparent, as many chapters in this volume attest. In Norway, for example, representation of women on boards has surged to just over 40 percent (Catalyst, 2011a). In Australia, where the Australian Stock Exchange enacted a ‘comply or explain’ approach to increasing gender diversity on boards (Catalyst, 2011a), the percentage of women appointed to boards has increased far more rapidly than prior to the comply-or-explain policy taking effect (Australian Institute of Directors, 2012).

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