Norway has one of the best records internationally for women in the boardroom. Women hold over a third of seats on Norwegian stock indexed businesses. Compare this with other countries, such as the US, with a figure of 19% or worse, Japan, at just 3%.
However, Norway’s figure does raise another key question: is it right to force the issue?
In Norway, its 500 listed companies can be shut down if they do not install women on their boards.
Gender and Quotas
“On the one hand, coercing change feels combative, but on the other, the UK’s Equal Opportunities Commission warns that without action, it would take 40 years for women here to reach the same levels as Norway,’ comments Melinda Beckett-Hughes of Ayuda.
The Government of Norway passed its quota law in 2003, requiring at least 40% of board members in a company to be women.
“At first there was a great deal of scepticism, and hostility. The sanctions came in in 2006 to deal with the slow pace of adoption. But now it is no longer an issue, because this level of female boardroom representation is seen to work.”
Wider or Narrower Criteria?
The whole issue of quotas is still fiercely contended in many areas of life, and business, and it seems unlikely that something like Norway’s system would happen in the UK.
“There is a body of opinion, some of it from professional women themselves, that suggests a quota system can end up with businesses only recruiting one kind of female professional to their boardrooms”
The argument goes that while quotas encourage companies to look for more female board members, they do so in a relatively narrow pool of experience, so failing to exploit the opportunity for wider diversity that quotas offer.
“Women in business are not one kind of archetype, or worse, stereotypically a shoulder-padded male substitute,” states Melinda.
“What more women on boards should mean is a wider variety of approaches and responses to issues affecting business and the wider world it exists in.”
Towards an Alternative Business Culture?
While addressing gender gap issues in business, especially at boardroom level, is crucial, gender alone is not the only marker for diversity.
“Ultimately, for business to evolve, and to be better in touch with local communities, and with the world it must interact with, it needs a greater variety of voices speaking up within its structures, including women’s voices”
“Business leadership in this country will develop only if a wider variety of voices are heard, and if people recognise that there are as many different leadership skill-sets as there are different people in business,” suggests Melinda.
“The key to success is in embracing differences, not attempting to iron them out,” concludes Melinda.
Melinda’s formidable experience is in helping support a wide variety of businesses, and in offering advice and guidance to women in business. To discover how she can support you, please call her on 0800 612 2611 or visit ayuda-group.com.