Tuesday

28th Jan 2020

Voluntary female quotas do not work, Norway says

  • Line up of women leaders in EU countries, from l to r: Lithuania, Germany, Slovakia, Finland and the EU foreign affairs chief (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Voluntary quotas for women on the boards of publicly listed companies, as proposed by the EU commission, do not work, with legally-binding ones needed, a Norwegian official has said on the basis of the Nordic country's leading experience in the area.

"In Norway, we were not able to make a difference with the voluntary approach," public administration minister Rigmor Aasrud told EUobserver in an interview.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

She recalled that Norway's Conservative government in 2003 told companies they would pass a quota law in two years unless they boosted the number of women by themselves.

"But it wasn't a real success, the voluntary system didn't function. We increased from five to six percent, it wasn't really visible. So they passed the law and companies were given two years to implement a 40 percent quota in the boards. From 2007 to 2009, they increased from six to 39.6 percent. That was very successful," she explained.

According to the Norwegian law, publicly listed companies can be dissolved if they fail to reach the 40 percent quota. No company has been dissolved so far.

Companies first opposed and campaigned against the law. But once legislation was passed, many began to offer training courses, where CEOs of volunteer firms could chose up to three qualified executive women to complete competence training and networking opportunities. By the end of 2007, almost 600 women had completed the specialised training, half of which have since become members of Norwegian boards.

In Europe, EU commission figures show that only 12 percent of board members in the bloc's largest companies are women and in 97 percent of cases the board is chaired by a man. So far, the share of female board members has increased by just over half a percentage point per year over the last seven years.

"At this rate, unless action is taken, it will take another 50 years before there is a reasonable balance (40 percent of each sex) on company boards," the EU commission said in its recent press statement.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding earlier this month challenged all EU publicly listed companies to sign up to a voluntary pledge to increase the presence of women on their boards to 30 percent by 2015 and 40 percent by 2020. If no action is taken within a year, she suggested, the commission may come up with binding rules.

In Norway, the voluntary system did not work because "male members of the selecting committees always found people from their own networks, usually men as well," Aasrud said.

While admitting that the quotas represent a form of positive discrimination, she insisted that the women chosen are "well educated" and have "different experiences and younger than their male colleagues."

Similarly to EU statistics showing that 60 percent of university graduates are women, in Norway, three out of five students completing their studies are female.

"In general, the experience in Norway has been good for the companies, more creativity, more innovation, more diversity than before," Aasrud noted.

One way to ensure the success of quotas, however, is to improve daycare and social assistance for both parents, so that the mother does not have to sacrifice her career in order to take care of the child, the Norwegian politician added.

"I think it's important to combine quota rules with good social security systems. We have a system giving the father the possibility to stay at home for 10 weeks. Two of our male ministers have taken paternity leave in recent months," she said.

"It is rather common in Norway that both men and women stay home with the children. That has been important for giving women career opportunities, because employers are familiar with both women and men taking parental leave."

Feature

New year, old problems for one of EU's poorest places

The year is off to a rocky start in Vaslui, one of EU's most impoverished regions and Romania's poorest county, where two 12-year olds were found in alcohol-induced coma after having spent their Christmas carol-singing money on alcohol.

MEPs mark Violence Against Women day with urgent call

According to liberal MEP Anna Júlia Donáth, "violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations existing today and remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, and shame surrounding it."

Feature

Malmo, a segregated city - separating fact from fiction

Despite the neighbourhood's beautiful name, the reputation of Rosengård (Rose Garden) does not so much evoke images of roses as headlines of crime and social challenges. This area of Malmö has been struggling with its notorious, mythical, image for years.

NGO reveals German firms fail to meet UN human rights rule

A new report reveals that the biggest companies in Germany fail to manage measures to protect their employees and supply-chain from human rights abuses - ahead of the government deadline for introducing tough new regulation.

News in Brief

  1. Cases of coronavirus in France and Germany
  2. Report: EU court seeks authority on post-Brexit deal
  3. Slovenian PM resigns, calls snap election
  4. Merkel wants EU-Balkan talks agreement by March
  5. Germany: UN sanctions to enforce Libya ceasefire
  6. Irish PM: UK weaker than EU in trade talks
  7. Report warns of challenges under new EU telecom rules
  8. EU countries to evacuate citizens from virus-hit Wuhan in China

Stakeholder

FIFA's schools programme aims to reach 700m children

Football clubs today invest huge sums of money in youth development and court talented young players from an early age. Children are the future – not only where football is concerned, but also for society in general.

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. 'Brexit is not going to go away,' warns EU's Barnier
  2. Belgian spy services launch internal clear-up
  3. US and UK in war of words over Huwaei
  4. How Slovakia's far-right might pull off an election victory
  5. Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values
  6. Salvini down, but not out in Italy regional poll
  7. Brexit finally happens - the UK leaves the EU This WEEK
  8. Why is Netherlands so far behind on renewables?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us