Norway Marching Towards Gender Equality in the Boardroom

Law requires Norway's public limited companies to have at least 40% women on their boards as of January 1, 2008, or close their doors to business

Norwegian companies, which have until January to fill their boardrooms with a nearly equal number of men and women or face closure, are making strong headway towards the target, a report showed Nov. 13.

A pioneering law, initiated in 2002 by a male conservative minister, requires Norway's public limited companies to have at least 40% women on their boards as of January 1, 2008, or close their doors to business. On November 12, just one and a half months before the cut-off date, the 499 companies in question counted on average 33% female board members, according to numbers issued by the Centre for Corporate Diversity (CCD).

This figure is even closer to the government-set objective than one might think due to the way the percentages are calculated for firms with an even number of board members, with for instance eight board members need to include only three women, or 37.5%, to meet the requirements of the new legislation. About 73% of companies are already in line with the law, the report showed.

The number of companies that have yet to include a single woman on their board has dropped from 194 in March to 79 today, and of those only eight -- mainly in the oil and gas sector -- are publicly listed. The remaining 71 companies with all-male boards are small family investment firms. "They can choose to name a woman board member or, in a painless fashion, change their status and become limited liability companies," which are not covered by the law, Hoel said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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