Well done Norway

(gates of Vigelandpark, Oslo, Norway. from the cc flickrstream of D3 San Francisco)

I read this in the Guardian earlier.

This month, Norway set a new global record. It now has, at 40%, the highest proportion of female non-executive directors in the world, an achievement engineered by the introduction of a compulsory quota. Two years ago, after several years of voluntary compliance had failed to lead to a sufficient number of female board members, 463 “ASAs” – publicly listed companies over a certain size – were told to change the composition of their boards or risk dissolution.

And further…

According to the Norwegian government, the quota is not simply a strike for equality; it makes sound economic sense, too. Last year, Goldman Sachs, the global investment company, published a paper in which it outlined the economic reasons for reducing gender inequality and using female talent fully. Not only would this increase growth, the paper said, it would “play a key role in addressing the twin problems of population ageing and pension stability”

A quick Google brought me to this speech from Kjell Erik ØIE, the State Secretary, Ministry for Children and Equality, Norway. It makes inspiring reading, not because it is an idealistic policy position, but because it is idealistic policy delivered.  The whole speech is worth reading, but here is an excerpt.

In the near future the majority of European countries will have labour shortages and a swelling population of people over 65. The proportion of the employed population might be too small. Europe faces two main challenges in the years ahead. Firstly; to ensure that more children are born. Secondly; to ensure that more people work and work longer. The solution to these challenges lies in viewing family and equality policy in close combination with labour market policy and thereby as part of a larger modern growth strategy for the region. We must both increase the birth rate and achieve an including working life.

The key in economics of gender is a redistribution of power, care and work. When doing so, we will meet strong resistance. People seldom let go of power voluntary. There are counter forces to such a development. These counter forces needs to be addressed. But redistribution of power, care and work is the only road ahead for sustainable development in our region.

Norway is a pioneer in politicising fatherhood. We want to widen our understanding of men’s responsibility as fathers to include not only economic provision, but also psychological, emotional and physical care for children. When it comes to gender equality, we must create an alliance between men and women. In my opinion, both genders gain from a gender equal society!

Instead of moaning about the cost this would have on business and pushing for watering-down and delays, the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO)  made proactive and aggressive steps to help members comply. You can read more about Female future programme here and here. No one really likes quotas, but the NHO put a plan in place to change attitudes, drive change and thereby achieve the quotas.

The goals for the NHO’s effort on women and management are the following:
• Firstly, facilitate that the private sector is viewed as an attractive place to work by women.
• Secondly, increase the percentage of women in decision-making processes, in management and in boards in general
• Thirdly, involve managers as prime movers in the process aimed at recruiting more women to executive positions and to board posts
• Fourthly, facilitate that executive responsibilities may be more easily combined with family responsibilities – the balance between work and private life. quoted from here.

Lots to ponder on, yes, from the CSR / HR/ Change Management/ Talent Management perspectives, but fundamentally as a father too. For now huge respect to Norway.

(from jamieca‘s flickr stream)

The words of Benja Stig Fagerland, who ran the Female Future project , put a little spring in my step this morning.

Fagerland says she plays a game with her daughters based on the Swedish fictional character Pippi Longstocking, a girl who believes in herself and is utterly unconventional. “We break all the rules. Everything is turned upside down. We wear pyjamas in the garden and eat sweets before dinner. They love it.

“I want them to constantly question why things should be as they are. In business, you can always find ways of playing the game differently and better. But first, you have to know your own level of competency and your price – and never sell yourself cheap. For your own sake, and for the sake of all those women who come after.”

Brilliant advice. Takk.

On a related note, you may be interested in this blog from the University of Cape Town, Women in Leadership. 

8 thoughts on “Well done Norway”

  1. “We want to widen our understanding of men’s responsibility as fathers to include not only economic provision, but also psychological, emotional and physical care for children.”

    Yes, this is gender equality as I see it. Great post.

  2. Chose all my favourite excerpts from the Guardian article.
    These measures have to be put in place to break the trend, once broken quotas can be removed again.
    Great post

  3. Sarah,
    Yes it was good to read in the Guardian, but I have a gripe with the Guardian burying it deep in the Women’s section. I only found it by mistake. It should really have been in the business and main news sections too.

  4. Thanks for pointing to this, Thomas. Fascinating, inspiring reading.

    I’ve passed it on to my wife, Alli, who as you know is an HR strategist with the Australian government. Should be right up her alley (pun not intended).

  5. Thanks for blogging about the initiatives taken by the Norwegian government about changing corporate life in favour of both women and men.

    In case you find this topic interesting, you’ll probably find the book ‘Why Women Mean Business’ writtin by Alison Maitland and Avivah Wittenberg-Cox of relevance. I’ve blogged about the key elements of the book at http://vegardig.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/natives-and-strangers-in-a-corporate-world/

    The company I work for, a European media corporation, has adopted several of the authors’ suggestions into our initiatives for organisational development.

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