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Women on Boards - 2nd Progress Report - Country in Focus NORWAY

What is this report about?

As part of the European Women’s Lobby’s Beijing+20 focus month on ‘Women in Decision-Making’, February sees the launch of the EWL’s latest report on women on boards, entitled ‘Women on Boards in Europe: Second Progress Report. Cracks in the glass ceiling or just a trick of the light?’
This Second Progress Report is part of the EWL’s ongoing work to ensure that parity at all levels of decision-making becomes reality. It tracks developments, progress, and stagnation regarding women on company boards in 11 European countries, including Norway, since the EWL’s first Progress Report on Women on Boards in 2012 – which was awarded the European Public Affairs Award for Report of the Year 2012.

What’s happening in Europe regarding women on boards?

Since the 2012 report, and ongoing campaigning in favour of binding legislation regarding gender parity on company boards across the EU, an EU Directive which aims to attain a 40% gender balance on non-executive boards in large, publicly listed companies across the EU has been proposed and is currently under consideration by the Council. Commissioner for Gender Equality Věra Jourová has committed to seeing the Directive passed within 2015.
We therefore find ourselves at a key moment to reflect on the developments in this area since 2012 across Europe and to learn from this reflection and analysis in order to best inform current and future policy-making in this area.

What has Norway done to crack the glass ceiling since 2012?

Positive steps

  • Norway has one of the highest European levels of women on company boards and has enjoyed this for several years, after being the first country to introduce binding quota legislation in 2005
  • At least 40% of board members of listed and non-listed public limited companies, inter-municipal companies, state companies, municipal companies and cooperative companies must be female
  • The sanction for the violation of this law is the dissolution of the company


  • Not all companies are affected by the legislation and there has not been a spillover effect from those companies affected by the quotas to those who aren’t. While the proportion of female board members in public limited companies has remained around the 40% mark, private limited companies show figures of between 15 and 18 percent over the entire 2004-2014 period
  • Among the 19 companies analysed in the European Commission data, there is not a single female CEO
  • There has been no further progress in terms of reaching 50/50 representation among companies which are subject to the quota – things have stagnated around the 40% mark and actually overall dropped a percentage point from 41% at the time of our last report in 2012 to 40% in 2014

National Expert Statement

‘Nine years ago, the decision to introduce a minimum 40/60% gender balance for boards of directors was highly controversial. Today, acceptance is more or less universal, and we hear seasoned business executives and board chairs saluting the add-on effect of bringing about a general professionalisation of board director recruitment, and of making boardrooms more diverse. So while I would like to have seen more rapid change in the C-suite and on the boards of smaller companies, I am confident that in the long run the gender fabric of business in general will change. More women than men are now completing university degrees, and with better results, and generous family policies are enabling men and women to split family leave between them. That said, change must be not only desired, but also monitored and nurtured. More so than today, companies need to build diversity into their long-term recruitment and succession planning, and women need to pursue opportunity, and be ready to take on responsibility when opportunity knocks.’

Turid E. Solvang, General Manager, The Norwegian Institute of Directors, Norway

The way forward

The report makes five evidence-based recommendations, which should be taken into account as the future policy landscape regarding women in decision-making at the EU level and the national level is determined:

  1. Binding measures must apply to both executive and non-executive boards
  2. Further action is needed to increase proportion of female CEOs
  3. Effective measures require regular monitoring and intermediary targets
  4. Measures must be enforced with firm sanctions
  5. Quotas must be introduced as part of a comprehensive policy package that seeks to address the fundamental causes of women’s underrepresentation in economic decision-making

Gender parity in positions of economic power is of vital importance when it comes to justice, democracy and sustainable growth. Diverse decision-makers and leaders better represent, better understand, and better respond to the desires and needs of women and men in their diversity – and will be more open to cultivating a new style of leadership which will lead to much-needed transformative social change. As an important step forward towards a progressive, sustainable and inclusive Europe, the European Women’s Lobby demands the adoption and implementation of the current proposed EU Directive on women on boards without further delay. Moreover, we strongly encourage national governments to go above and beyond its requirements and to implement stronger measures to achieve gender parity at all levels of decision-making.

Sources: Statistics Norway 2014. Board and management in limited companies. 5 June 2014.

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