Pioneer Norwegian quota legislation helped reaching a share of 44% women in boards of public joint companies in 2008. The picture however looks gloomier for the rest of Europe: according to a Egon Zehnder study, the top 300 European companies had 9.7% of women on their boards in 2008, a painstakingly slow progress compared to 8% in 2004. Excluding Norway, women held only 9.1% of total board seats in 2008 and a quarter of European companies still have an entirely male board!
Fortunately, the Norwegian example is starting to have followers: the 2007 Spanish equality law recommends that women’s share in boards reaches 40% by 2015; in March 2010 the Icelandic parliament has passed a law requiring companies with more than 50 employees to have at least 40 per cent of both genders represented on their boards by September 2013 and in France, a draft law requiring companies to have 50% of women in their boards 5 years after its adoption is under consideration.
The Norwegian experience showed that, even in a small country, female board member candidates proved not to be that scarce; they had just not previously been in the field of vision of the recruiters.
At European Union level, things seem to be moving too, as the European Commission is ’considering introducing quotas to tackle gender imbalances in the decision-making bodies of private companies’, an initiative to be most welcome to reach targets that all have been agreeing are important to reach!