How Norway Led the Way in Gender Quota Success
The heated political debate continues in Germany over whether or not the country needs a gender quota at the highest levels of the private sector. Norway introduced such measures years ago — and they have been extremely effective. What are the secrets of the country’s success?
Foreign investors would flee. The stock market would crash. And the country would fall into ruin. All this just because of women. “I have never heard the kind of doom and gloom scenarios as I did back then,” says Marit Hoel. The 50-year-old with a blonde pageboy hairstyle researches the impact of Norway’s gender quota as the leader of the Center for Corporate diversity in Oslo.
It has now been nine and a half years since the country’s then Economy Minister Ansgar Gabrielsen stirred things up by calling for market-listed companies to fill 40 percent of the seats on their corporate supervisory boards with women. Business representatives were outraged, but the parliament voted by a wide majority to enact a law requiring the firms to fulfil the gender quota within five years. Those who failed to do so within this time frame were threatened with sanctions, and in extreme cases, even the forced liquidation of the company — the same punishment for other grave violations of stock corporation law.
For other countries, the tiny, rich nation of Norway has since come to represent a laboratory for the advancement of women. In the meantime, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy have all passed gender quotas. But in Germany, a rift between advocates and opponents of a gender quota is splitting the government. While conservative Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen supports putting such quotas into law, her fellow Christian Democrat, Family Minister Kristina Schröder, insists that voluntary commitments are better.