A decade after the move, which inspired similar laws in Europe, dire predictions have been avoided but the gender pay gap remains
The Scandinavian model is limited.
10 years ago, Norway passed a law requiring that all listed firms hold a minimum of 40% of their board seats for women. The legislation didn’t require heavy lifting: big listed companies in the Scandinavian country already had roughly that proportion of females in the boardroom. But the example of the world’s third most gender equal country — behind Iceland and Finland — pushed European counterparts with worse records to enact similar quotas, amid some male executive grumbling.
A decade on, what’s happened? Well according to a recent analysis from the Economist, the results are mixed. Per the London publication, there’s some evidence that the law prompted some smaller Norwegian firms to delist rather than comply. Elsewhere, some companies may have shrunk their boards so that they didn’t have to bring on more females.
But for the most part, they’ve adjusted well. At major listed Italian firms, where women held single digits of board seats as recently as the early 2010s, the percentage is now over 30%. By contrast in the United States, females hold just under 20% of board seats at S&P 500 firms, according to a Catalyst report. There was also a fear that quotas meant the relatively small number of existing senior female executives would be spread out over a larger number of boards, but 10 years on, that doesn’t appear to be a significant factor.
That said, the entry of more women into the European boardroom hasn’t necessarily helped their counterparts. Despite talk that hiring a greater number of senior women begets more senior women, the proportion of European female CEOs hasn’t really increased over the past decade. In Norway and France, the percentage of women bosses remain well below 10%, comparable to that in America, which doesn’t have gender quotas.
The gender pay gap also persists. Across the 28 European Union countries, the average pay gap was 16.3% in 2014, down slightly from 16.4% in 2010, according to data from the European Commission’s 2017 report on gender equality. In Norway, the gap is just a tad under 15%. By comparison, American women earned 83% of what their male counterparts took home in 2015.
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