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Gender Issues

Affirmative Action Could Abolish Boardroom Inequality

Published fredag 27 mars 2009 kl 12.35
Claes Borgström

If the Social Democrats regain power in Sweden they want to introduce affirmative action within the boards of all major Swedish companies. Already tried in Norway, spokesman Claes Borgström told Swedish Radio News that such a scheme could work equally well in Sweden.

Today there are 44 women on the boards of Sweden’s 20 largest companies - a mere 24 % of all members, according to a study carried out by the Swedish Parliament. But there are huge discrepancies between companies and numbers as small as 10, and 20 % is not unusual. Swedish bank Swedbank rates highest on the list with half of the board members being women, followed by clothes giant H&M, which will have 43 % women on their new board. At the bottom is electronic company ABB, which has no women board members at all.

A similar affirmative action plan has previously been implemented in Norway, and according to Borgström, it has proved a huge success. Despite criticism regarding state intervention from the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, Borgström said to Swedish Radio News that Swedish companies have been given enough time and opportunity to incorporate women in their boards on their own initiative and have not done very well. And according to him, the change should be able to be implemented within a few years.

“There won’t be that much time needed. It isn’t as if there is a lack of competent women out there,” he said to Swedish Radio News.

In the beginning of the month, Maud Olofsson, Minister for Energy and Enterprise, and Nyamko Sabuni, Minister for Integration and Gender Equality, acknowledged the imbalance of gender representation in the Swedish boardrooms. Despite being critical to the current situation and proposing change, they are not in favour of affirmative action, claiming that it would just lead to another type of inequality.

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