Inspiration from Norway

In 1993 Norwegian corporate boards had 3% women members. Following controversial and unprecedented legislation Norway now takes a global lead with over 40% women on boards.

In 2002 Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Mr Ansgar Gabrielsen announced legislation to utilise the full talent pool for corporate boards and include women in the recruiting processes. Affecting some 600 companies, the “40% Quota Law” was met with massive opposition from
chairmen, investors and selection committee members arguing

  • The state should not interfere with the board appointments
  • Women are not interested in board positions
  • We don’t know where to find qualified women
  • Women don’t have the experience
  • Women don’t have the guts and ability to take risk


Photo: Ilja C. Hendel

However, the others argued

  • Women represent 50% of the talent pool. If you systematically ignore women you will not get the best possible board
  • Gender diversity will add a new dimension and a broader perspective  
  • Women are not risk-averse – they are risk-aware  
  • Women influence 80% of purchase decisions across Europe  
  • Companies need the best talent at all levels - to be an attractive employer your board should reflect your employee base  
  • An homogenous board represents a risk of tunnel vision and group think
  • Gender diversity can bring about business opportunities for a creative board  
  • Women bring different mind-sets, skills and values to the board room

Norwegian companies were given a two-year period to increase the number of women on their boards and avoid legislation. When nothing happened the law was passed in 2005 and became effective in 2008.

Chairmen struggled to fill the quota, claiming they did not know qualified women and did not know where to find them. The response of Elin Hurvenes’ Professional Boards Forum was practical, effective and immediate - putting company owners in front of qualified women through a series of pioneering events.

Supported by major organisations such as Telenor, Hafslund, Hydro and AIG as well as the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the events gave the women an instant opportunity to prove themselves and gave owners an insight into their skills and capabilities.


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