Lukke kjønnsgapet for kvinner i ledelse og styrer

I 2015 markeres 100 årsdagen siden islandske kvinner fikk stemmerett. Dette gjøres i Reykjavik 18.-19. juni på en bredt anlagt global dialog i byens spektakulære konferansesenter Harpa.

Gjennom et samarbeid mellom Reykjaviks universitet, SistersCapital, Utenriksdepartementet og flere arrangeres WE 2015 A Global Dialogue on Closing the Gender Gap.

Min rolle er å delta i en paneldiskusjon med fire erfarne styrekvinner fra USA, Danmark og Island og en såkalt Barbershop Breakfast for menn.

Les mer i min oppsummering om kvinner i styrer her:


  1. The Norwegian story

After a period of discussion between politicians and the Norwegian business community, the Conservative-Christian-Center government proposed an addition to the Public Limited Company Act and The State Owned Companies Act in 2002. The proposal of a sub-paragraph stipulating at least 40% of each gender on corporate boards (ASA §6-11a) was sanctioned by the Storting (Parliament) in 2003, and enacted in 2006, with a 2 year grace period for compliance [1]

  1. The experience so far

After an exodus by 40% of the PLCs on Oslo Stock Exchange, the remaining companies increased the proportion of women on the boards from 9% in 2004 to 36 % in 2008, and to 41% in 2014. The female board members are on average younger and better educated than their male board colleagues. The proportion of female board members in the non-listed companies increased from 15% to 18% in the same period.

  1. Do they make a difference?

Research attempting to isolate the diversity factor in explaining board efficiency and bottom line improvement seems to be a growth industry. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between so-called “hard facts” and “wishful thinking”. The results so far, however, seems to indicate a correlation between board diversity and profitability, but the direction of causality seems to be uncertain. Profitable companies may be in the frontline in raising the diversity level in management and boards. Also, board diversity may affect the bottom line. The jury is still out, as far as I can tell.

  1. What about top leadership?

The discussion in Norway is currently more focused on the (relatively) low proportion of women in top management. The recent appointment of male CEOs in the top three Norwegian corporations (Statoil, Telenor, and Yara) raised a debate on the role of male-dominated Nomination Committees. Are there really no qualified female candidates? Do women lack qualifications or ambition?

The broad picture shows a proportion of 32,2 % women in top management positions , across private and public sectors, and company size. At the top of 181 PLCs at the Oslo Stock Exchange we find only 6 women.

  1. What are my ideas for further action?

As an MBA and sociologist, I find it strange to look outside the social sciences to find new explanations and arguments to bring the gender debate further. Still, here are some recent results from neuroscience and behavioral economics:

  • Power posing and risk taking

Experiments by Columbia and Harvard researchers (Carney et al, 2010) show that taking a masculine posture increases the level of testosterone and reduces the production of cortisol significantly. Taking a feminine posture has the opposite effect. The effect of this type of arousal is that induced masculinity also increases the feeling of power and the willingness to take risks.

One possible implication of these endocrinal functions is that more women on boards of directors might lead to a more balanced handling of risks in the boardroom.

  • The testosterone/cortisol balance

John Coates in his book The Hour Between Dog and Wolf. Risk Taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust (2012) argues that the dominance of young male traders in  the Financial trading houses (his own experience is from Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Deutsche Bank) may have influenced the financial crises of 2008.


  • Male Overconfidence in Competitive Environments

Ernesto Reuben and his colleagues reported in 2012 an experiment in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization that “women are selected much less often as leaders than is suggested by their individual past performance”. Men´s overconfidence (willingness to exaggerate past performance) is the driving force behind the prevalence of male representation.

Based on my experience with training hundreds of leaders and managers, and serving on more than 50 boards of directors, I will recommend training to a raise the awareness and consciousness of gender bias among headhunters and nomination committee members.

[1] Cf. Arne Selvik: The stories behind the Quota Law in Made in Norway. How Norwegians have used quotas to increase the number of women on company boards. Report from a Conference on Quota Law in the House of Commons, London 2013.