Historical archive

Ministerial Intervention at the EU Informal Ministerial Meeting on Gender Equality

Historical archive

Published under: Regjeringen Stoltenberg II

Publisher Barne- og likestillingsdepartementet

The overall picture of Norway – as seen from outside – is that we are amongst the forerunners in Europe regarding Gender Equality. Norway is among the top nations in the world when it comes to female participation in the work life. However we have one of Europe`s most divided labour markets.

Lille 14th November 2008
Equal Opportunities in the labour market – Releasing the potential for business –
Rethinking Gender Equality and Business Management - Female Future – mobilizing Talents

Dear Colleagues,

The overall picture of Norway – as seen from outside – is that we are amongst the forerunners in Europe regarding Gender Equality. Norway is among the top nations in the world when it comes to female participation in the work life. However we have one of Europe`s most divided labour markets. Moreover, we have relatively few women in leadership positions!  Like most of Europe, this is especially the case in the corporate sector.  But things are about to change. And we have in recent years been witnessing a number of positive trends.

However, affirmative actions by both the Government and the business community have been needed in order to increase the number of women in leading, economic and commercial decision-making.

We believe that talents are equally distributed between men and women. We cannot afford to only use 50% of the population that are men in top jobs and leadership positions. It will be a waste of talents for the society and the business community at large. Even so, greater diversity means recruiting people with different personalities, backgrounds and different perspectives. This must be a precondition for developing competitive enterprises in a global market – is it not?
Besides, - women in leadership positions will earn the company a label as modern and future oriented.

Personally, I think it is a general human trait that we tend to recruit in our own image. This must be why men tend to recruit men!
Sometimes you need an impulse or impetus to change or break these patterns!

This is why we in Norway introduced the 40% legal Gender Balance requirement in company boards. The use of the 40% gender quota has proven itself to be a successful strategy in boosting the number of women in leading economic and corporate decision-making. All the companies affected by the new law (Norway ` biggest companies – State owned companies and the so called Public Limited Companies (PLCs)) had per July 2008 complied with the necessary Gender Balance requirements. In other words:  Mission accomplished!

Yes, this is about democracy and equal rights of participation in the society. But moreover, and in terms of Business Management it is also about using Gender Equality and Family friendly policies as a catalyst for rethinking corporate and commercial decision-making.

In this respect, I would very much like to draw your attention to an innovative program launched by the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise – NHO called “Female Future.

I might disagree with the Business Confederations on the use of the Quota as an appropriate measure to reach our objectives.
However, we do agree on the need and wish to attract more women into executive and leadership positions and into Boards of Directions of Companies in the private sector.


The NHO was challenged but have picked up the glove successfully and found – and these are my wordings – a complementary way to the governmental quotation of mobilizing more women into the boardrooms.

Objectives
The Female Future Programme is designed for enterprises and targets all Norwegian companies. It sets out to:

  • Make the private sector an attractive place for women to work
  • Increase the percentage of women in decision-making positions, in particular in management and on boards
  • Challenge top managers to recruit more women to executive positions and as board members. (It is the enterprises that are recruited to the program to identify female talents.)
  • Reconcile work and family life where executive responsibilities can be balanced with family obligations
  • Provide a one year training program to female talents supported by match-making and networking events.


(Results)
So far the Female Future Programme has already proven its records and gained recognition beyond the borders of Norway. The numbers speak for themselves.....

  • 1070 talents has joined the FemaleFuture programme since the start in 2004
  • 50% of the Female Future participants have been offered to join a board of directors.
  • 38% of the participants who joined the program the last two years reports progress in their management career.
  • Database containing over 500 potential female board members

Where to find more information on Female Future – www.nho.no/ff

Concluding Remarks
The public debate on Gender Representation Rules has raised the awareness of the need, potential and utility of exploiting all human resources in business and economy. Many companies also in the private sector have responded by building Gender Equality into their business and recruitment strategies – thus setting the agenda for Corporate Diversity. It is simply good for business!

But still much needs to be done! In Europe we need to better understand, highlight and visualise the correlations between corporate diversity and company performance. To this end Norway support the creation of a European Network of good practices of companies with the social partners (as major players).  Our discussion of today and the deliberations during the precedent conference suggest that there is a lot to be gained from exchange of experiences in this field.

At the same time the business management approach broadens the number of stakeholders and brings new perspectives on Gender Equality and Family Policies. For all of us who have committed ourselves to fight for Equal Opportunities – we should welcome this renewal as an opportunity to get Gender Equality at the centre of the political agenda!

It is in this context that government, business and the social partners should join forces in order to provide for flexible conditions that facilitates double career patterns. Executive responsibilities must be possible to reconcile with family obligations for both women and men.  Mind you; the new generation of modern fathers also wants to be able to pick up junior from the kindergarten / crash! 

One thing is clear: The winners of tomorrow are the ones with the best talents of the team!

Let`s go for it!


Thank you for your attention