New law provokes rush for female directors in Norway

Under a new law effective from 1 January 2008, Norwegian public companies are required to have 40% of board seats be filled by women.

With the threat of being shut down for those who do not comply, many companies have held last-minute meetings to choose female directors, while others will elect to go private, thereby avoiding the new legislation.

Around 80 companies have not yet abided by the new law, but only a small number are expected not to meet the end of February deadline, after which their extra time would expire.

The law represents a new step in Norway’s history as a global leader in gender equality. In 2003, less than 9% of public company directors were female, whereas Norway now has the highest percentage in the world at 36%.

Sigrun Vageng, executive director of the Norwegian enterprise confederation NHO, said warnings to shut down companies have been relaxed.

“They wouldn’t put people out on the streets if companies are one woman short,” she said.

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