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Norwegian Affirmative Action

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by pgabriel, Dec 10, 2007.

  1. pgabriel

    pgabriel Educated Negro

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    This article is a year old, but I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about this this morning. I believe these companies have till Jan 1 08 to have a woman on their board of Directors

    link

    The 500 companies listed on Norway’s stock exchange face being shut down unless they install women on their boards over the next two years in a radical initiative imposed by a government determined to help women break through the "glass ceiling".

    After a week in which the Equal Opportunities Commission in Britain has warned that it would take 40 years for women to break into the ranks of the FTSE 100 in the same way as men, Norwegian companies face a two-year deadline to ensure that women hold 40% of the seats of each company listed on the Oslo bourse. New companies have to comply now with the rules and the government is considering extending the law to family-owned companies as well.

    The requirement came into effect at the start of this year after companies were given two years to embrace the demands voluntarily following the passing of the law in 2003. State-owned companies are already obliged to comply and now have 45% female representation on their boards.

    The failure of companies to act - about half of the companies on the stock market are estimated to have no women on their boards - has prompted the Norwegian equality minister, Karita Bekkemellem, to take the draconian step of threatening firms with closure.

    "From January 1 2006, I want to put in place a system of sanctions that will allow the closure of firms," she said. "I do not want to wait another 20 or 30 years for men with enough intelligence to finally appoint women.

    "More than half of the people who have a business education today are women. It is wrong for companies not to use them. They should be represented."

    It is a cry that is familiar to organizations such as Britain’s Equal Opportunities Commission, which are trying to promote the elevation of women to boardrooms in Britain. The EOC’s report last week, Sex and Power, found that women make up only 11% of directors in FTSE 100 companies and painted a bleak picture for the prospects of much improvement.

    The British government tried to tackle the problem after a report into boardroom behavior by the City grandee Sir Derek Higgs highlighted the "pale male" phenomenon in companies. There was an attempt to draw up a list of 100 women who might be candidates for boards, though Laura D’Andrea Tyson, an academic and former adviser to President Clinton who was charged with finding candidates, decided in the end that such a list was unnecessary.

    Norway’s imposition of quotas seems unlikely to be embraced by Britain. The few women who have reached senior roles in British firms appear to oppose a target system. Deanna Oppenheimer, the American banker recently appointed to run Barclays’ branch network, says: "In my experience, mixed teams, mixed by gender, ethnic background, by age and experience, perform better than homogeneous teams."

    The banking industry - traditionally a bastion of domineering male managers - is one area of British business where women are in senior roles. Ms Oppenheimer is the second American woman named to run a British branch network. Terri Dial has joined the board of Lloyds TSB to run its UK retail operation and is one of two women holding executive positions on the Lloyds board, where Helen Weir is finance director.

    Ms Weir wonders whether her job - a profession requiring number-crunching - makes it easier for women to achieve a senior role. However, she is a reluctant role model for women eager to progress in business, partly because of the work-life sacrifices required. "The trade-offs I make won’t necessarily work for everyone else," she says, adding that 90% of her time is divided between work and her three children with the remaining 10% fought over between her husband, friends and herself.

    Ms Oppenheimer acts as a mentor for men and women and believes women need to be "very articulate, to form points well" and should work in environments that "value performance" if they want to get on.

    Like Ms Weir, Ms Oppenheimer, who has moved her two children to Britain, thinks a supportive home background is crucial. "I have two children and have a career," she says. "You need a support structure ... a husband who is involved."

    In Norway, women have been very successful in reaching top positions outside business. In politics, for instance, a third of the country’s MPs are women and nine of the 19 cabinet ministers are women. In Britain, 20% of MPs are women and the Equal Opportunities Commission has warned that it could take another 40 elections for equality with men to be reached.

    The near-equality of Norwegian women in politics might explain the determination to tackle under-representation in business, where 16% of company directors are women.

    The law being implemented was the brainchild of the former businessman Ansgar Gabrielsen, a trade and industry minister in the former government. "The law was not about getting equality between the sexes; it was about the fact that diversity is a value in itself, that it creates wealth. From my time in the business world, I saw how board members were picked: they come from the same small circle of people. They go hunting and fishing together, they are buddies," he said.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Norwegian business community is opposed to the government’s attempts to interrupt the status quo. Businesses would prefer a more flexible approach, such as organizing networking events where companies can meet potential candidates. The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) has a database of 400 women and claims that a quarter of them have been offered management or board positions.

    Sigrun Vaageng, of the NHO, said: "The punishment is completely disproportionate ... It is far too harsh to close a company just because it lacks one woman."

    She doubts whether the government will carry out its threat. "It is science fiction to think that the government is going to shut down a company that employs thousands of people over this," she said.

    Some companies are completely opposed to the law and are waiting to see if the government will use the sanctions, according to Marit Hoel, head of the Centre for Corporate Diversity.

    But Ms Bekkemellem, the equality minister, seems convinced that firms will not risk it. "Are there companies that will risk closure just because they lack one woman? They have another two years to fix the situation," she warns.
     
  2. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
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    Good! Women should be completely equal with men in the work place and any other place. Women, while having made great strides (despite ardent opposition by a host of men, at different levels of society and religion, for example), are still treated as second class citizens here in the United States and around the world, in some places treated far worse than here. Anyone who doesn't believe discrimination against women exists either knows it and likes it that way, thinks it is made up by extremists, because they are ignorant or fit that description themselves, or are busy living life with blinders on, the majority, happily blind. In my opinion.



    Help the Men, and Women, of this Country... Trim Bush.
     
  3. pippendagimp

    pippendagimp Member

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    I hate women :mad:

    Unless they're friends, relatives, rockets fans, or smokin hot :)
     
  4. hotballa

    hotballa Contributing Member

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    :D :D that's all I'm going to say.
     
  5. El_Conquistador

    El_Conquistador King of the D&D, The Legend, #1 Ranking
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    I trust businesses to make decisions that maximize shareholder value. I do not believe for one moment that a Norwegian business will opt for less money as compared to more money, simply to keep women off of their Board. If they are denying women board seats, when women are qualified, then effectively, that's what they'd be doing.

    If I'm a shareholder, I want the best people for the job -- men or women. If it's a women's clothing retailer, I'd be fine with an all-women Board. If it's an oil & gas concern, I'd be fine with an all-men Board. By distorting the labor market in this fashion, and forcing companies to put board members in place who did not make the initial cut, they are basically weakening the Board. I support the free markets and believe in their continued success. This move by the government is 100% in violation of free labor markets.
     
  6. Dubious

    Dubious Contributing Member

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    [​IMG]

    You know the Norwegian government is currently run by a coalition of the Labour and Socialist Left Parties, right? I sort of doubt they care what what the Robber Barons think about their plans. Oh yeah, they still have a ****load of oil we need like crackwhores and a 38 billion dollar budget surplus.
     
    #6 Dubious, Dec 10, 2007
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2007
  7. StupidMoniker

    StupidMoniker I lost a bet
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    Are companies with all female boards required to hire male board members?
     
  8. B-Bob

    B-Bob "94-year-old self-described dreamer"

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    Women have gas too. This was proven on a fascinating myth-busters episode, complete with pantie microphones and methane detectors.
     
  9. wizkid83

    wizkid83 Contributing Member

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    I haven't been in the workforce that long, so my view is narrowed. However, from what I've seeing, those successful in corporate have to make a lot of personal sacrifice in their lives. Even in the article, the women who holds senior positions claimed to have sacrifce a lot.

    This might sound slighlty sexist, but I believe there are more men willing to sacrifice family/personal life to achieve career goals and would have less regrets doing so.
     
  10. Baqui99

    Baqui99 Contributing Member

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    Why put a token female on the board just to be diverse? You put the best people on the board since they're responsible for answering to the shareholders. When the fit is there, I'm sure that females will be appointed.

    But looking at the facts, females tend to flock to the marketing and advertising jobs, and shy away from i-banking, sales & trading, and corporate finance jobs. Moreover, for example, the energy and tech industries are male-dominated by nature, and the consumer products business tends to be more balanced out. So I would expect Johnson & Johnson to have a female on the board, moreso than say Chesapeake Energy.
     
  11. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

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    Ridiculous, for obvious reasons. Cleverly disguised sexist law.

    So will some more qualified men be unfairly looked over? Probably.
     
  12. SamFisher

    SamFisher Contributing Member

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    There was an intersting study recently by a corporate governance research group that showed that US public company boards with more women tended to show better ROI than all-male boards.

    Mostly male boards tended to be old school rubber stamp outfits with lousy corp gov, a large number of which have had serious issues (countrywide, e.g.).

    This is not to say that women lend some special magic qualities - but it's not surprising that boards that make an effort to, you know, catch up with the 20th centruy and loook outside the pool of white stiffs in suits to fill out their membershhip tend to exercise better judgment overall.
     
    #12 SamFisher, Dec 10, 2007
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2007
  13. El_Conquistador

    El_Conquistador King of the D&D, The Legend, #1 Ranking
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    Dubious, Enron was one company out of literally thousands of public traded companies. Saying you don't trust companies because of a tiny sampling of bad apples is like saying you refuse to drive in a car because you heard about a car wreck once. It's ridiculous and simply put, it's not a good argument. The overwhelming majority of publicly traded companies are professional and at least attempt to do what is right for their shareholders... and board members are typically compensated with stock, so they are shareholders themselves.

    I find it very hard to believe that race trumps the best interest of future profitability when appointing directors. I have never met a CEO that didn't put shareholder wealth creation as the #1 goal.
     
  14. El_Conquistador

    El_Conquistador King of the D&D, The Legend, #1 Ranking
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    Part of that Sam, is that high quality female directors are in short supply and can have their choice of board positions. Remember, you can extend an offer to join a board, but that doesn't mean the person will take it. I work to try to fill boards all the time and you don't yield 100%. The strong female candidates ARE in short supply, and as such, can pick and choose where to work. Of course they'll join the board of a company that has a strong growth profile and a good image -- typically a recipe for a high ROI. I'm very skeptical of that study that you cite.

    Furthermore, I know it's popular to crap on white men, but many of them have have had tremendous success in business. In many segments of energy, those are the only ones with experience. Many are very positive additions to boards, are creative thinkers, and are leaders. Your premise is very flawed.
     
  15. SamFisher

    SamFisher Contributing Member

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    http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/bottomline2.shtml

    Wait...you just said affirmative action boards are less effective, now you are saying that diverse boards are better because diverse board members are cut from a stronger overall talent pool than non diverse directors (white male)?

    :confused:

    Stop vacillating my friend, one cannot blow hot and cold with the same breath - you are now arguing in favor of diverse boards? Because by sayng that diverse board members are stronger than non-diverse ones, that seems to be what you are saying.
     
  16. tigermission1

    tigermission1 Contributing Member

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    You're assuming that there is an equally large pool of qualified female candidates for some of these jobs, ESPECIALLY in the technology/energy sectors (two fields dominated by males, with seemingly little female interest).

    I hardly think that forcing companies to put 'token females' on their boards will be a step in the right direction for gender equality. It's one thing if there are equally qualified female candidates and they're being denied the opportunity, and if there is actual proof of this then these companies should be sanctioned for it.

    I think this is an overzealous and shortsighted approach to an important problem...
     
  17. SamFisher

    SamFisher Contributing Member

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    A lot of you guys seem to be making assumptions that Norway has chosen a free market economy like our own and when in reality Norway has chosen something rather different.

    It's pretty obvious that Norwegians (and a number of other scandanavian countries) have chosen to make certain trade-offs in order to promote a certain kind of society and way of life, one based more on equality and equity than would be emphasized here.

    I'm sort of surprised that everybody sort of immediately lapsed into standard US-style left/right dialogue/platitudes here. If we're talking about the norwegian system they don't really apply.
     
  18. bucket

    bucket Member

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    Nice. Women can be in charge of clothes, cooking, and cleaning as long as they keep out of the way and let the men do their jobs.

    It's fine to argue that the government shouldn't force businesses to hire people because of sex, but your statement here isn't just a logical extension of that point of view. It suggests a lot about what you think of the capabilities of women (and possibly reflects what a lot of male members of corporate boards think).
     
  19. StupidMoniker

    StupidMoniker I lost a bet
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    Just because they are wrong in one area, that doesn't mean they have to be wrong in other areas as well. :)
     
  20. Baqui99

    Baqui99 Contributing Member

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    Anyone remember when that nutjob Carly Fiorina ran HP? What a disaster.
     

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