Dr Marit Hoel is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Corporate Diversity in Norway. The objective of the Center is to present the case for diversity in business and also to insure that the Norwegian business community recognises and utilizes the growing competence of businesswomen in Norway. From 2000 to 2003 the Center presented an annual census of the Women Board Directors and Executive Directors in the top 250companies in Norway. In 2004 the Center released the first Nordic 500: Women Board Directors and Executive Directors of the top 500 Nordic companies. CCD has since 2003 been commissioned by The Ministry for Trade and Industry to analyze the development of women board directors in public limited companies in Norway, targeted by the quota law of 2003. On March 19th 2009 The Center for Corporate Diversity presented the 2008 Nordic 500. This time the 500 study included data on Corporate Ethics in the 500 largest companies in the Nordic countries. Marit Hoel was previously the Research Director at the Institute for the Studies of Higher Education and a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo, Norway. In 2000, Marit arranged Norway’s first seminar on “Leadership-Equality-Diversity” where she presented her report on the emerging strength and competence of businesswomen in Norway. Marit has also published many articles and several books on the topic of women and work. In 2008 Marit Hoel presents an article (“The Quota Story”), addressing the process behind the quota law on corporate boards in Norway (Vinnicombe &Singh (ed), Elgar Books, London). In November 2008 Marit Hoel received The World of Difference 100 Award at a TIAW Award Gala in Toronto, Canada.
Interview with Marit Hoel
On reflection, what were the critical factors that convinced the Norwegian Parliament that quotas were necessary for Norway's corporate boards?
The principal questions that convinced the parliament was that the number of women on corporate boards remained at the same low level year after year despite campaigns, discussions and changes in demographics, educational level and participation of women on all levels of political life and public service.
How do you regard the success of Norway's implementation of quotas and what do you base this on?
As by now, all companies regulated by the law have complied, and none of the sanctions for non-compliance had to be carried out towards companies. A vast majority of the chairs of the companies seem satisfied with the work of the women they have recruited it seems from interviews.
What is the current situation in Norway based on your most recent analysis of the development of women board directors in public limited companies as evident by the Nordic 500, Women Board Directors and Executive Directors of the top 500 Nordic companies?
Presently 40.3 % of board directors are women in the 370 companies that are regulated by the law.
What are your views about the controversial arguments that surrounds the implementation of quotas including the argument of giving women positions based on merit; women's short-comings in managing board positions, and the rights of private ownership?
I can answer two of your topics here: The statistical Bureau in Norway recently published an analysis that shows that the level of education has risen in the board rooms after the law was introduced, because the women who are recruited have significantly higher education than the men they replaced.
The Norwegian board structure include a number of independent board members (Non-Executives). Therefore our boards also include persons (men and women) with non-executive careers. So far there is no evidence that we have recruited women with substantial shortcomings compared to men.
The principle question of the right for private owners to decide the board is as you imply a principle question as is not solved in the law. However, listed companies are regulated in other ways that limit the possibility of owners from solely deciding all aspects of a company. Norway has not regulated by quotas all the ten thousands of private limited companies in the country.
Do you think that putting in place targets rather than legally based quotas are as effective?
This I cannot answer because there are no long-term studies of the effects of targets instead of quotas.
Have there been any changes to Norway's education sector to develop women's talents in male dominated industries and breakdown gender biased stereotypes? Or is the attention still being focused on attaining levels of visible power by women in the corporate landscape?
The Norwegian government has implemented a lot of measures even since the 1980'ies to better balance educational choices. The results are good in topics like medicine, law and economics where a majority of students now are women. In physics and mathematics results are acceptable, but not gender balanced yet. In engineering women are a clear minority of students.