Report from Norway: Gender Equality in the Board Room

European Company Law, No. 4, 2008

8 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2008 Last revised: 8 Nov 2010

See all articles by Beate Sjåfjell

Beate Sjåfjell

University of Oslo - Faculty of Law

Hedvig Bugge Reiersen



In 2002, then Minister of Trade and Industry, Ansgar Gabrielsen, proposed to make obligatory that public limited liability companies in Norway have at least 40 per cent women directors on their boards. The minister voiced the proposal in a tabloid, apparently without checking this idea out with the prime minister - or anybody else in the government or in the ministry. According to an interview earlier this year, this was a carefully planned strategy: the perceived problem with unequal gender representation on the boards (referred to disparagingly as 'boys' clubs'), had long been a topic of debate, albeit not creating the big headlines. The minister feared that putting the proposal through the normal channels first would be equal to its quiet death, smothered by corporate lobby forces and bureaucracy sceptical to such drastic measures.

Going to the tabloids certainly got the minister attention: 'I got a real telling-off in the next meeting of ministers. Some of them practically had smoke coming out of their ears'. But in the end, then Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik supported the proposal, and the rest, as they say is history. Except of course, that it is a very current part of today's regulation of Norwegian public limited liability companies: the new Section 6-11a of the Norwegian Public Limited Liability Companies Act entered into force on 1st January 2006, giving the public limited liability companies with male-dominated boards two years to recruit a sufficient of women directors. But it did not have to be that way: this legislative initiative took an innovative approach: the legislation enacted in 2003 stipulated that it would only enter into force if the companies did not by 1 July 2005 in aggregate have achieved a 40 per cent representation by women on the boards.

We will in this report give an overview of Section 6-11a as it stands today, including which companies it applies to, what the practical significance for Norwegian companies has been so far, and end off with some reflections about what this means for foreign investors in Norwegian companies.

Keywords: Norwegian public companies act, gender equality, boards, legal norms, social norms, efficiency, performance of companies

Suggested Citation

Sjåfjell, Beate and Reiersen, Hedvig Bugge, Report from Norway: Gender Equality in the Board Room. European Company Law, No. 4, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Beate Sjåfjell (Contact Author)

University of Oslo - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 6706 St Olavsplass
Oslo, 0130


Hedvig Bugge Reiersen


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