By Anne Sweigart
Across Europe, quotas for female membership on corporate boards have been generating interest, and in a few countries, these quotas have been passed and are awaiting implementation. The quotas are designed to rectify the extreme gender imbalance on corporate boards, which persists despite female advancements in education and workforce participation. In the European Union, women represented just 9.7% of the board members at the top 300 companies in 2008. The lack of progress in women’s corporate leadership is not a European problem alone: in the United States, women make up fewer than 15% of all Fortune 1000 directors.
Since January 1, 2008, Norway has enforced a gender quota requirement for corporate board membership at all public limited liability companies. For most of these companies, the quota requires 40% female board membership. While it is too early to tell exactly how this quota has impacted Norway, the positive effects associated with women on corporate boards indicate the value of increased gender diversity. Quotas like the ones passed in Norway are the most viable means for increasing board diversity and, ultimately, adding value to firms in other countries as well.