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Women on top

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There was mixed bag of recommendations: Chococo’s Claire Burnet raised the issue of childcare; Susan Payne, founder of investment firm Emergent Asset Management, lampooned maternity laws. “They’re absurdly generous to women,” she says.

But it was Margaret Heffernan, serial entrepreneur and RB columnist, who talked about the Norwegian government’s radical move to up the quota of female directors. To quote: “If the government were really serious, it would instigate the kind of quotas Norway has, requiring that 40 per cent of company directors are female of else the business incurs very hefty fines.”

With this nestling in my subconscious, I was pleased to see this article in the Sunday Times last week, looking at the repercussions of that same legislation six years on.

It makes for interesting reading. The economy has not crumbled. Norway has again been voted the best place to live by the UN. And, as writer Christine Toomey points out: “The sky has not fallen in.”

In fact, writes Toomey, while it is still too early to assess the impact on the country’s bottom line, early indications show that “most of [the women appointed to boards] have significantly higher educational and professional qualifications than many of the male colleagues they replaced, or sit next to. The women are not only brighter, they are younger, and the majority have distinguished themselves in a wide variety of other professional careers before being appointed to company boards.”

I’m never one to advocate positive discrimination, or strong-arm tactics, but there could be real merit in it. The question is, can this initiative be rolled out elsewhere? Spain and Germany are toying with plans for similar legislation. Will Britain follow suit?

Again, check out the article. The tide is turning.

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