I was reading an article by Christine Toomey in the Sunday Times on the Norwegian government’s mandate in 2003 that all companies need to have 40% female representation on executive boards by July 2005 – or face punitive legislation. The risky mandate was based on American research that shows companies with more women at board level enjoy higher returns on equity – they are more innovative and forward-thinking. The requirement has since had a positive effect on the Norwegian boards as the women are better educated and have wider work experience than the men they are replacing. The Norwegian government defended the move saying it wasn’t for the sake of political correctness but it just made better business sense to have executive members that were the best-qualified, across the board, so to speak – as opposed to "being recruited on hunting and fishing trips or from within a small circle of acquaintances". Sound familiar?
Since 2003, the sky has not fallen, companies have not folded and in fact Norway is ranked year after year as the best place to live and the most peaceful country by the Economic Intelligence Unit. The Norwegian people are now very happy with the initially controversial legislation that was introduced by a former conservative government minister, Ansgar Gabrielsen. It makes you wonder, how would a legal requirement of the same kind affect the UK or the US? My guess is that it would rock our institutions to the core.