Norway’s oil wealth fund makes push for more women on boards

Norway's sovereign wealth fund, one of the world's biggest investors, wants to see more diversity, especially gender equality, on the boards of the companies in which it invests, a document published Monday showed.

Norway’s oil wealth fund makes push for more women on boards
Photo: Andreas Dress on Unsplash

“The board (of a company) should have a diversity of competences and backgrounds,” read a new policy document from the fund, the world’s biggest with more than $1.3 trillion in assets.

“Boards where either gender has less than 30 percent representation should consider setting targets for gender diversity and report on progress,” it said.

The policy document also reviewed the arguments for and against diversity.

On the one hand, diversity enriches the decision-making process with a variety of points of view, it illustrates the quality of the recruiting process which is not limited to a small circle, and it increases the legitimacy of decision-makers, the document states.

On the other hand, the effects of diversity on financial earnings are not yet documented in serious academic studies, it can complicate recruiting by eclipsing other competences, and the process of feminisation is already ongoing without the involvement of shareholders, it says.

The fund’s management concluded that “diversity will likely bring additional perspectives and approaches to the board’s discussions and ultimately improve the quality of its decision-making process.”

“While there are many different dimensions to diversity, we are particularly concerned by persistent under-representation of women on boards,” it added.

With holdings in some 9,200 companies, the fund — on Monday valued at 11.14 trillion kroner ($1.32 trillion, 1.09 trillion euros) — controls the equivalent of 1.5 percent of the world’s market capitalisation.

Its decisions are closely watched by other investors and are therefore highly influential.

Several countries, including Norway, France, Germany and the Netherlands, have imposed quotas to ensure that more women are represented on boards of directors.

Yet gender equality remains far-off: the share of women on the boards of the 30 biggest companies is just 12.8 percent in Germany, 28.6 percent in the US, 24.9 percent in Sweden, 24.5 percent in Britain and 22.2 percent in France, according to the Allbright Foundation.

READ ALSO: Norway economy shrinks 2.5 percent in 2020 despite pandemic

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EXPLAINED: How could government intervene to settle Denmark nurses’ strike?

Over one in four people in Denmark are in favour of political intervention to resolve an ongoing nurses’ strike, but political resolutions to labour disputes are uncommon in the country.

EXPLAINED: How could government intervene to settle Denmark nurses’ strike?
Striking nurses demonstrate in Copenhagen on July 10th. OPhoto: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

In a new opinion poll conducted by Voxmeter on behalf of news wire Ritzau, 27.3 percent said they supported political intervention in order to end the current industrial conflict was has almost 5,000 nurses currently striking across Denmark, with another 1,000 expected to join the strike next month.


Over half of respondents – 52.6 percent – said they do not support political intervention, however, while 20.1 percent answered, “don’t know”.

That may be a reflection of the way labour disputes are normally settled within what is known as the ‘Danish model’, in which high union membership (around 70 percent) amongst working people means unions and employers’ organisations negotiate and agree on wages and working conditions in most industries.

The model, often referred to as flexicurity, is a framework for employment and labour built on negotiations and ongoing dialogue to provide adaptable labour policies and employment conditions. Hence, when employees or employers are dissatisfied, they can negotiate a solution.

But what happens when both sides cannot agree on a solution? The conflict can evolve into a strike or a lockout and, occasionally, in political intervention to end the dispute.

READ ALSO: How Denmark’s 2013 teachers’ lockout built the platform for a far greater crisis

Grete Christensen, leader of the Danish nurses’ union DSR, said she can now envisage a political response.

“Political intervention can take different forms. But with the experience we have of political intervention, I can envisage it, without that necessarily meaning we will get what we are campaigning for,” Christensen told Ritzau.

“Different elements can be put into a political intervention which would recognise the support there is for us and for our wages,” she added.

A number of politicians have expressed support for intervening to end the conflict.

The political spokesperson with the left wing party Red Green Alliance, Mai Villadsen, on Tuesday called for the prime minister Mette Frederiksen to summon party representatives for talks.

When industrial disputes in Denmark are settled by parliaments, a legal intervention is the method normally used. But Villadsen said the nurses’ strike could be resolved if more money is provided by the state.

That view is supported by DSR, Christensen said.

“This must be resolved politically and nurses need a very clear statement to say this means wages will increase,” the union leader said.

“This exposes the negotiation model in the public sector, where employers do not have much to offer because their framework is set out by (parliament),” she explained, in reference to the fact that nurses are paid by regional and municipal authorities, whose budgets are determined by parliament.

DSR’s members have twice voted narrowly to reject a deal negotiated between employers’ representatives and their union.

The Voxmeter survey consists of responses from 1,014 Danish residents over the age of 18 between July 15th-20th.