Home Blog Equality and Diversity Employee quotas - carrot or stick?
Employee quotas - carrot or stick?

There has been quite a bit of publicity recently about the rush to comply with the legal requirement to have 40% of women on the boards of Norwegian companies by 1 January 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7176879.stm

Meeting this obligation appears to have been a struggle for many companies, despite a 5 year lead time.

Clearly the idea behind this law is a laudable one recognising the importance of diversity, yet I question the value of quotas. On the face of it they force change to happen – Norway now has the highest proportion of women board directors - at 38% - of any other European country. Italy is the lowest with 2%, with 8% as the average across Europe.

This new law has also initiated a transfer of talent from the public to the private sector in Norway, which is now causing problems for their former employers and probably for the women transferring, as one of the key reasons for working in the public sector (up to now) is the family friendly policies.

Our requirement for equality for women in the UK, the legislation for which was introduced in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 – yet 30+ years later National Statistics demonstrate that there is still a pay gap of 12.6% between men and women based on average hourly pay in April 2007, which the Office for National Statistics proudly states is the narrowest since records began. For full time employees the pay gap was 21% - so much for the driving force of the law! Legal compliance in the UK does not appear to have the same call to action, or maybe sanctions, as in Norway.

It is sad that in these ‘modern times’ in the UK there still appears to be much to do to ensure that recruitment and pay decisions are made on the basis of the best candidate for the job and the job done rather than underlying bias – whether it’s gender, race or simply that we like people like ourselves.

It will be interesting to observe how working practice develops and changes in Norway as a result of this law.


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