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Minister calls for law on corporate gender equality

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09:59 CET+01:00
Sweden's equality minister Nyamko Sabuni has proposed a new law requiring companies to strive for a balance between women and men in the boardroom.

"The business community is not living up to its own agreement on gender quality. Therefore, we are now proposing a law which requires gender balance in corporate management teams," Sabuni wrote in the Dagens Nyheter daily on Saturday.

Sabuni explained that the Liberal Party would like to amend the law to require companies to set up and follow clear goals to encourage gender quality and combat discrimination, stopping short of direct quotas.

"I am against legally-stipulated quotas when some external person comes in a tells a company that they should have a women in their leadership," Sabuni said.

"The goals should be formed around the business operations, analysis and abilities. I don't see any problem with setting goals for how many competent women one should have among their management team, but it shouldn't come from me."

The proposal received some cautious backing from the Green Party, with Gunvor G Ericson calling it a "step in the right direction", while warning that "affirmative action is not a goal in itself, it is a means".

Representatives from business community groups have however been more critical of the proposal which has been described as "political interference".

"We can naturally not be positively disposed to a mandatory law. Absolutely not. It is a peculiar proposal," said Carina Lindefeldt at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise to the TT news agency.

"I have previously seen Sabuni as someone who clearly defends property rights, that the business leader has a right to govern and lead their own company. But now we suddenly see a political interference seeking to go in and change this."

Lindefeldt claimed that Swedish businesses already consider these issues important and work actively with addressing inequality among management teams.

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According to statistics from March 2012, women accounted for 23.6 percent of board members of Swedish companies.

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