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'Swedish firms less equal than Saudis': biz daily

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A conference room in Sweden. File photo: Helsingborgs Konserthus/Flickr
11:14 CET+01:00
Sweden's premier business daily on Friday noted that many Swedish companies were less gender equal than the Saudi Arabian parliament, and said introducing quotas could mark a generational shift.

Dagens Industri (DI) editorial writer P.M. Nilsson noted that previous generations in Sweden had worked to make labour market participation equal, but that it could now be time to look at the top rather than the base. 

He said that the new generation of women who had worked for a few years may recoil from annual reports that showed that their companies were run mostly by men.

"They have a creeping feeling that men of the same age don't have to work as hard - neither at work nor at home - and (the men) still do well," Nilsson wrote. "And when these women look at the photos of the company board in the annual report, they don't see a meritocracy, they see a dominion of old men (gubbvälde)." 

The editorial, entitled "This is why owners should introduce boardroom quotas", was published in Friday in the one national newspaper most likely to be read by Swedes who sit on the boards in questions, and who in general wield power in Swedish industry.

"It doesn't look good when top management at a workplace has a female representation that is worse than the Saudi Arabian parliament," Nilsson wrote.

He further argued that having gender equal boardrooms was neither a question of justice nor of equality improving the work, but he argued instead that representation was politically potent - in short, it spoke volumes about who has power. 

"In politics, people realized a long time ago that a government or a party leadership or a parliamentary group cannot exclusively be made up of men," he wrote. "It sends the wrong signals(...) that brotherhood comes before competence, closed doors before transparency, sexism ahead of equality."

"Women are given a clear signal that it doesn't pay to get involved."

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Nilsson concluded that if politicians had understood the symbolic value of equality, the boards must also take it into consideration. 

"Patience with capitalism's invisible hand has started to run low," Nilsson concluded. 

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