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Swedish company boards "could face sex quotas"

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16:45 CEST+02:00
The shift towards more equal boards of directors in bigger companies is taking place too slowly according to Minister of Justice, Thomas Bodström.

Svenska Dagbladet reported on Friday that the minister is planning a new law that will force quotas on large companies. Under the new proposals, at least 40% of the board members will have to be female.

"Today's male dominance in the business world is unacceptable. The development towards a more equal distribution of higher positions between sexes is going far too slowly," said Bodström in an interview to TT.

The debate started in 2002, when Margareta Winberg, the then Equality Minister, threatened in an interview with Svenska Dagbladet to impose sex quotas if companies did not do their part in offering the same opportunities to men and women in the business world.

At the time, Winberg called for 25% of board positions to be filled by women. By the end of 2003 women only accounted for 11.6% of board members.

Such figures are an embarrassment to the government, which in recent months has lost the initiative in the equality debate in the face of increasing feminist alternatives.

Thomas Bodström's action is now a sign that the government has started acting towards the issue's resolution. However, the announcement brought an immediate objection from Birgitta Ohlsson, a Liberal Party member of the parliament, who directed her concerns about sex quotas towards Equality Minister, Jens Orback.

"I am amazed. You are giving feminism a disservice through this proposition," she said to SvD.

"If you believe in a free industry and market economy, it is incompatible to demand sex quotas on companies' board of directors."

Ohlsson's comments echo the results of a survey carried out in October last year by the paper Dagens Industri.

It revealed that a clear majority of Swedish MPs are against such quotas, with 176 of the 295 MPs questioned declaring themselves in opposition to legislation.

The proposal will be handed over to an inquiry, which will collect opinions from other representatives in the trade and business world. The commission will be ready in about a year.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet

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