Immigrants absent on state firms’ boards

The number of women on the boards of Sweden's state-owned companies is increasing, but immigrants are still almost entirely unrepresented.

In a survey of 26 of the largest state companies carried out by news agency TT, only 1.5% of board members were found to have ‘an obviously non-Nordic name’.

The government responded with a call for a “major increase in ethnic diversity” in future.

“We have shown that it’s possible, if you work at it, to bring about equality. We should also be able to achieve that when it comes to ethnic diversity,” said the Minister for Industry and Trade, Thomas Östros.

According to government guidelines, the balance on the boards of state-owned companies should reflect “competence, background, age and gender”.

The number of female board members is continuing to increase and is almost at 50%, TT’s results showed.

But foreigners, defined as people who have moved to Sweden from a non-Nordic country, are still conspicuous by their absence.

Among 200 board members, TT only found 3 people who were non-Nordic.

Thomas Östros explained the lack of immigrants by pointing out that board members are often recruited from leading positions within the business world.

“When you still don’t have ethnic diversity there, you’ll also get a scarcity in the recruiting group,” he said.

He said that more members with foreign backgrounds would mean “a very good injection” for the state-owned companies, but that it would take “conscious, long-term work” to bring it about.

However, he also said that there are difficulties with setting goals for the number of immigrants on boards.

“It’s not possible to set a percentage goal as with women, since we do not register people by ethnicity,” he said.

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