Sweden's state-owned firms lack diverse leadership

David Landes
David Landes - [email protected]

Despite promises by the current government to make diversity a priority, the number directors in Sweden’s state-owned companies held by people of non-Nordic background has dropped by 50 percent.


Currently, only one out of 146 board positions in Sweden’s 21 largest state-owned companies is held by someone from outside the Nordic region, according to a recent report by the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Apoteket, Systembolaget and Svenska Spel all lack a single person with non-Nordic background on their boards or in their top management, writes SvD.

When SvD first looked at diversity in state-owned enterprises in November 2006, a total of two leadership posts were held by people from someplace other than the Nordic countries.

At the time, Industry Minister Maud Olofsson criticized the outgoing government for not doing enough to promote diversity and promised the incoming Alliance government would do better.

Olofsson explained that having a board which reflects the market in terms of ethnic background, gender, and age has commercial advantages, according to SvD.

But 18 months later, there is little sign of change at the top of Sweden’s state-owned companies when it comes to diversity in the board of directors.

Top management in Sweden’s state-owned firms is slightly more diverse however, with seven of 183 positions going to people with non-Nordic backgrounds—up from a total of three positions in the autumn of 2006.

But six of the seven non-Nordic managers are from Europe, and a quarter of the companies lack any active efforts to promote diversity, reports SvD.

“It has been hard to recruit diverse candidates. The traditional sources from which we recruit don’t have this type of diversity. That is why last spring we started working on broadening our recruiting sources. We’ve visited with companies and arranged board seminars, but so far we haven’t reaped any benefits from our efforts,” Elisabeth Thand Ringqvist, an advisor to Olofsson, said to SvD.

The person responsible for recruiting board members to state-owned enterprises, Lars Erik Fredriksson, emphasized that the networks use for recruiting are very “Sweden-based” and have few members with foreign backgrounds.

“It sounds a little hopeless, but despite everything, in order to get strong board members, they need to have come from leadership-level positions. Today we presumably see a higher incidence of people with non-Nordic background in companies, at least at the middle-management level. And that way, I definitely believe that it will increase in the future,” Fredriksson said to SvD.

While he failed to state a specific goal for the recruitment of non-Nordic board members, Fredriksson said that he and his colleagues “continue to work with the different networks which exist in Sweden.”


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