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Sweden’s state-owned firms lack diverse leadership

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.”

BUSINESS

Sweden’s Volvo gives $6.7m to US family

The family of a one-year-old girl who suffered irreversible brain damage after getting trapped in a Volvo car's electric window is to be awarded almost seven million dollars (55.6m kronor) by the Swedish firm.

Sweden's Volvo gives $6.7m to US family
Volvo is based in west Sweden. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT
The compensation payment was ordered by a federal jury in Albuquerque in New Mexico after it ruled that the car, a 2001 S60 model, had been defective.
 
The jury had listened to two weeks of testimony before reaching an agreement on the damages, following a long legal battle first launched in 2012 by the baby's father, named by US media as Andres Rivera.
 
It heard that the girl – called Alana – had suffered permanent brain damage after accidentally activating an electric window and getting her neck trapped in it, preventing oxygen from reaching her brain. Her injuries were so severe that she will never be able to live independently.
 
The jurers were told that the baby was hurt while her father was taking nap, following a stressful day at work. He had previously released her from her car seat. A passerby saw the lifeless girl hanging out of the window and banged on the car to wake him up and alert him to her distress, before calling the authorities.
 
Volvo has always maintained that the accident was Andres Rivera's fault. However the firm, which first launched in west Sweden in 1927, later changed the design of its electric windows, without recalling earlier models.
 
The Albuquerque federal jury suggested that the father should take 30 percent of the responsibility for the girl's injuries, with Volvo judged to be 70 percent at fault.
 
According to local newspaper the Albuquerque Journal, Alana spent a month in hospital after the accident and has since undergone intensive medical treatment and physiotherapy.
 
She was well-adjusted enough to start kindergarten in 2014, the paper reported, but still struggles with her speech.
 
James Ragan, the family's lawyer, told the newspaper that he was impressed by the girl's parents, who had previously lost another child to brain cancer. 
 
“I’ve been amazed at their ability to weather difficulties and be a family,” he said. “I’m astounded at their ability to carry on.”
 
Neither Volvo headquarters nor lawyers for the company immediately made a statement following the hearing.