Sweden company boards show boost in women

Sweden company boards show boost in women
A Swedish business meeting. Photo: Henrik Trygg/Image Bank Sweden
Almost 30 percent of board members on Swedish companies are expected to be women this year, a rise of around five percent. The increase comes ahead of a possible law change in 2016, as the coalition government seeks to ensure the figure rises to 40 percent.
While Sweden has a global reputation for gender equality, men continue to dominate two thirds of  management teams on the Swedish stock market. But the proportion of women on company boards appears to be rising faster than ever.
According to Allbright, a Swedish foundation that works for more women in leadership positions and more diverse management teams and boards, many firms are "feeling the pressure" ahead of government plans to introduce quotas of 40 percent next year and have therefore already started to compile more diverse top teams.
"It's a combination of things. There is an intense debate going on right now so some compaies are feeling the heat because of that, some are worried about the threat of formal legislation and others are just getting more knowledge when it comes to more diverse recruiting," Allbright's CEO Amanda Lundeteg told The Local.
"The problem in Sweden is we tend to have small powerful networks of people in business in Sweden and they recruit people who are also part of those networks and they are mostly men," she added.
"Another issue is that I think people are a little bit afraid of people who are different to themselves and they tend to hire people who remind themselves of them," said Lundeteg.
Among the 95 Swedish companies that have already held their annual meetings this spring, 31.5 percent of board members are now female, compared with 27.5 percent last year, the foundation has discovered. 
It predicts that once all 239 stock market listed corporations in Sweden have reported on their staffing for 2015, the average percentage of women on company boards will dip to 29 or 30 percent, up from 25 percent a year ago.
But Lundeteg argues that Sweden still has a lot to do to catch up with neighbouring Norway, which formally introduced 40 percent quotas in 2008 as well Iceland, where the figure is 48 percent, following similar legislation.
She also cites Latvia as a positive example. Here, 31.4 percent of top executives are women, the highest proportion among European countries that have no special quotas for female representation.
"There is a lot we can learn from other countries. Sweden may have a reputation at being the best for gender equality, but that is not the case."
Swedish investment firm Investor, which is owned by the country's iconic Wallenberg family is among the companies thought to have made some of the biggest changes to staffing over the past 12 months, with female board members increasing to 40 percent from 25 percent a year ago.
Chairman Hans Wibom, told the TT news agency that it was "hard to avoid" thinking about the Social Democrat-Green coalition's proposed law change, but insisted that all appointments at the firm were made with the company's "best interests" in mind.
Earlier this year the ten largest listed companies in Sweden were criticized for failing to display ethnic diversity on company boards, with just eleven out of ninety top staff having a non-European background.