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'Sweden may have equal boards in four years'

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'Sweden may have equal boards in four years'
A Swedish business meeting. Photo: Henrik Trygg/Image Bank Sweden
12:51 CEST+02:00
Following a record jump in the number of women working at executive level, Sweden's diversity lobbyists AllBright said on Monday that equality in the boardrooms could be reached in four years.
"The trend has broken," trumpeted AllBright, an organization that promotes diversity in the workplace. 
 
The organization revealed that after an almost non-existent change in the percentage of women working on Sweden's boards between 2010 and 2013, the figure jumped from 22 percent to 28 percent this year.
 
It added that, after an overview of the 279 companies listed on the Swedish Stock Exchange, equality could be expected by 2025 if the current ten-year trend continues, or within four years if last year's trend was to continue. 
 
"It's a very positive change, but it's also about time," Amanda Lundeteg, CEO of Allbright, told The Local.
 
"The truth is, we could have total equality within one year if every board member selected for the next year was a woman. Ten years is the worst case scenario."
 
She said one of the key problems was the gender inequality on the nomination committees, which are responsible for choosing members of the board. 
 
"These committees have really been sleeping for a while," she said, pointing out that just one in ten members of these committees were women. 
 
If there were more women among these committees, Lundeteg predicted a knock-on effect seeing more female board members hired due to the fact that women have more women in their networks, and can find suitable candidates who may otherwise be overlooked.
 
"The nomination committees are the ones with all the power, but they stay out of the spotlight and work behind the scenes," she said.
 
The positive news was also welcomed by the Swedish Women's Lobby.
 
"It's great to see that the number of women in boards of Swedish companies has increased to 28 percent, but this is only just above halfway to 50 percent," organization president Clara Berglund told The Local.
 
"This also shows that it's time to look beyond representation and to address the gender equality of these boards' decisions and businesses."
 
 
The Allbright report also noted that despite 56 boards already totally gender equal, there are still 24 boards without a single woman. 
 
So why the 6-percentage point spike in female board members after a stagnant few years?
 
Lundeteg said that political pressure was no doubt one of the key catalysts, after ministers warned in May that companies could face penalties if they don't comply to a government plan to introduce a 40-percent quota law as early as 2017. 
 
"But it would be better to wait and let the business sector solve things itself rather than following a quota. Most people think it's better if it's down to a voluntarily change," she said. 
 
Lundeteg noted that another explanation for the change was the fact that gender equality remains a hot topic in Sweden.
 
"At last year's election, gender equality was on every party's political agenda. The debate in Sweden is intense on the subject."
 
Indeed, she noted that Sweden was a role model when it came to gender debate. 
 
"I think Sweden is ahead in many areas, but that doesn't mean we have reached the goal. It's great to have the debate and I'm sure there are many countries that can't name and shame unequal companies like we do, but we are far from gender equal," she told The Local.
 
"The gender equality debate is very progressive in Sweden, but we have to make sure that it becomes a reality. 
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