Nordics: A higher glass ceiling

The Danes take equality seriously but without Norwegian-style quotas for company boards, men still hog the top spots

The World Today
Published 1 April 2015 Updated 4 January 2021 2 minute READ

Clare MacCarthy

Nordic Correspondent, The Economist

At first glance, Denmark seems to have the gender equality issue pretty much sorted. Both the head of state and the prime minister are women. The proportion of women elected to parliament in the 2011 election was just shy of 40 per cent. Women are active across all levels of society and are influential voices in everything from the arts to economics and academia. With 75.6 per cent of working age women holding full-time jobs, Denmark can boast one of the world’s highest female workforce participation rates.

Yet while women kick off their careers on a fairly equal footing as men, when it comes to reaching the top the statistics tell another story. Excluding foreigners (whose participation rate is not tracked by gender), women only held 19.3 per cent of company board positions in 2014 – significantly below Norway’s rate of 41 per cent, which, thanks to a statutory gender quota of 40 per cent, has seen a dramatic increase in women’s march into positions of power.

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