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Norweigan Government Forces 40% Female Employment Or Business Gets Shut Down

Afternposten | April 7 2005

Norway will shut companies that refuse to recruit at least 40 percent women to their boards by 2007 under an unprecedented equality drive, a cabinet minister said on Tuesday.

"Companies have been dragging their feet. They really have to recruit more women," Children and Family Affairs Minister Laila Dåvøy told Reuters. "In the very worst case, they will face closure."

Norway's parliament told firms in 2002 to ensure at least 40 percent of each sex in boardrooms by mid-2005 to force corporate leadership to match Nordic traditions of sex equality elsewhere in society.

Before Tuesday, however, sanctions for non-compliance were not clear. Many companies denounce the scheme as the toughest corporate sex equality goal in the world.

"Since 2002 the percentage of women in boards has risen to only 11 percent from six," Dåvøy said. "Yet there are thousands of qualified women out there - companies can choose from half the adult population."

Many European nations have more women in boardrooms than Norway and the male bastion is a paradox for a country where 40 percent of the cabinet of Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and 37 percent of parliamentarians are women.

Dåvøy, who oversees sex equality rules, said that all state-controlled firms including oil group Statoil and telecoms firm Telenor had already complied.

But many other firms are lagging, including energy and engineering group Aker Kværner and Internet search group Fast. Many business leaders say the rules will force them to recruit ill-qualified women as quota fillers.

"If we can recruit women to our state companies why can't private businesses do it too?" Dåvøy said.

She said the threat of closure was meant as a spur. "I don't believe that companies will get into a situation where they risk closure. Companies will obviously find women," she said.

Under Dåvøy's plan, Oslo will review lists of corporate boards in August 2005. If they fall short of the 40 percent goal, the government will set a legal deadline of 2007. In 2007, laggards would face liquidation by court order if they refuse to comply after a formal, final warning.