What opportunity? Nordic equality fails to infiltrate corporate club

Mon Oct 20, 2014 2:06am EDT
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By Mia Shanley, Gwladys Fouche and Shida Chayesteh

STOCKHOLM/OSLO/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - When it comes to equality at home and in the political arena, Nordic countries have long outperformed the rest of the world. But a look at their blue-chip companies reveals a gaping hole in the picture.

Of nearly 100 publicly traded Nordic companies - a list of global names that ranges from Danish brewer Carlsberg and fashion retailer H&M - only one, Swedish bank SEB, has a woman at its helm.

It's the "Anders" effect, says Sweden's AllBright Foundation, whose annual report on gender equality in Sweden found that Anders was the most common name at management level.

"Anders recruits Anders who recruits Anders," said Amanda Lundeteg, AllBright chief executive. "They think, hey Anders is a nice fella - we can golf, talk football and 'bada bastu' (swim and sauna). He reminds me of me."

Such a situation may seem hard to grasp in a region that gave women the vote in the early 1900s, rolled out gender quotas in politics in the 1970s and legalized shared parental leave in order to see fathers out pushing prams as often as mothers.

Some senior executives say it's partly down to the fact that Nordic industry is still skewed toward male-dominated sectors such as oil, mining and manufacturing, where women have long struggled to make headway.

Others suggest it's because parental leave legislation does not insist that fathers take as much leave as mothers.

But Adam Price, who created the hit political drama series Borgen, says it's simply because the same commitment to increase opportunities for women has not extended from other areas into the corporate world.   Continued...

CEO of Swedish SEB Bank Annika Falkengren smiles in Stockholm, in this file portrait picture taken July 14, 2014. REUTERS/Bertil Ericson/TT News Agency