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Women ascending to top of Danish business

A new analysis carried out by the Confederation of Danish Industry shows that the largest Danish companies have more than doubled the number of female board members since 2008 and now score above the EU average. At the same time, an increasing number of women are ascending to the C-suite.
According to Charlotte Rønhof, deputy director at the Confederation of Danish Industry, companies have positive experiences with Danish legislation regarding women in business, which today helps women move upwards in management generally and not just onto boards via set targets.

Publiceret: 18.01.2017
Af Rikke Brøndum mail

The number of women on boards and in senior management at the largest Danish companies is steadily increasing.

According to a new analysis carried out by the Confederation of Danish Industry, the percentage of female board members selected by shareholders at annual meetings has more than doubled from 10 per cent in 2008 to 26 per cent in 2016. 

The development gathered momentum after Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s centre-left coalition government, instead of instating quotas, required that larger companies set targets for the percentage of women on their boards in 2013. Companies also had to create a policy to recruit and develop female leadership talent.

“We have positive experiences with Denmark’s legislation on the matter, which allows the individual company to recruit and develop leadership talent that suits their specific conditions, says Charlotte Rønhof, deputy director at DI.

Read the entire analysis here: Significantly more women in management and on boards (in Danish)

More women in management

Meanwhile, it is not only in the boardrooms that you increasingly encounter the names of women.

C-suites are also marked by women’s rise to the top. The number of female CEOs has nearly doubled since 2004 and constitutes over 12 per cent in 2015, shows data from nearly 3,000 companies, which are also included in DI’s analysis.

If you ask Nina Smith, economist at the University of Århus, the figures are precisely an outcome of Denmark’s decision, unlike Norway, not to force companies to include women on boards through quotas.

The European Commission has previously introduced such a measure, albeit so far without support from the member states.

“By looking at Norway, we know that quotas alone do not get more women into the food chain of the boards, which exists precisely within management. It is crucial that the culture changes, both in the companies but also among women themselves. This requires a general change in behaviour, and that’s what we’re beginning to see now because we’ve managed to get companies to take an interest in the area rather than simply fulfilling a given quota,” she explains.

Minister: The best defence against quotas

Minister for Equal Opportunities and Nordic Cooperation Karen Ellemann (V) is also pleased by the results.
“As the new minister in the area, I would like to make it clear that the best defence against force in the form of quotas is to demonstrate that companies seek diversity on their own. We see that happening now, and when the largest companies have doubled the number of women on boards, it gives reason to believe that the smaller ones will follow too.

The current presidency of the EU has just announced that it will reconsider the proposal regarding quotas. Denmark has thus far opposed the proposal together with a number of other countries, but following UK’s exit, the situation is more uncertain,” the minister says.

“The government’s position is clear. We are against quotas. There are limits to what we as politicians should get involved with in companies, and we can see that they are taking action on their own,” says Karen Ellemann.

The current legislation will be evaluated this year, but the minister does not yet wish to comment on whether she - if figures correspond to DI’s analysis - sees reason to change it.

I would like to make it clear that the best defence against force in the form of quotas is to demonstrate that companies seek diversity on their own. We see that happening now.

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PUBLISHED: 1/18/2017 LAST MODIFIED: 1/18/2017