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This edited collection provides a structured and in-depth analysis of the current use of multiple approaches beyond quotas for resolving the pressing issue of gender inequality, and the lack of female representation on corporate boards. Filling the gap in existing literature on this topic, the two volumes of Gender Diversity in the Boardroom offers systematic overviews of current debates surrounding the optimisation of gender diversity, and the suggested pathways for progress. Focusing on sixteen European countries, the skilled contributors explore the current situation in relation to women on boards debates and approaches taken. They include detailed reflections from critical stakeholders, such as politicians, practitioners and policy-makers. Volume 2 focuses on eight European countries having multiple approaches beyond quotas and is a promising and highly valuable resource for academics, practitioners, policy makers and anyone interested in gender diversity because it examines and critiques the current corporate governance system and national strategies for increasing the share of women not only on boards, but within companies beyond the boardroom.



1. Setting the Scene: Women on Boards: The Multiple Approaches Beyond Quotas

This chapter sets out to provide an introduction to Gender Diversity in the Boardroom: European Perspectives on increasing female representation—Multiple approaches beyond quotas. We provide a rationale for focusing on the eight European countries; UK, Portugal, Slovenia, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and Hungary as well as including an international outward looking chapter in this edited volume. These are all examples of countries that have not, to date, introduced quota regulations for private sector boards. Yet we acknowledge that although quotas have not been introduced in the respective countries, the majority of countries have some sort of initiatives in relation to increasing the share of women on boards and discussions are flourishing in academic, political and private sector circles. Nevertheless, we see great variations in the design and approach among the countries and we observe a wide range of enabling and hindering forces important to acknowledge in order to understand the different country contexts.
Heike Mensi-Klarbach, Cathrine Seierstad, Patricia Gabaldon

2. UK: The Merits and Shortcomings of a Voluntary Approach

This chapter examines the situation of women on boards in the UK. The chapter begins by providing an overview of the country’s political and economic context, outlining gender equality trends and the nature of workplace equality and diversity policies in the UK. Second, the chapter discusses the UK corporate governance system and its landmark ‘comply or explain’ approach. Third, the chapter outlines trends in gender representation on FTSE boards, analyzing national-level policy on women on boards over almost two decades, with an emphasis on the relatively successful Davies Review (2011–2015). The achievements and limitations of this voluntary approach are then critically discussed, drawing particular attention to the effectiveness of a multi-stakeholder approach, but also to the fragility of change secured through voluntary measures.
Elena Doldor

3. Portugal: The Slow Progress of the Regulatory Framework

The regulatory context in Portugal has been slow, as policies to advance gender balance on boards have relied on a combination of awareness-raising initiatives and soft measures, such as policy recommendations and incentives for self-regulation. Empirical data show that improvements have been rather slow and inconsistent. Moreover, the normative approach has been top-down, resulting from the commitment of only a few people – namely a few political leaders rather than from a wide political and social support. The current government is planning to introduce binding legal measures aimed at increasing women’s representation (as the underrepresented sex) in the highest decision-making positions of the private (public listed companies) and public business sectors. No grass-roots movements or business actors have been actively involved in initiatives aimed at promoting a change in the regulatory framework. Despite this context, it is to be expected that no major hindering forces will block a more progressive route. It is argued that a more comprehensive, inter-sectoral and well-articulated approach is needed to ensure not only more satisfactory numbers as far as gender balance on boards is concerned, but also the development of a transformational organizational agenda capable of bringing gender equality to the workplaces and boardrooms in an effective and sustainable way.
Sara Falcão Casaca

4. Gender Diversity on Boards of Directors in Slovenia: Impending Legislation to Establish Quotas

As a very successful country in terms of gender equality, Slovenia presents an interesting case to those studying trends of gender equality at senior levels of the economy. In spite of the country’s strong record on equality and emancipation of women, the Slovenian labor market is still gender-segregated, unpaid domestic and care work are highly feminized and decision-making positions are still dominated by men. Although there is already some legislative regulation for public companies as well as other “soft” measures aimed at more balanced gender representation at managerial and directorial levels of business, the proportion of women in top positions has remained very moderate, with only 10 percent of women among the chairs and CEOs, 24 percent among board members and 29 percent among employees’ representatives on the boards of the 20 largest publicly listed companies in 2016. Our analysis shows that there is considerable potential for the next step that is needed to improve gender equality at decision-making levels in the Slovenian economy. It remains to be seen whether this potential is strong enough to motivate political and social change. Legislation is being prepared that will establish gender-based quotas for corporate boards.
Aleksandra Kanjuo Mrčela

5. Gender Diversity in Austrian Boards—Combing Soft and Hard Law Regulations

The number of women on Austrian corporate boards remains low and increases only marginally. Whereas a general prescription to consider gender adequately exists for all incorporated companies, a gender quota was implemented in 2011 for corporations with major state ownership, which shows significant effect. Interestingly, even though Germany introduced a gender quota for (certain) publicly listed companies in 2015, Austrian politicians did not follow the path of the neighboring country and still refuse to have legally binding gender quotas for corporate boards. Within this chapter it will be shown, first, that the board nomination process is mainly driven by a relatively small number of people and parties and, second, that the majority of powerful actors are against quota regulations. An outlook, critical reflection of the case and a comment of a former federal minister close the chapter.
Heike Mensi-Klarbach

6. Sweden: Work for Change and Political Threats

The issue of gender equality in working life, and in top decision-making positions in the private sector in particular, has been the subject of much debate in Sweden since the 1990s. Although women currently represent approximately half of the labor force, women are underrepresented on corporate boards. Despite comprehensive legislation concerning gender-discrimination, no legislated gender quotas have been implemented in order to rectify the gender imbalance on corporate boards. The Government has nevertheless “threatened” on a couple of occasions to implement legislated quotas. These threats have sparked resistance, mainly from representatives in the private sector. However, gender equality practices in organizations have increased awareness and knowledge among both employees and managers regarding gendered power relations. This is seen as an important issue that cannot be dismissed with arguments that there are no competent women for board positions. It has also contributed to a mobilization within the private sector in favor of both voluntary and legislated measures to increase the number of women on corporate boards. Moreover, work for change has played an important part in the increase of women’s representation on corporate boards, from 2 percent in 1993 to 23 percent in 2013.
Charlotte Holgersson, Anna Wahl

7. Women’s Path to the Boardroom: The Case of Denmark

The representation of women in corporate directorships in Denmark has only been improving slowly over the last few years. Despite the slow progress at home and more active policies in neighboring countries and at the EU level, the Danish government has thus far resisted implementing board gender quotas. This chapter reviews the rules, trends and main debates surrounding board gender diversity in Denmark. We describe the main features of the country’s corporate governance system and overview the gender composition of Danish boards and the country’s efforts with regard to women’s representation in the top positions. We suggest that the low incidence of Danish women on boards is due to both the shortage of female candidates, especially women with leadership skills, as well as the persisting preferences of firms for “traditional” types of director characteristics and skills. We argue that further efforts in Denmark need to be directed toward facilitating women’s promotion to leadership positions, and also toward increasing firms’ (owners’) awareness of the benefits of gender-diverse boards.
Aleksandra Gregorič, Jesper Lau Hansen

8. Gender Diversity on Boards in Switzerland

Switzerland is known by most for its banks, watches, mountains, and chocolates. However, the small Alpine country is also one where the traditional view of the family is still prevalent and emphasizes the role of the husband as the breadwinner, and where diversity is not generally acknowledged as a business issue. Although gender diversity is increasing only slowly at higher hierarchical levels in Switzerland, there are signs of change, nevertheless. For instance, in December 2015, a draft for non-binding quotas was adopted for both boards of directors and top-management teams, with a recommended minority gender representation of 30 percent and 20 percent respectively ( 2015). However, those guidelines have yet to be drafted as legislation, and repeated attempts to introduce binding quotas have all failed. This chapter will give the reader an in-depth insight into the situation in Switzerland to shed light on how the current circumstances came about and the developments that may unfold over the coming years and decades. The chapter concludes with insights from an individual who is involved in practice in securing more positions for women on boards in Switzerland, as well as a short overview of the chapter’s main points.
Florence Villesèche, Evis Sinani

9. The Downturn of Gender Diversity on Boards in Hungary

Hungary, similarly to other post-socialist countries, does not regulate the gender diversity of companies, and this leads to women’s serious underrepresentation on corporate boards. The historical aversion to central regulation of social matters derives from the legacy of forced emancipation in the socialist period. This chapter discusses the contradictory impact of forced emancipation in Hungary and the limited probability of introducing legal regulations regarding gender diversity. It gives a thorough overview of present legal regulations, contains statistical data on gender representation on company boards and also includes an expert interview on the possible solutions to increase women’s participation. The research findings show that the socialist state prioritised women’s emancipation, many institutions were established to facilitate women’s full-time labour force participation and the figure of female managers was well-known. However, socialism lost its positive connotations in public discourse shortly after the system change, and delegitimised the issues connected to gender equality in political and policy fields. Consequently, the unsupportive social environment and the conservative turn in the Hungarian gender culture have not encouraged any changes in the legal framework. Moreover, the expert interviewee questions the importance and utility of legal regulations. At present, the most influential way to spread gender equality remains the internationalisation of companies: EU-driven policy and legal frames and multinational companies might promote gender equality in management and on corporate boards.
Beáta Nagy, Henriett Primecz, Péter Munkácsi

10. Gender Diversity on Boards in the United States, Australia, and Israel

This chapter examines gender diversity on boards in three country cases: the United States, Australia, and Israel. We begin by reviewing each country’s general background, with a focus on the economic and political landscapes, followed by the corporate governance system, political and economic life of women, and women’s presence on corporate boards. We then explore the particularities of each nation’s corporate governance framework and specific legislation concerning women on boards. Here the countries vary considerably: Israel was the first country, in 1999, to have a quota for women on the boards of state-owned companies, while the United States and Australia have comply or explain codes since 2010 and 2014 respectively. We compare and contrast the three distinct national approaches including the enabling and hindering forces, and offer some reflections of key actors in each of the three societies. We conclude with a critical reflection of the cases.
Siri Terjesen, Lauren Trombetta

11. Gender Diversity in the Boardroom: The Multiple Approaches Beyond Quota Regulations

The aim of this chapter is to discuss and make sense of similarities and differences with regards to the situations and approaches to increase the share of women on boards within the eight European countries presented in this volume: UK, Portugal, Slovenia, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and Hungary. The countries have not, to date, introduced quota laws for corporate boards, which are in many debates and other countries perceived as a unique tool to increase gender diversity on boards. What is evident is that a wide range of enabling/hindering forces, including the corporate governance structures, traditions, actors, and history of equality initiatives have led to significant variations in terms of approaches taken to increase the share of women on boards in the respective countries.
In this chapter, we provide a holistic and comparative analysis of similarities and differences within the eight countries and by doing so aim to provide a better understanding of the women on board context and the use of strategies in the countries discussed. We argue that different enabling and/or hindering forces, the historical development, the overall gender equality discourse, but also the corporate governance system influenced the specific country’s approach to the women on board debates. This chapter also presents the key findings and lessons learned from this edited volume, comments on the international spread of the European women on board focus and indicates important areas for further research.
Patricia Gabaldon, Heike Mensi-Klarbach, Cathrine Seierstad


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