Gender Quotas on Corporate Boards in Iceland: Attitudes within the Icelandic business community

Ragnhildur Erna Arnórsdóttir

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Men traditionally dominate corporate boards of directors. In March 2010 the Icelandic government followed the Norwegian example and approved amendments to the legislations on public limited firms and private limited firms. The amendments require companies in Iceland with over 50 employees on yearly basis to have at least 40 percent of each gender represented on the their corporate boards of directors from September 2013 on. Iceland will be the second country in the world to put a law of this kind into effect. Gender quotas on corporate boards are controversial and recent law enforcements in Norway, Iceland and more European countries have triggered an international debate on quotas and their effectiveness and justifiability. This study explores the attitudes towards gender quotas within the Icelandic business community. Nine board members took part in the research along with an employee of the Icelandic Ministry of Economic affairs. A qualitative method is adopted although quantitative data is also obtained. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed while taking into account recent research on gender quotas and related literature. The findings indicate attitudes towards the importance of increasing the share of women on corporate boards in Iceland. The measures with which this is accomplished are however controversial. The study concludes that quotas are mostly accepted. This is largely because they seem to be the only way to effectively secure gender balance on boards within a reasonable time frame. Moreover, quotas are seen means to break down the various barriers women appear to face in terms of reaching corporate board positions. The thesis raises several issues that are worth further investigation, such as issues of compliance, a development of few women sitting on many boards and the emergence of shadow boards. This thesis makes a contribution to the literature on gender quotas in various ways. It can both be useful for companies who are preparing for the law enforcement and for companies outside Iceland and Norway who wish to increase the share of women on their corporate boards. Further, it can be valuable for countries considering adopting a similar legislation.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2012
Number of pages105