The global challenge and women!

Marianne Levinsen, M.Sc. Political Science, futurist / 11. dec 2008

If you are a woman it is easier to be elected by voters than getting appointed to the man-agement positions in Danish companies.

In Germany there is Angela Merkel, Nancy Pelosi is chairman and speaker in the House of Representatives and more may be on the way, in France there is Segolene Royale and in Sweden Mona Sählin. In Denmark we have female ministers such as Eva Kjer Hansen, Carina Christensen, Lene Espersen and Ulla Tørnæs and we have female party leaders in the Social Democratic Party, the Danish People’s Party and the Social Liberal Party.

But Denmark is no pioneering country when it comes to female representation on the man-agement boards of public and private businesses.

The Ministry of Equal Rights has recently published “Facts about equal rights” from which it appears that the top management of private companies in both 2002 and 2005 consisted only of one woman out of 100 at top management level. At management level just below there is still only a female percentage of 7 in the two years in question.

In public businesses the female share in top positions is a little over 20% for the State and 18% for the Municipalities. The percentage increases the further down the ladder you go, but there is yet no sign of a break-through in respect of equal rights.

On the boards of directors women were represented with 9.1% in 2001 in the largest Danish companies and businesses; however the female percentage in public boards and administra-tive authorities has increased from approx. 24% to 39% in 2005.

Eurostat published a statistic last year showing men and women’s lives in the 25 EU coun-tries, which shows that the female leaders on average made out 32% of all leaders in the countries. The percentage for Denmark was at the bottom with a share of female leaders of only 23%. The percentage of females was only lower in Malta (13%) and in Cyprus (14%).

In short, it looks bleak in relation to the equal opportunities in society’s leading positions.

Many business leaders and politicians have expressed their positive views on the advantage of having more women in leading positions, but is that enough?

Why are Danish women distinctly more absent in top positions in Danish society?

The minister of equal rights, Eva Kjer Hansen, requests more statistics and focus on the area and that is very good, but is it enough? Isn’t more political action and courage required to show the good and the bad examples? We hear about the good examples, but the bad ones live a quiet life.

In the business community, the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) has initiated a data-base containing 33 qualified business women, who have been approved by DI for working on boards of directors, and Aase Hoeck in Aarhus has also made a database containing female board members. The latter has sent most candidates to Norway, where legislation requires female representation. A few good initiatives, but most likely only few Danish women will re-ceive positions on boards of directors on that account.

The hub of the Danish voluntary system is that Danish public and private businesses may choose qualified women for their boards of directors and leading positions. Not out of kind-ness or political correctness, but for the sake of improving the bottom line. An analysis made by among others Professor Nina Smith in 2003 shows that it pays off to have women as board members in Danish businesses.

We do not know exactly how the decisions are made in public and private management of-fices when leading positions are being filled.

In the 1980’es the former British ambassador to Denmark, Sir Mellon, accentuated the Dan-ish tribal way of thinking. Denmark is characterised by having a relatively homogenous cul-ture in which there is little interest in variety, and not least, great self-satisfaction with our own values.

I guess that is how it works when candidates are chosen and appointed for leading positions in the companies. We go with the candidates who speak the same language and have the same values and ideas, so that they do not deviate from the individual company’s tribalism. Most often it is other men who can honour those requirements.

This unique culture is practiced way too widely in Denmark even though we know that global competition today and in the future requires different talents and creativity in order to be able to create the special products and work processes from which we must make our living in the future.

Winner businesses are carried by the products and not least the people who lead and de-velop them. The new winners are often people who have taken different roads. See for in-stance the creator of Skype, Janus Friis.

Competition power is created by globalisation through variety and by constantly challenging conventional thinking. That can only take place by human replacement. So seize the global challenge by appointing more qualified women for leading positions in Denmark.

Published here, 2008

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