Henric Ibsen, author of the play A Doll's House, in which a pretty, helpless housewife abandons her husband and children to seek a more serious life, would surely have approved. From January 1st, 2008, all public companies in Norway are obliged to ensure that at least 40% of their board directors are women. Most firms have obeyed the law, which was passed in 2003. But about 75 out of the 480 or so companies it affects are still too male for the government's liking. They will shortly receive a letter informing them that they have until the end of February to act, or face the legal consequences—which could include being dissolved.
     Before the law was proposed, about 7% of board members in Norway were female, according to the Centre for Corporate Diversity .The number has since jumped to 36%. That is far higher than the average of 9% for big companies across Europe or America's 15% for the Fortune 500. Norway's stock exchange and its main business lobby oppose the law, as do many businessmen." I am against quotas for women or men as a matter of principle," says Sverre Munck, head of international operations at a media firm. "Board members of public companies should be chosen solely on the basis of merit and experience,” he says. Several firms have even given up their public status in order to escape the new law.
     Companies have had to recruit about 1,000 women in four years. Many complain that it has been difficult to find experienced candidates. Because of this, some of the best women have collected as many as 25-35 directorships each, and are known in Norwegian business circles as the "golden skirts". One reason for the scarcity is that there are fairly few women in management in Norwegian companies—they occupy around 15% of senior positions. It has been particularly hard for firms in the oil, technology and financial industries to find women with enough experience. Some people worry that their relative lack of experience may keep women quiet on boards, and that in turn could mean that boards might become less able to hold managers to account. Recent history in Norway, however, suggests that the right women can make strong directors. "Women feel more compelled than men to do their homework," says Ms Reksten Skaugen, who was voted Norway's chairman of the year for 2007, "and we can afford to ask the hard questions, because women are not always expected to know the answers."

Questions 1/2

The author mentions Ibsen's play in the first paragraph in order to        

  • Adepict women's dilemma at work
  • Bexplain the newly passed law
  • Csupport Norwegian government
  • Dintroduce the topic under discussion

Questions 2/2

A public company that fails to obey the new law could be forced to .

  • Apay a heavy fine
  • Bclose down its business
  • Cchange to a private business
  • Dsign a document promising to act
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