Norway’s Gender Quotas Hold Women Back In Management


Or perhaps we should say that he imposition of quotas in Norway concerning the number of women on company boards seems not to have been able to overcome the disincentive effects of a deep and generous welfare state.

It’s not exactly a new finding that incentives matter. And if you’ve a more generous welfare state concerning motherhood and the raising of children then would we really be surprised that this leads to fewer people trying to climb the greasy pole at work? A point being made by one of the very much more interesting analysts of the Nordic societies, Nima Sanandaji:

When it comes to promoting women’s careers, Norway is often held up as a model. The country has been described as one of the “most gender equal nations in the world.” And its state-mandated quotas of women on company boards have been put forward as an example for other countries to follow.

But if you look — as I have — at the percentage of women who reach the top of the career ladder, another picture emerges. By this standard, Norway is not much of an exemplar. It ranks just above Romania and Germany, and far behind countries like Russia, the United States, France and Latvia.

My word, what is it that is happening?

I recently calculated the share of women who have managerial positions around the world. A clear pattern emerges.

The list is topped by Latvia — a neighbor of the Nordic countries that shares the same Protestant culture but has a small welfare state. In Latvia, 46 percent of managers are women. The United States — which is often criticized for lacking welfare state policies such as public provision for parental leave — follows in second place with 43 percent women managers.

The first Nordic country on the list is Iceland, with a limited welfare model and 40 percent women mangers. Sweden, which has scaled back its welfare model and opened up the public sector to private competition, has 36 percent women managers. Norway and Finland both do relatively poorly with 32 and 30 percent women managers.

Pay people generously to stay home and raise the children and they will. OK, that’s fine, if that’s what you want to do. But it’s then hellishly silly to complain in the next breath that people are staying home with the kiddies instead of running great industrial enterprises.

And it’s madness to the point of insanity to insist that more generous welfare aid to staying at home with the kiddies is an incentive for women to storm the commanding heights of capitalism. The actual way the world works is that the smaller the welfare state then the greater the female participation in the management of those industrial enterprises. Not surprisingly when we think about it as that’s where the money is in such small welfare states. You know, incentives matter?