In wider diversity push, Norway proposes 40% gender quota for large unlisted firms

Buildings are seen in the financial district in Oslo,
Buildings are seen in the financial district in Oslo, Norway May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

OSLO, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Large private Norwegian firms must have boards that comprise at least 40% of women or they will be shut down, the government proposed in a bill on Monday, in a further push to break the glass ceiling preventing women from reaching top positions.

The Nordic country was the first in the world to introduce a 40% gender quota on the boards of listed companies, in 2005, kickstarting an international push to force companies to have more women on boards.

Last month, the European Parliament passed a law forcing large listed companies in the European Union to have a minimum 40% of non-executive board members as women from mid-2026. EU states have already approved the law.

Now the centre-left government in Oslo is recommending that large private companies, not just listed ones, should have a 40% gender quota.

"Companies are not good enough in using the skills of both genders. It is high time this changes," Industry Minister Jan Christian Vestre said in a statement.

The proportion of women on boards in private firms is currently 20%, the government said, up from 15% two decades ago.

"It has taken 20 years to increase the share by 5 percentage points. If we continue at this tempo, we will never reach our goal (of having gender balance)," Equality Minister Anette Trettebergstuen said.

The bill would not apply to smaller private companies in order to be "appropriate and not (be) more extensive than necessary", the statement said. The bill, if voted in its current state, would affect 3-7% of private companies.

The cabinet rules in a minority in order to pass laws. It is likely this bill could pass with the support of a leftwing party in parliament, the Socialist Left, which supports the cabinet.

Reporting by Gwladys Fouche, Editing by Louise Heavens

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