Gender quotas – as opposed to free market

In a social democratic nation like Norway there is always a discussion about how much the government should involve itself in business life as opposed to let the free market rule.

One of the most discussed interventions was the resolution about the percentage of women on the boards of publicly traded companies. It was decided that 40% of the board of publicly traded companies should be women.

On HBR, Kate Sweetman, blogged about this and ask what other countries could learn from the Norwegian example.

But the result was not what one hoped for. According to a study by university of Michigan there is a direct negative correlation between the number of women on boards and the profit of these companies. Another thing that happened in Norway was that a lot of the public traded companies (ASA) were changed into limited companies (AS), since the law does not affect these companies.

Earlier in 2011 the Minister of Cultural Affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt, threatened to introduce legislation of the amount of women in the Norwegian film industry (link in Norwegian). Especially for film directors, scriptwriters and producers. This was actually already proposed in 2007(another link in Norwegian) in a report to the Norwegian Storting.

So no the debate is on again about the idea of imposing a change through a law to get more women into the industry.

This time it might be the Norwegian consumers that will be the judge. Would you rather pay to see a film by someone who go funding because of a law, or from one (independently if it’s a woman or a man) that got funding because the film was good enough to get funding because of the quality?

Or think about this: If there were such a law in the Norwegian film industry, would you believe it was the quality of the film that got it funded, or the fact that it was directed by a woman – even if they told you so?

And three days ago the Norwegian artist, Susanne Sundfør, resigned(again a Norwegian link) herself from a nomination in the Norwegian music award, Spellemannsprisen, because she was nominated in the category “Best female artist”. Her argument was that she was an artist, not a female artist…

If you wonder what all this has to do with marketing, the answer is: everything…

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