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More women rise to the top at Carlsberg

More women rise to the top at Carlsberg

| Tekst: Marie Preisler, Foto: Carlsberg

It’s looking bad for gender equality in Danish companies’ boardrooms and management. There is massive opposition to legally binding female quotas. Now one of Danish business’ old giants is taking voluntary action: from 2015 at least 40 percent of the elected members to the board of Carlsberg brewery will be women.

With this the company takes the lead when it comes to voluntarily introducing quotas for the number of women on company boards. Carlsberg is also drawing up action plans to secure more women in company management.

“The company’s nomination committee has long been debating how to achieve a more diverse company board with broader competence. That is why we have now chosen to appoint two women to the board and to work towards getting a further two women on the board by 2015 at the latest,” Povl Krogsgaard-Larsen tells the Nordic Labour Journal.

New guidelines

Carlsberg’s board has just informed the Copenhagen stock exchange that they have agreed aims for gender and international experience for the group’s board. This means that by the end of 2015 there should be at least 40 percent women among the board members who are elected during the company’s general assembly. Today the board has no women members. 

The company will also work towards increasing the number of women in management, and another future goal is that at least half of the board members elected during the general assembly will have considerable international experience from leading larger companies or institutions. 

Chairman of the executive board of the Carlsberg Foundation, Povl Krogsgaard-Larsen, is convinced that women on the board will improve the bottom line:

“We are a so-called ‘fast moving consumer goods’ company, and half of the world’s consumers are women. So it makes sense that women take part when we decide the future development of Carlsberg. I am also convinced and it is my personal experience that any group works best when both sexes are represented,” he says.

No legally binding quotas 

Carlsberg’s chairman of the executive board is against legally binding quotas, like the Norwegian model, however. He is in line with the majority of Danish businesses on this:

“I very much welcome more women into the board rooms, but I will oppose any legally binding quotas. It’s important for the women’s own sake that they are included on the board because they are worth it - not because the companies are obliged to have women on their boards. All board members make mistakes, me included. A woman will also do that, and when that happens it would be easy for someone to say that she made the mistake because she was not equally qualified. That would be incredibly uncomfortable,” says Povl Krogsgaard-Larsen.

Women make up only 12 percent of Danish company boards. If you don’t count the employee representatives, the number of women on Danish company boards fall to a mere six percent. That is less than in any other Nordic country. 

A suggested compromise

Both Denmark’s government and the EU Commission say the voluntary inclusion of women on company boards is happening too slowly, and Povl Krogsgaard-Larsen agrees. He suggests a solution which could speed things up without entering into a legally binding deal:

“Things are happening under the surface in many businesses, but I agree that things aren’t moving fast enough. So my compromise suggestion is for boards to be forced to establish a nomination committee which must discuss how to achieve board room diversity - including a sensible gender division. This would secure a debate on gender and I am convinced most company boards would arrive at the conclusion that it is in their own interest to include women.”  


Giant takes action

Two giant elephant statues guard the entrance to the Carlsberg brewery.

Carlsberg’s targets for gender and international experience:

• By the end of 2015 at least 40 percent of board members elected by the general assembly should be women. Today none of the board members elected by the general assembly are women, while there is one female member on the Executive Committee. Carlsberg’s general assembly on 22 March 2012 will see the board nominate two women - Donna Cordner and Elisabeth Fleuriot – for two new posts on the board. This will take the female representation to 20 percent.

• The company generally works towards increasing the number of women in leadership positions and will develop and carry out plans to achieve this. Finding qualified women will remain a priority when the company is looking to find successors to key positions and Carlsberg has instructed headhunters to make sure qualified female candidates will be presented for management positions in Carlsberg.

• 50 percent or more of board members elected by the general assembly should possess considerable international experience from leadership in larger companies or institutions. The board feels this aim has already been reached, because at least four of the eight board members elected by the general assembly do have considerable international experience from larger companies or institutions.


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