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No female quotas for new Danish equality model

| Text: Marie Preisler

The Danish government wants businesses to get more women into boardrooms but not by using female quotas.

While the EU Commission ponders whether to introduce female quotas to boardrooms, the Danish government goes for a new model which demands more gender equality at the top of both public and private companies, without the use of quotas.  

The model will make it compulsory for Denmark’s 1,100 largest companies to establish a set goal for the number of women in their boardrooms and to have a policy for increasing the general number of women in all levels of a company’s management. Annual reports must also include a status report for how far companies have come in achieving their goals - leaving this out could land them a fine. 

“Women are a crucial and highly qualified resource in our society. Businesses must make better use of this. And society should reap the benefits of seeing all talents being put to use,” said the Danish Minister for Gender Equality Manu Sareen as he presented the new policy alongside the Minister for Business and Growth Ole Sohn.

Model without quotas

The government has called it ‘The Danish model’ and it allows individual companies to choose their own targets and equality policies. There are no quota demands like in Norway. Two out of the government coalition’s three parties, the Social Democrats and the Socialist People’s Party (SF), have previously argued in favour of female quotas,  but the government has now agreed that it is far better if companies themselves set their own goals which are tailored to each company’s situation, says the Minister for Business and Growth, Ole Sohn (SF).

Only the largest of private companies must follow the coming legislative changes, while state companies regardless of size must set targets and develop policies to get more women into leadership positions. This represents a tightening of the rules which so far only demanded that state companies worked towards a more gender equal composition.

“It is only fair that the state sector leads the way when we put these clear demands on the private sector,” says Manu Sareen.

Business positive

The government does not put concrete demands on municipalities and regions, but encourages them to develop guidelines to improve the number of female leaders on regional and municipal levels.

The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) also backs the gender equality model and is happy that the government has abandoned quotas. Yet there is one part of the model DI disagrees with: the fact that companies risk a fine of 5,000 to 10,000 kroner (€670 - €1,350) if they fail to outline their gender equality policy in their annual report. 

Danish women are amongst the world’s best educated, but in recent years the number of female board members has risen by only a few percentage points. 


The Danish government’s new gender equality model contains these elements:

  1. The 1,100 largest companies must develop concrete, realistic and ambitious goals for the numbers of the least represented gender in top leadership (boards etc.).
  2. The 1,100 largest companies must develop a policy to increase the numbers of the least represented gender in the company’s general leadership positions.
  3. The 1,000 largest companies must through their annual report outline the status for their policy and explain how far they have come in achieving their pre-defined goal. Failing to do so could result in fines. 
  4. Irrespective of size, all state companies must present goals and develop policies to get more women into leadership positions. 

Source: Ministry of Gender Equality




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