Mia Wagner as Danish Minister for Gender Equality: Gender quotas on boards?

This opinion piece was published in the Danish newspaper Berlingske by our Head of Board & Advisory, Katrine Gilberg.

While gender quotas can offer a path to increased female representation on boards, there is a risk that they can overshadow the true focus on skills and qualifications.

With the appointment of entrepreneur Mia Wagner as the new Minister for Gender Equality in Denmark, it’s a good time to address the gender imbalance on boards. It’s a positive step towards promoting women’s participation in the boardroom without necessarily resorting to quotas.

Mia Wagner’s background as a successful entrepreneur and her understanding of the dynamics of business give her a unique insight into the challenges women face in reaching top positions. Her experience in the business world can help shape policies that effectively promote gender equality in business and highlight the fact that there is a real lack of respect and understanding of women’s skills.

According to a study, women only make up around 19 percent of board positions in Danish businesses. This shows that there is still a long way to go to achieve true gender equality and emphasizes the need for a targeted effort to increase the proportion of women on boards.

So what’s the solution?

Mia Wagner has previously expressed support of the idea of temporary gender quotas. I am strongly opposed to this as I believe in trust more than forced quotas and I believe there are other more effective tools.

While quotas can ensure an immediate increase in the number of women on boards, the focus should instead be on long-term, sustainable solutions that promote true gender equality. In other words, we have more focus on diversity and turnover on boards – and not just whether you’re a man or a woman.

I therefore hope that Wagner in her new role will rethink the use of quotas and instead focus on measures that empower women to actually want to take more top positions – whether on boards or in general management – by changing the rhetoric around women, highlighting role models, creating mentorship programs and supporting networking programs that actually embrace diversity.

By highlighting and valuing women’s skills and experiences, we can create a business environment where women naturally achieve leadership roles based on their merits. Not just because they’re women. Because who does it benefit? We need to promote women’s representation on boards, but also ensure they are recognized and respected for their contributions.

While gender quotas can offer a path to increased female representation on boards, there is a risk that they can overshadow the true focus on skills and qualifications. In this context, we can only hope that Mia Wagner will work to pave the way for a more socially beneficial and merit-based approach.

Mia Wagner’s appointment could be the beginning of a new era in gender equality policy, an era where diversity in leadership is achieved through empowerment and recognition of women as competent leaders on their own merits. The fact that she has been elected to the ministerial post shows that we are well on our way.

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