Swedish Board Gender-Quota Proposal Killed by Opposition Parties

(Bloomberg) -- Sweden’s opposition parties effectively killed a proposal by the government to impose gender quotas on corporate boards less than three hours after it was announced.

The four-party Alliance opposition and the Sweden Democrats, which control 189 of the 349 seats in parliament, said they would vote against the plan to require publicly traded companies to ensure that at least 40 percent of their board members are female by 2019.

Acko Ankarberg Johansson, the party secretary for the Christian Democrats, said the proposal “is very bad” because it doesn’t assess competence and would “diminish” women. 

“The state doesn’t own all companies and the state should therefore not interfere,” she said by phone. “This would constitute significant interference with ownership rights.”

The government’s law envisages fines of 250,000 kronor ($30,000) to 5 million kronor for non-compliance depending on the company. The law was designed to affect about 330 private and state-owned companies.

“The even distribution of gender on company boards is as much a competitiveness issue as a question of equality,” Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg said in the statement. “We will use all of Sweden’s competency.”

Swedish politicians have long complained about boards having too few women, with the Social Democrat-led government saying last year it may introduce legislation. It would follow similar rules in Norway, which also has a 40 percent quota. Only 32 percent of members of Swedish listed companies’ boards are female today.

“I work for gender equality without quotas,” Anna Kinberg Batra, the leader of the Moderate Party, the largest in opposition, said on Twitter. “And that more women, also outside the board room, get jobs and more power over their lives.”