(Bloomberg) -- Norway’s wealth fund has taken on big coal and big tobacco and wants to dump big oil. But fighting for gender equality across the globe could prove too challenging.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg says the country can’t use its $1 trillion wealth fund to impose Norwegian values in countries where women are suppressed.
“We can’t transfer all of our models of how society should be to move very patriarchal societies to become more modern,” Solberg said in an interview in Oslo on Wednesday.
The fund invests in 72 countries across the globe. It’s become increasingly activist in its approach, opposing excessive executive pay, and fighting corruption and environmental damage. It’s also examining the use of water and children’s rights, and restricts some investments due to human rights concerns.
But government officials are aware they need to a walk fine line and not turn the fund into a political tool as it expands into more frontier markets. For example, it held $831 million in Saudi Arabian stocks at the end of 2017, just one of many countries where women’s rights are severely restricted.
“If the fund had only been invested in European and American countries, it would have perhaps been easier,” Solberg said. “It’s still a bit far to start making demands in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.”
It’s very hard to decide when the fund should be used as a “political instrument instead of managing our money,” Solberg said.
The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2016 report showed that 155 of 173 countries reviewed across the globe had at least one law impeding women’s opportunities, and that women face gender-based job restrictions in 100 economies.
But focusing on women’s participation at companies could pay off. Nordea, the biggest bank in the Nordic region, released a study last summer showing companies with more female executives vastly outperform the market.
Wealth fund spokesman Thomas Sevang declined to comment.
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