Danish government changes stance on EU business equality quota

Denmark’s government now supports an EU directive aimed at boosting the number of women in senior business roles, in a reversal of its earlier stance.

a boardroom
Denmark now supports an EU directive aiming to put more women in company boardrooms. Photo by Nastuh Abootalebi on Unsplash

The government was previously against an EU directive which calls for at least 40 percent of company boards to be women. There must also be 40 percent men on company boards. The directive applies to companies with more than 250 people on their payrolls.

But that has now changed with the current government reversing its previous position as well as that of several Danish governments which preceded it, newspaper Jyllands-Posten reports.

“The argument against this was that we believed we could easily promote progress ourselves [without the directive, ed.]. So an EU law was not necessary. But the status is that nothing has really happened,” minister for equality Trine Bramsen told the newspaper.

“We don’t think it’s going fast enough. That’s why we now wish to join the EU position on this area,” she said.

The EU directive states that companies should select board members based on set and neutral criteria, according to Jyllands-Posten’s report. That means that, should two candidates be equally qualified, the one from the underrepresented sex should be preferred for the position.

Data from Bramsen’s ministry show that the proportion of women on the boards of 190 of the largest stock market companies was 26 percent in 2021. That is an increase from 20 percent in 2017. But that increase is not sufficient, the minister said.

Governments in Germany and the Netherlands both also recently dropped opposition to the directive, according to Jyllands-Posten.

The Danish government will soon present a bill proposal setting down new equality criteria for Danish company boards, Bramsen also said.

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Copenhagen installation critiques lack of women statues

Fifty white pedestals without statues have been erected in Copenhagen to draw attention to the lack of historical women represented in the public domain in Denmark.

Copenhagen installation critiques lack of women statues
“In Denmark, there are 2,500 statues. And only 28 of those statues are of women, which…is about one percent,” said Svante Lindeburg, the head of the Golden Days festival which organised the temporary installation “50 Queens”.
“We want that to change”, he told AFP.
He acknowledged that it wasn’t possible to change the city landscape overnight, but “what we can do is forward that agenda”.
“So we created the 50 pedestals, and we named 50 women to be on those pedestals”, he said.

The pillars are statue-less to emphasise the lack of recognition for women, despite Denmark being a bastion of feminism.
The pedestals are located in one of central Copenhagen’s most emblematic locations, Kongens Nytorv — which means “The King’s New Square” — positioned so they encircle a statue of King Christian V mounted on horseback.
The spot has been symbolically re-named “The Queen’s Square” for two weeks.

The women honoured include author Karen Blixen (1885-1962), painter and one of the country’s first transgender women to undergo sex reassignment surgery Lili Elbe (1882-1931), and 16th century scientist Sophie Brahe.
Forty-nine personalities were chosen by a jury among hundreds of extraordinary women, with the public tasked with choosing the 50th woman. That pillar is the only one not painted white, instead covered in mirrored glass.  
Architect Louise Mould, who helped create the installation that opened on September 2nd, said the mirrored pillar also represents everyone.
Everyone ought “to be able to stand up there and look at themselves, look at their friends … look at the people that surround them and realise that they can have as much importance in the world as the women represented here”, she told AFP.
Scanning QR codes placed on the pillars, visitors can learn about innkeeper Maren Splids, burned at the stake for witchcraft at the start of the 18th century, as well as activist and women’s rights pioneer Maria Engelbrecht Stokkenbech (born in 1759), writer Tove Ditlevsen (1917-1976) and singer Natasja Saad (1974-2007).
The pedestals honour deceased women only, and vary in height from around 50 centimetres to three metres.
“It’s a very good idea that all the women portrayed here are from different backgrounds, they come from different professions. It shows that women have made an impact on every part of society for always”, visitor Caroline Virklund told AFP.
“It is about time the focus is put on these women and that they are given a place, a very public place in the centre of Copenhagen,” added Louise, a 28-year-old historian.
In the Danish capital, only seven historical statues commemorate women, compared to 65 for men and 12 for animals, according to city hall.
Inaugurated by Queen Margrethe II as part of the official celebrations for her golden jubilee this weekend, the installation will be in place until September 18th but some pedestals are due to go on display in other parts of Denmark after that.