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New gender balance law adds more women to Finnish boards

A new EU law to increase the presence of women on corporate boards will mean changes for around half of large Finnish companies.

Image: Aad Meijer

At the end of Novemer, the European Union agreed to impose gender quotas to ensure women occupy at least 40 percent of seats on the boards of large companies.

By 2026, women—or the underrepresented sex—must hold 40 percent of seats on corporate boards.

Ville Kajala, a senior advisor at the Finland Chamber of Commerce, said just over half of Finnish listed companies already fulfill the new EU-wide gender balance criteria.

That was not the case in Finland twenty years ago, when only ten percent of board members were women. The proportion of women on the boards of listed companies in Finland has since settled around 30 percent.

In the EU, Finland ranks ninth in terms of women board members. France has the highest proportion of female directors, followed by Italy.

Small and medium-sized enterprises with up to 249 employees will be excluded from the rules, as are state-owned companies.

In the future, in cases where candidates are equally qualified for a post, the aim is to prioritise the candidate of the under-represented sex.

Companies failing to comply with the new rules will face penalties, such as having their board selection annulled. It will, however, be up to individual member states to decide on penalties.

The law to improve gender balance on corporate boards has been in the making for over a decade.

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