An analysis conducted by Politiken newspaper found that nearly half of the board members of Danish blue chip companies on the C20 Index are foreigners and every fourth member is a woman.
The 44 percent of board positions held by foreigners in C20 companies is an all-time high, Politiken reported.
Looking at the board members of 18 of the 20 companies on the index, the newspaper found Swedes make up the largest group of foreigners with 16 board seats, followed by individuals from the UK (8), France (7), the US (6) and Norway (5).
The foreigners aren’t just given a token seat at the table. In five of the 18 companies, the chairman of the board comes from abroad.
The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) cheered the fact that top-tier businesses are diversifying their boardrooms after long being dominated by Danish men.
“It has really happened quickly. But you also luckily have to go back quite a long time to the days when one just looked within their own circle of friends to find new board members,” DI’s deputy director, Charlotte Rønhof, told Politiken.
Rønhof said that DI’s analysis of Danish companies just below the C20 level shows that they too are taking on more foreigners.
Lars Oxelheim, a professor at Sweden’s Lund University who has studied the internationalisation of executive committees, said that Denmark and other Nordic countries have historically had a very nationalistic mindset. He said there are many benefits for Danish companies that go more international.
“The logic is clear: If you’re a small country with a small language, you really win a lot by bringing on a foreign board member,” he told Politiken.
But it’s not just foreigners shaking up the balance of power in Danish companies.
With one in four C20 board positions now held by a woman, Denmark is on track to hit the EU’s goal of having at least 40 percent female board members on listed companies by 2020.
The European Commission began the push for quotas in 2012. At the time, just one in seven board members at Europe’s top companies was a woman.
“At this slow rate of progress it would still take around 40 years to even get close to gender balance in boardrooms (at least 40% of both sexes),” an EC press release read.
The Danish parliament passed legislation in December 2012 that forced over 1,000 of the country’s largest companies to set voluntary targets for more gender-balanced boards.
But with things quickly moving in the right direction, a quota system may be unnecessary.
“[The latest numbers] are something to celebrate. It has certainly taken a long time. Now we can cancel all of that quota talk,” Stine Bosse, who sits on TDC’s board of supervisors, told Politiken.