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Is the reign of the Danish male executive over?

The typical Danish boardroom is becoming less of an old boys’ club as more and more women and foreigners take up board positions in the nation’s largest firms.

Is the reign of the Danish male executive over?
Danish boardrooms are becoming more diverse. Photo: Colourbox
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. 

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VIRAL

Is this Danish shoe ad a satirical feminist rallying cry or just plain sexist?

The Danish footwear company Bianco has found itself dealing with backlash to an advertisement that has been slammed as a “hypocritical”, “sexist” and an “ignorant” attempt to use the fight for gender equality to sell shoes.

Is this Danish shoe ad a satirical feminist rallying cry or just plain sexist?
Immediate reaction to the #WomenNeedMore campaign wasn't particularly positive. Photo: Bianco/Facebook
“Listen up! There’s still not equal pay for equal work anywhere in the world. And it seems most women are not even angry about it,” the ad begins, before going on to air complaints about women’s “ridiculously more expensive” underwear and the stupidity of men who “apply body lotion to their face”.
 
 
While the shoe company’s claim that women “are not even angry about” not getting equal pay is dubious at best, there were no shortage of women – and men – who were angry about the ad itself. 
 
Three days after the ad was uploaded to YouTube, users’ down votes outnumbered up votes 832 to 42 and comments were overwhelmingly negative. 
 
“I find this incredibly insane with both the sexism and the hypocrisy reeking from this ad that sells over-priced products,” one YouTube user wrote. 
 
“I find it hilarious that the ad complains about overpriced women's products while trying to sell overpriced women's products. Can you really not see the irony?” wrote another. 
 
Likewise on Twitter, Bianco’s #WomenNeedMore campaign attracted a number of negative reactions. 
 
“Bianco creates attention for itself with an attempt to debate equality… and sell a few pairs of stilettos while they’re at it,” added Danish Twitter user Kirsten Ebbesen.
 
 
But the negative feedback was perhaps most prominent on Facebook, where the company’s ad had been viewed over one million times as of Wednesday.
 
“A lot of women are angry about it, but funnily enough not because we want to buy more shoes. Isn't it great when capitalism attempts to cash in on feminism? What a load of bullshit,” wrote Laura Line in the video’s most popular comment. 
 
“You mock the basic principle of equality between the genders by assuming women need to spend more money to fulfill their needs. This is below ignorant!” added Andre Christensen. 
 
“I’ve never seen such a sexist, offensive ad that abuses and misinterprets feminism,” wrote Josephine Turms.
 
Bianco’s social media staff, perhaps sensing that the ad was backfiring, replied to many of the negative reactions by defending the ad as satire. 
 
“The commercial's focus is shoes and fashion, with a satirical twist – no more serious than that,” the company wrote. 
 
Bianco also said that it believed most viewers would be able to recognize the satire. 
 
“We believe that many self-assured women will be able to tell when something is humorous and might even be able to laugh at the absurd and caricatured situations from the ad – but a good debate is of course just as important,” it wrote in response to another angry comment. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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