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‘Too Much Equality’ Problem

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‘Too Much Equality’ Problem

People hiking

Equality is an uphill battle. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

A highly unusual situation arose yesterday at insurance company VÍS: the planned election of a new board of directors was cancelled due to Iceland’s controversial gender quota. But in this rare instance, it was because there were not enough men standing for election.

Before the company’s Annual General Meeting, four women and three men had decided to run for election to the board, but during the meeting two of the men decided to withdraw their candidacy—leaving four women and one man standing for the five-member board. This would have been illegal under Iceland’s strict gender equality laws, RÚV reports. Neither men nor women can hold a majority of more than 60 percent on the board of any major company. In the case of VÍS, that means three-to-two.

The law has been controversial in some circles for complicating business but it was put in place to help break the glass ceiling for women.

The law has caused plenty of problems for male-dominated companies in the past, but this case is unusual for having the opposite problem.

However inconvenient for VÍS, it does represent a very small milestone on the road to true gender equality in Iceland.

Another meeting will be held within four weeks to elect a new board. The AGM did, however, agree yesterday that the company’s dividend payments will now be ISK 2 billion (EUR 14.2 million/USD 16 million) instead of the originally-planned ISK 5 billion.

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