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Women conspicuous by absence on salmon company executive boards

Norway Royal Salmon has no women on its executive board, a report into gender equality at boardroom level shows. Photo: NRS.
Norway Royal Salmon has no women on its executive board, a report into gender equality at boardroom level shows. Photo: NRS.

An analysis of the number of women at the top level of seafood firms shows a “conspicuous unbalance” on the executive boards of Norwegian salmon companies, despite legal quotas designed to promote equality, its authors say.

WSI, the international organisation for women in the seafood industry, has analysed gender composition of the boards of 80 of the world’s top 100 seafood companies for the third successive year.

As part of that research it looked at a sample of five salmon farming companies plus seafood processing and sales company Insula in Norway, where the law dictates that at least 40% of the non-directors of public limited companies must be female.

Complying with the law

WSI reported that the companies concerned fully comply with the law but added: “What about the conspicuous unbalance in executive boards where [there are] no regulatory constraints?”

The salmon farmers – Mowi, Austevoll Seafood (which owns a majority stake in Lerøy), SalMar, Grieg Seafood and Norway Royal Salmon (NRS) – had been 40% and 60% female representation on their non-executive boards.

But the percentage of women on their executive boards was lower, with Austevoll having the highest proportion (33%) and NRS the lowest, with no women on its executive board. None of the companies had a female chief executive.

The report quoted Norway’s former minister for children and equality, Linda Hofstad Helleland, who said: “Three-quarters of recruitment is down to informal networks: Men recruit men. Men recruit CEOs that look like themselves. We need to challenge these attitudes.”

Company

CEO

Executive board

Board of directors

Mowi

Male

20%

40%

Austevoll Seafood

Male

33%

43%

SalMar

Male

17%

57%

Grieg Seafood

Male

20%

60%

Norway Royal Salmon

Male

0%

50%

Insula

Male

22%

0%

Looking globally, WSI reported that the number of women on the boards of the 80 seafood companies for which director data was available had increased to a record high over the past year - but they still make up just 14% of the directors.

Just four – Bumble Bee Foods and American Seafoods Group in the United States, Marusen Chiyoda Suisan from Japan and Vinh Hoan from Vietnam – have female chief executives.

Over a third of the 80 (28) have an exclusively male board of directors, and none of the companies have an exclusively female board.

Click on image to enlarge. Graphic: WSI.
Click on image to enlarge. Graphic: WSI.

14% are women

Looking globally, WSI reported that the number of women on the boards of the 80 seafood companies for which director data was available had increased to a record high over the past year - but they still make up just 14% of the directors.

Just four – Bumble Bee Foods and American Seafoods Group in the United States, Marusen Chiyoda Suisan from Japan and Vinh Hoan from Vietnam – have female chief executives.

Over a third of the 80 (28) have an exclusively male board of directors, and none of the companies have an exclusively female board.

Slow progress

Only four of the companies out of 80 have more than 40% women at top director level. The only instance with more than 50% women holding top management position is Vinh Hoan, which is run by a female chief executive assisted by 10 women and two men.

Across those 80 companies comprising 1,042 board directors, 150 are women (14.4%). Although small, this proportion marks progress since 2016, when analysis of 71 companies found that just 9.1% of directors were women.

When analysed by country, Vietnam (two companies) fared best, with 50% of women in executive boards, also this figure is heavily influenced by Vinh Hoan.

12% in UK

In Norway, women make up 25% of board members (nine companies).

That’s the same proportion as in Canada (two companies) and Denmark (six companies). In the UK (four companies), women make up just 12% of board members.

In Chile (six companies) and Japan (18 companies) the proportion falls to 8% and 5% respectively. “In both countries, it’s likely that existing corporate cultures rooted in traditional cultural norms have made it difficult to incorporate women in top positions,” says the WSI report.