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Women in art

Fewer women lead museum boards in Norway

Museum mergers have cut numbers

Although it was ranked world number one for gender equality in a report by the World Economic Forum in 2008, when it when it comes to women leading museum boards, Norway has taken a step backwards. Statistics produced by Arts Council Norway show that from 2006 to 2009 the percentage of women heading the board of a museum in Norway fell by a third (from 26% to 18%).

“Museums work with traditions, but one tradition that should definitely not be maintained is male dominance,” said Tron Wigeland Nilsen, the director general of the Norwegian Museums Association. Nilsen did not think the under-representation of women had a negative impact on the quality of the work museums did, “but it is a question of equality”, he said.

Legislation passed in 2008 requires the board of directors of bigger stocklisted companies in Norway to meet a quota of 40% of woman as board members. But Nilsen doubted whether increased regulation was the best way to tackle the problem.

“The reduction in the number of women heading museum boards is due to the fact that they were mainly chairing the boards of smaller institutions,” said Bent Ove Aulid, who analysed the arts council’s statistics for the Norwegian museums association’s magazine Museumsnytt. Women lost out when many publicly funded museums were merged between 2006 and 2009. The number of women trustees does meet the 40% quota, a percentage unchanged since 2006.

“Competence and personal qualification[s] are decisive, but it is lamentable that the share of female heads of boards is decreasing,” said Gro Persson, the director of the Stavanger Museum. “If this tendency continues it should be [overturned] by law.”

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Fewer women lead boards'