Thursday, October 16, 2008

Iceland's Female Bailout

Today we're giving out the “No, Really, I Double-Swear This Headline Isn’t From The Onion” award. And the winner is this Financial Times story: Iceland Calls in Women Bankers to Clean Up ‘Young Men’s Mess’.

Yes, reports the FT, “Iceland has turned to two women to rebuild its financial system after the banking empire built by its young, male business-schooled elite collapsed.” So Iceland’s two nationalized banks, New Landsbanki and New Glitnir, are now being run by Elin Sifgusdottir and Birna Einarsdottir. (Iceland has these nifty gender-based surnames, so you never have to worry about how to address a business letter to someone with a first name like Terry.)

The story quotes an anonymous government official (gender unidentified) who remarked: “It’s typical, the men make the mess and the women come in to clean it up.”

That's cool, Iceland, but Norway is way ahead of you. Two years ago I noted that the Oslo Stock Exchange had decided company boardrooms should look less like Monday Night Football and more like The View. They began imposing a female quota - a whopping 40% - for boards of directors at companies listed on the exchange. And the vast majority of firms have now managed to get there, kicking out a bunch of men in the process.

I have no empirical proof that all those women in Norway’s boardrooms have something to do with the fact that the country's banks are still healthy. But if you try to talk me out of this idea, I swear I’ll scratch your everloving fjord out.

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