What will female Danish leaders fight for in the future?


Affirmative action. Quotas. Equal pay. Paternity leave. And so on. These are all topics that we often discuss in both Denmark and abroad. But is there anything that prevents women from reaching the top in business? This is one of the questions up for discussion at CBS at the International Women’s Day on Thursday, 8 March. The language at the event is Danish.


In collaboration with the network ‘Danish Women Business Leaders’, CBS is taking a new look at the discussion on the opportunities and obstacles faced by female leaders: We have asked our students and our alumni about what they believe to be the biggest challenges to female leaders in Denmark.

- We are looking very much forward to discuss the answers from the survey with students, alumni, female leaders, and researchers when we host the important debate on the historical day 8 March, says Director of CBS Business, Louise Seest.

Teaser: European Commissioner for Competition and key note speaker Margrethe Vestager, editor-in-chief and co-organiser Listbeth Knudsen and CBS-student Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen

The 500 participants at the CBS event on the International Women’s Day on 8 March and female leaders from companies such as Google, Bjarke Ingels Group, and the Ministry of Justice will discuss and share experiences. Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary and the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager will open the day.

- Sometimes, it seems that women are required to act like men in order to be able to lead – to manage power. Short hair, business suit – all variations on our presumptions of being male, Margrethe Vestager points out before the event and continues:

- It would be amazing to redefine leadership, redefine power, so it becomes equally appealing to both genders to be good leaders and good at exerting power. This would make it much better for those who are to be led; those whom we hold the power for.

A giant workshop rather than a conference

- This is not just yet another conference on equality and women’s way to the top. It is actually a workshop, a giant workshop, where we will be working more specifically with suggestions that will help ensure that we see more women in top positions in organisations in Danish business, states co-organiser and editor in chief at Mandag Morgen, Lisbeth Knudsen, and continues:

- We will try to figure out what obstacles women face in terms of reaching top management positions. Is it the famous glass ceiling that we talk so much about? Or has the glass ceiling been shattered and something else is now the barrier? Is it something with the women themselves – a reluctance about those things when you have been out in the real world and experienced that it can be difficult to break through?

- I experience the students as very ambitious, and they are not inhibited when it comes to wanting to fill these top positions. It will be exciting to see if it is different with the women who have been working for 5-6 years. What do they experience? And how can we compare these to when you have had a longer career?, asks Lisbeth Knudsen.

The female leaders of the future, the students, will contribute

The student perspective will be unique to this event. CBS is the main supplier of leaders to Danish companies – and half of our students are women. Is it harder for women to reach the top? Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen, student of International Business and Politics at CBS, believes so.

Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen is, next to her studies, President of CBS Feminist Society that tries to draw attention to inequality in the labour market. She has also been one of the founders of the organisation Female Invest, a student organisation that teaches more women how to invest their money and tries to recruit more women to the financial sector.

- A major challenge to young women today is the lack of recognition of the problem. In Denmark, we once ranked number 12, but now we only rank as number 19 on the World Economic Forum ranking list of the most equal countries in the world. We still have one of Europe’s most divided labour markets. We do not yet have equal pay for equal work. And women are still underrepresented in leadership positions, Anna-Sophie points out and continues to remark:

- If we look at the facts, the issue is not a lack of qualified women. Since 1975, women have been overrepresented in high school education and in higher education, but this has still not been properly reflected within business life.

“You can’t be it, if you can’t see it!”

But why meet and discuss these things again? What needs to be done to ensure diversity in all management levels?

- It is immensely important for young students to have female role models in business. A saying goes “You can’t be it, if you can’t see it!”. We have seen this in for example Norway and Sweden, which introduced gender quotas on boards – which had a trickle down effect in the entire countries, notes Anna-Sophie, who will also be attending the event in March.

Programme and registration for International Women’s Day on Thursday, 8 March at CBS (Danish language event)

The page was last edited by: CBS Business // 01/17/2018