Surprisingly few female scholars in company law

- Female scholars are a minority in company law research. Company law scholarship in the whole Nordic region and in Europe in general is still very male-dominated, but change is underway!

From left to right, back row: PhD student Marte Eidsand Kjørven, Oslo, Professor Gudula Deipenbrock, Berlin, Dr. Tineke Lambooy, Utrecht, PhD student Birthe Eriksen, Bergen, PhD student Gina Bråthen, Oslo, PhD student Egle Lauraityte, Vilnius. From left to right, front row: PhD student Hanna Almløf, Jönköping, Professor Beate Sjåfjell, Oslo, PhD student Georgina Tsagas, Cambridge, Master student Yvonne Ervik, Oslo. Photo: Jorunn Kanestrøm. Copyright: UiO

There are few female company law scholars in the Nordic region, but female scholarship is becoming increasingly visible and significant in company law, says Professor Beate Sjåfjell at the University of Oslo, Faculty of Law, Department of Private Law.

- Norway and the Nordic region in general is known as very egalitarian, also in terms of gender equality. It is therefore surprising that there are so very few female company law scholars and that we have such a short history of female company law scholarship in Norway.

Professor Sjåfjell has together with Professor Ola Mestad compiled a list of female company law scholars at the Faculty of Law in Oslo, which shows that the row of company law scholars after the first, now Professor em. Lucy Smith, is very short.

- Professor em. Lucy Smith, the Faculty’s first female dr. juris, was also our first female company law scholar. While Lucy Smith is famous for her important scholarship in child law, her very good book about the battle on the stock market did not receive the attention it deserved.  Supreme Court Justice dr. juris Kristin Normann was the first female dr. juris in company law with her book on directors’ liability (1994). Kristin Normann was also the first female company law professor in Norway. After Kristin Normann and before Beate Sjåfjell, Terese Smith Ulseth is the only woman who has written a doctoral degree in company law at the Faculty of Law in Oslo.

 Professor dr. juris  Beate Sjåfjell, one of only three women with a doctoral degree in company law in Norway, is presently the only female company law professor in Norway and one of only two in the entire Nordic region.

-  When a research milieu is very dominated by one gender this may have a self-enforcing effect, in terms of a subconscious impression that this an area that only the one gender works with, says Professor Sjåfjell.

Good support from male colleagues

- Male colleagues encouraged and helped me and some of the best support I have received at the Faculty has been from men. We females in company law are happy working with men and do not feel the need in any way to form a female network to fight male dominance. But I believe that the general feeling is that the best research milieus are those where both genders are represented. The quality of research improves when the scholarship is not too homogenous, says Professor Sjåfjell.

- To illustrate: If we have a research group consisting only of white men from uptown Oslo, we will probably see a group think effect and less innovation than we could expect in groups which are diverse in terms of gender, age and geographical origin.

Innovation and initiative

Professor Sjåfjell is the head of the research group Companies, Markets, Society and the Environment and the research project Sustainable Companies at the Faculty of Law in Oslo. In February she chaired a meeting that she had initiated with European female company law scholars. One of the questions discussed at the meeting was whether it is a coincidence that much of the innovative research in company law involves female scholarship.

- In the Sustainable Companies project team half of the participants that are professor or associate professors are women. This is not the result of a policy to recruit women to the project, but merely a consequence of the majority of those scholars interested in the project being women, or as I like to put it: The project attracts female scholars and the good scholars amongst the men, Professor Sjåfjell smiles.

– Amongst the most active project team members there are more women than men although very important contributions to the project are given by men as well, she adds.

Inspiration and further contact

The meeting of female company law scholars agreed to stay in touch with each other.

- Several of the participants have told me that contact with other female company law scholars encourages and inspires them to do research in their way and with their own perspective in their male-dominated research milieus. Many female company law scholars in Europe have only male colleagues. In that perspective we are far ahead in Oslo, with two female postdoctoral researchers, several female PhD students and master students. We have a very good basis in our research group for more female company law professors in the not-so-distant future, says Professor Sjåfjell.

Female company law scholars interested in being on the e-mail list for female company law scholars are welcome to contact Professor Sjåfjell.

By Jorunn Kanestrøm
Published Mar. 8, 2012 5:27 PM - Last modified Feb. 23, 2015 8:08 AM