Interview with Gunn Wærsted: Diversity in Boards

Our Executive Advisor Gunn Wærsted has been named as one of Norway’s most prominent people in finance and has served numerous boards since 2016. Today, she is Chair of the Board at Obton (FSNC VI portfolio company), Telenor and Petoro. She is also a Member of the Board at Fidelity International and Nationwide Building Society. We had a sit down with her to discuss board diversity.

Over your career, how has the landscape changed when it comes to diversity in leadership roles and boards?

I have seen a positive trend. Has it been fast enough? No. I’m disappointed that we are not more women in senior roles today. But the world has changed. When I was heading global wealth management at Nordea, we had something called “returns with responsibility.” That was the early days of ESG. We did it because we believed that would deliver better returns. Then, we were ridiculed as the naive Nordics. The development of ESG in asset management is just one interesting example of how things have changed.

When a gender quota was introduced for boards in Norway in the 2000s, I often heard, “We don’t find any good female board members”. But they are there, you just have to look a bit better. Look for good, capable female candidates – I have always found them.

From your experience, why is it important to have diverse boards and management teams?

The most dangerous situation when it comes to big strategic decisions is when you very early decide on what’s right. When you have a team where people have the same background and experiences, you will tend to quickly find a conclusion and move on.

It takes time to convince those who have different views.  Someone might say, “But have you thought about…” and then it sparks a discussion. It might take more time to align on a decision, but you will feel more certain about the conclusion, as you have gone through all different angles and aspects. This is when the board adds value to management.

How do you bring diversity to a corporate board?

There are a lot of things you can do to support diversity in age, ethnicity, and gender, and I try to push that agenda. It’s not about quotas — we should all like to be picked on merit. But we have to be mindful of unconscious biases, because they exist.

It’s also important to focus on experiences. You need people who have worked with different environments and situations.

If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the start of your career, what would it be?

A very important advice is to take the opportunities when they arise. One tends to limit oneself. When I was pregnant with my second child, I was asked by the group CEO to take on the responsibility as CEO of a subsidiary. I really wanted the challenge and was grateful to be asked, but I felt I had to say no because I would soon go on maternity leave. He encouraged me to think beyond the practical limitations I was seeing. We could plan around them. I ended up saying yes, and it turned out very well.

Both young men and women tend to think, “Can I do this?” But if someone believes in you enough to ask you to take on a bigger responsibility, you should go for it.

Norway (Visiting address)
Via Vika / Ruseløkkveien 30
0251 Oslo
+47 24 14 73 00


FSN Capital Partners AB
Birger Jarlsgatan 15
111 45 Stockholm
+46 85 450 39 30

Norway (Post address)
FSN Capital Partners AS
PO. Box 1597
0118 Oslo


FSN Capital Partners GmbH
Maximiliansplatz 5
80333 Munich
+49 160 3666 627

FSN Capital Partners Aps
Kongens Nytorv 26, 2. Sal
1050 Copenhagen
+45 33 13 48 00