The proportion of engineers holding senior management positions in Norway has returned to the levels recorded in the 1980s and early 1990s, i.e. 35.3 per cent, having dropped to as low as 24 per cent in 2009. "There can be no doubt that this change is significant," says Professor Ragnhild Kvålshaugen of the Norwegian Business School. Together with her colleague, Rolv Petter Amdam, she conducted a study into Norwegian senior managers and their educational background in 2016.
The latest study focuses on senior managers employed in Norway's 200 largest companies, while the corresponding study which they performed in 2009 looked at the 100 top companies. They have examined comparable data going back as far as 1936. The study reveals that master's degrees (or the equivalent) in engineering and business economics remain the two most important qualifications for Norwegian senior managers. Economists continue to make up the largest proportion in the 2016 study, accounting for 46.7 per cent of senior managers.
The economists took the lead during the 1970s
The years between 1945 and 1965 have been referred to as the golden age of the Norwegian engineer. During that period, engineers were the obvious choice as leaders of industrial corporations. With the growth of service industries in the 1970s, expertise within economics, management and marketing came to be viewed as increasingly important qualifications for managers, in preference to the engineers' focus on improved production.
Professor Kvålshaugen believes that this most recent development is related to the types of industry and business that play a prominent role in the Norwegian economy. "In sectors such as construction and oil and gas, engineering expertise dominates, and it is quite natural for senior managers to be recruited from candidates with this educational background and experience. There is now, to greater extent than was the case just a few years ago, a clear view within many industries that there is a need for innovation, technological development, improved efficiency and automated production processes."
"Tekna wants to see more people with technology and natural science backgrounds in both corporate management and the board room! I believe that this is happening because boards of directors are now recognising that technological expertise is a valuable asset for corporate management. Having this expertise on board quite simply makes it easier for companies to take sound and correct strategic decisions, thereby increasing their competitiveness," says Tekna President, Lise Lyngnes Randeberg.
The importance of understanding technology
The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) has also registered that a greater level of technological insight is increasingly being required of candidates for senior management posts. "In order to make the right strategic choices it is important that the manager has an understanding of digitalisation and the automation of processes at all levels, both in production and in management," says NHO's Director of Competence, Are Turmo.