EC Votes for More Women on Boards, Proposes 40% Quota
The European Commission has backed proposals to set a 40% quota for women on the boards of listed companies by 2020, but it will apply to non-executive directors only.
The news first came in a tweet by justice commissioner Viviane Reding, who initiated the proposal, and was officially confirmed later in the day.
The Commission said the proposals applied only to non-executives, "so as not to interfere with the freedom to conduct a business".
José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said:
"Today, with this proposal, the European Commission is answering the strong call of the European Parliament for EU action to bring about gender equality in corporate boardrooms. Today, we are asking large listed companies across Europe to show that they are serious when it comes to gender equality in economic decision-making."
Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, added that the example set by countries such as Belgium, France and Italy, who have recently adopted legislation and are starting to show progress, clearly demonstrates that time-limited regulatory intervention can make all the difference.
"This measure is there to swiftly bring about gender equality in Europe's corporate boardrooms. It will no longer be needed once progress in this area has been achieved," said Reding.
The directive sets a minimum objective of 40% by 2020 for members of the under-represented sex for non-executive members of the boards of publicly listed companies in Europe, or 2018 for listed public undertakings.
The proposal also includes, as a complementary measure, a "flexi quota": an obligation for listed companies to set themselves individual, self-regulatory targets regarding the representation of both sexes among executive directors to be met by 2020 (or 2018 in case of public undertakings).
Companies will have to report annually on the progress made.
Member states that already have an effective system in place will be able to keep it provided it is equally efficient as the proposed system in attaining the objective of a presence of 40% of the under-represented sex among non-executive directors by 2020. And Member States remain free to introduce measures that go beyond the proposed system.
Member states will have to lay down appropriate and dissuasive sanctions for companies in breach of the directive.
The directive is a temporary measure and is set to expire in 2028.
Several countries, including Bulgaria, have voiced firm opposition to forcing quotas for women on corporate boards.
In the middle of September Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands and Britain sent a letter to EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and his deputy Viviane Reding.
The letter recognized that "there is a problem ... that there are too few women and there must be efforts to promote women but these should be national approaches."
The proposal now will be put to the European Parliament, which could vote to make gender quotas mandatory across the 27 countries in the European Union.
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