• "I believe it is high time that Europe breaks the glass ceiling that continues to bar female talent from getting to the top in Europe's listed companies," said EU commissioner for justice and home affairs, Viviane Reding in March. (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Reding wants EU law imposing gender quotas

04.09.12 @ 09:30

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - The EU commissioner for justice and home affairs, Viviane Reding, will table a proposal in October or November that would fine or sanction state-owned companies whose supervisory boards are composed of less than 40 percent of women by 2020.

The draft legislative proposal - seen by the International Herald Tribune and the Financial Times - aims to tackle persistent gender imbalances across the EU.

“Progress in the share of women on company boards is very slow, with an average annual increase of just 0.6 percentage points over the past years,” says the draft directive, reports the Financial Times.

Reding back in April said: "The economic case for getting more women into the workforce and more women into top jobs in the EU is overwhelming."

Women currently occupy less than 14 percent of board positions in top publicly-listed companies, according to EU data published in January. In 2010, it was 11.8 percent.

The percentage drops to single digits for large companies based in Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, and Portugal. Finland and Latvia have the most in the bloc at 27 percent and 26 percent respectively, while Norway is even firther ahead on 42 percent.

The European Commission in March published a report on the limited progress towards increasing the number of women in top paying jobs.

The report says that at current rates, it would take 40 years for women to occupy 40 percent of the board positions at top firms in the EU.

Last year, Reding had asked publicly-listed companies to voluntarily increase the number of women board members by signing a pledge. The pledge commits companies increase the number of women represented on board rooms by 30 percent by 2015 and by 40 percent by 2020.

Only a handful of companies signed the pledge prompting criticism from Reding.

"I regret to see that despite our calls, self-regulation so far has not brought about satisfactory results," she said in March.

Reding does not wholly support the idea of quotas but believes it necessary to break the gender imbalances. She also noted that such imbalances hinder economic growth.

Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain are at different stages of adopting legislation to introduce gender quotas at company boards.

The EU also says that women, on average, still earn 16.4 percent less than men for the same hours worked.