28th Oct 2016

EU commission to 'smash glass ceiling' on gender

  • The European Commission draft legislation would force large companies to hire more women board members. (Photo: orkomedix)

The European Commission wants a quota imposed on the supervisory boards of large companies in an effort to improve gender equality.

“Today we are proposing a legislation to smash the glass ceiling that keeps talented women out of top jobs,” EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (14 November).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The gender quota is a legally binding directive and would require the some 5,000 companies listed on the stock exchange to have women represent 40 percent of their boards by 2020.

State-owned companies like France’s EDF or Belgium’s Belgacom would have until 2018.

The decision comes after months of resistance from nine member states led by the UK. A handful of EU commissioners had also voiced reservations, something which saw the proposal taken from the table last month to be tweaked.

Companies will have to choose qualified women for top jobs until the boards reach the threshold. Those who fail will face penalties drawn up and implemented by the member state once the directive is transposed into national law, sometime in 2016.

“Our proposal has teeth, member states will have to lay down convincing and effective sanctions,” said Reding.

UK supports Reding bill, says it is not ‘mandatory’

But the UK, for its part, has interpreted Reding’s bills as not mandatory and now supports it.

“The UK welcomes the commission’s decision not to impose mandatory quotas for women on boards […],” it said in a statement.

Meanwhile Germany has already spoken outright against the proposal. A spokesperson in Berlin stated that the bill on female quotas “is a matter of national competence, not EU law.”

Germany said it will now join the ranks of opposing member states including Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, and the UK.

Meanwhile, Reding’s directive primarily targets its non-executive directors who have no direct say in the day-to-day running of the company.

An overwhelming majority of males in the EU sit on the boards with 96.8 percent chairing them.

To date, women make up around 15 percent of the non-executive boards but the average varies considerably across member states. The percentage is even lower for executive-directors.

Finland tops the list with 27.9 percent of women in non-executive positions compared to 3.3 percent in Cyprus.

Increasing those numbers could render the companies more profitable, argues the commission.

News in Brief

  1. Budget commissioner Georgieva takes up World Bank post
  2. Walloon parliament votes to accept Ceta
  3. Euro deficit to fall below 2% next year, commission says
  4. Migration and security top Germany's EU agenda
  5. EU finance rules need 'neutral' enforcer, Germany says
  6. Northern Ireland court rejects Brexit case
  7. EU tables Atlantic sea bass fishing ban
  8. EU states issue record number of residence permits

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersUN global sustainable development goals, integration, and security on agenda for Nordic Council Session 2016
  2. Taipei EU OfficeTaiwan Seeks to Join Fight against Global Warming
  3. ANCI LazioAnci Lazio Definetely has a lot to Celebrate This Year
  4. EU-China ForumDebating the Future of the EU-China Relations on 28 November in Prague
  5. COMECEMigrants: From Fear to Compassion
  6. Birdlife EuropeBusiness as Usual - Juncker Snubs Environment and Protects Broken CAP
  7. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  8. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  9. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  10. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  11. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  12. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament

Latest News

  1. Belgium green lights unchanged Ceta
  2. Poland rejects EU 'interferences' on rule of law
  3. On-road emissions tests: How EU failed to change to the fast lane
  4. Dutch PM asks opposition's help on Ukraine agreement
  5. Wallonia's heroic stand against Ceta is a stand for democracy
  6. Calais children abandoned at former camp site
  7. Greece to probe UN allegations of illegal returns
  8. Poland defies EU on rule of law