EWL News

The European Parliament’s Committees want women on European boards

(Brussels, 18 October 2013) At the beginning of this week, two Committees voted (40 for, 9 against and 2 abstentions) to back a proposal by the European Commission (EC) to address the gender imbalance on company boards in Europe. The proposed directive now needs to be put before a plenary session of the European Parliament (EP), and will than go to the European Council to be accepted or rejected. Furthermore as another EC report showed this week, the representation of women on boards, executive and non-executive in 20 Member States is slightly increasing, which might be a reaction to the expecrted adoption of this directive.

The EWL welcomes the support of the legislative proposal to tackle discrimination and inequality at the highest levels of corporate decision-making by the EP committees. At present, more than 83% of non-executive corporate board seats are effectively reserved for men (when it comes to executive board seats even 89% are reserved for men), because of the patent failure of self-regulation initiatives and disillusion with the economic benefits of “business as usual”. Increasing awareness of the urgency of action has led a number of national governments in the EU to implement legislation and put the issue on the European agenda. The EWL knows that self-regulation and buisness as usual will take too long, and that we still have a long way to go to ensure equal representation of women and men on corporate boards across Europe.

The EWL especially welcomes the support of the EWL’s demand to apply the legislation also to companies where less than 10% of the workforce is female. Furthermore, the EWL acknowledges the funding and developing of an online database to register women ready for corporate boards.

The EWL Secretary General, Cécile Greboval, says” It is a first step to end the inequality at the highest levels of corporate boards across Europe. However, history has shown that binding measures and effective sanctions ensure an increase of women on corporate boards. The Committees unfortunately, did not strengthen the part on the lack of tackling the underrepresentation of women in executive boards and to ensure that member states are putting effective sanctions in place.”

The approved legislative proposal by the Committees of the EP is too weak to be opposed by the plenary session of the EP and the Council of the EU

Unfortunately, the proposal only addresses non-executive board members, it neither calls this measure a quota nor does it determine sanctions in the case of non-compliance. Case studies thus far have shown the best results in moving towards the equal representation of women and men on boards can be found in countries that have adopted binding regulations with effective sanctions. It is evident that sanctions play an essential role for a positive outcome for women being appointed to the upper echelons of decision making positions. In addition, this the proposal lacks specifically targeted measures for women facing multiple discrimination.

The time has come to show how much they take half of the population into account and how willing national governments are to pave the way for women to achieve a true and democratic share in economic decision making. Member States have to live up to their commitments, to go beyond the talk and walk the walk!

The EWL therefore urges the EP and Member States of the Council of the EU to vote for this legislative proposal as it is too weak to oppose.

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