European Union postpones women quota on boards plan

Woman in silhouette Several countries in the EU now have quota rules for the composition of their boards

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EU commissioners have postponed plans to impose quotas for women on company boards.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding was pushing for a vote on Tuesday to make it mandatory for companies to keep 40% of seats for women.

But the proposals will now not be debated until November.

The quota had already run into problems after EU lawyers said the proposed law might go too far and countries could not be forced to meet the target.

Several countries, including the UK, are opposed to Ms Reding's plans.

"Gender balance directive postponed," Ms Reding said on Twitter.

"I will not give up. [Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso] will put this on the Commission agenda again before the end of November."

On Monday, the European Parliament criticised the lack of female candidates for the European Central Bank (ECB).

A parliamentary committee - in a resolution passed by 21 votes to 12, with 13 absentions - called on the European Council to withdraw the candidacy of Luxembourg's Yves Mersch for the ECB executive board, saying his appointment would mean that the board would be all male up until 2018.

'Time is now'

The debate on Ms Reding's plan was due in Strasbourg on Tuesday, which could have led to a vote in the European Parliament to make gender quotas mandatory across the 27 countries in the European Union.

But lawyers told the Commission that the 40% quota plan, including hefty sanctions on companies in EU countries that did not meet the target, could not be enforced under EU treaties.

Earlier reports had suggested the directive was being diluted, before a decision was made to postpone it.

At the moment, less than 15% of board positions in EU member states are currently held by women, according to the Commission.

Ms Reding's proposals on compulsory numbers of women come after France, Spain, Italy, Iceland and Belgium introduced quota laws. Norway, which is not an EU member, has had a 40% quota since 2003.

Her opponents argue that voluntary targets and increased efforts to change attitudes would be more effective in the long run.

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable is leading a campaign against the quota proposals, backed by ministers from eight other countries.

In the UK, the percentage of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies has risen over the past year to a record 16%, but the UK government wants the biggest listed companies to have a minimum 25% of female directors by 2015.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    and what about the ethnic minorities representation, then there are sexual orientation minorities representation to consider. Will these proportions be also mirrored in the administration of the EU too. Lets not worry about something as trivial as choosing people who have excellence in their chosen discipline. Being a (very competent) lady doesn't seem to have held back Christine Legarde

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Brilliant - men have been allowed to dominate for too long and you need this sort of policy to ensure it changes. Have to say the morally motivated decisions made by our EU leaders are certainly putting the leaders in this country in a very bad light.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    We need the best people running our companies, irrespective of gender. Any board appointment that is made to meet a quota will tend to frustrate this requirement. If people are good enough to serve on boards, and have the determination, then they will get there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    This seems like a recipe for creating a situation where female board members would have to spend their lives dealing with comments of the, "She only got it because she's a woman" type. Don't people face enough of this sort of unpleasantness anyway without the EU going around creating more of it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    How patronising is this? If it goes ahead it will devalue the efforts of all the women who have made it on to the board through their own efforts. The worlds economy is in the toilet, millions of people are out of work, law and order is breaking down in parts of the eurozone and what is the EU concerned about? legislating that a certain percentage of the board should be female, unbelievable!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Oh dear. This is guaranteed to upset some men, who have a victim mentality.

    Well my fellow chaps, it looks like we're just going to have to work a bit harder now - we have competition. But hey, if you're right wing, you enjoy competitiveness, so why are you moaning ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Surely most companies, shareholders want the best people for the job regardless of sex. 80's male boardroom steroetypes are long gone.

    Just because a woman is on the board doesnt mean women will benefit. As many of us have witnessed, women suffer more under a female boss than men.

    Quotas are insulting to hardworking people who should win thier place through merit rather than Tokenism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I have a one word response to this idiocy.


  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Another waste of time and money idea from the EU, all well and great having more women on the board and where I would we do have more women than men on the board, but in promoting a target of 40% doesn't mean you will get the right person for the job, it should be on merit and past performance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It looks like Britain has accepted the principle of quotas. Looks like we are haggling about 25% versus 40%, both rather arbitrary figures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Best person for the job gets it. It is not a challenging concept.

    Ridiculous idea from the EU, again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Quotas are ways of artificially creating the false image that everythign is fine. We must work resolutely, effectively and relentlessly to erradicate gender discrimination from our societies but quotas are the wrong way to go about as it promotes mediocrity and the sense of false accomplishment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    MERIT only should be the one and only parameter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The only thing businesses care about is making money. If a woman, at the time, is the best person for the job then you could bet your house on the fact that she would get it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Find it curious how they think forcing companies to accept women on to the board will solve the issues, surely the most skilled and best qualified should be in the jobs whether that is a women or a man.

    I'm sure there will be some cases in the coming years where sexism will be argued from the male side instead, that a man failed to get a job despite being the better candidate due to the rules.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    There should be no impediment based on race, sex or religious persuasion. However, 'positive' discrimination is not the answer. All it does is balance statistics, actual people have terrible wrongs done against them and that isn't fair at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    This will only hurt things in the long run. Hire the best person for the job, always. It doesn't matter if it's man, woman or other. Political correctness in action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Positive discrimination is still discrimination!


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