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 538.

    Giving someone a job based on gender, sexuality or skin colour is discriminatory. It does not matter whether people view it as positive or negative discrimination, it is still wrong.

    The problem really is that the genders are not equal. Of all the athletes in the world, the fastest and strongest are always men. At the elite levels in all walks of life, men are predominantly better than women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    Why dont they just mind their own business.
    Mind you, they haven't got any business so maybe thats why they meddle in everything and with everybody.
    When can we have a vote on this shambles.
    Soon please before I am too old to bother.

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    423.Pete Powell

    As it will be an EU directive, we should take as much notice of it as the rest of the EU do of such directives.


    That's the trouble Pete. Everyone else will ignore it but the UK will slavishly follow with a few extra bits thrown in.

    Can't you see it? Compulsory hairnets & nail varnish to be provided at board meetings instead of water and glacier mints.

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    @508. Cosmologic

    Whoosh! It went straight over your head.

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    If there are quotas for women in the boardroom, how about quotas for comprehensive school-educated individuals too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    Positive discrimination has fail the US since the 80's. You can make an argument that at one time it was a good idea, but today it ts totally wrong. Legalize discrimination should never be sanctioned by a Government claiming to be a beacon of freedom. Quotas lead to top-heavy companies that are grossly inefficient. Lets leave business to the professionals!

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    There is no such thing as positive discrimination. What this means is we will have good men being overlooked because of their gender and being replaced with whatever woman happens to have the sexiest bottom.
    The REAL problem in boardrooms is the 'old friends' networks which see failure after failure just meaning ever more money and ever more board jobs at the hands of those with friends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    When will these meddling fools realise that you cannot resolve a perceived problem by legislation. How about finding out the true obstructions for those ladies who want to aspire to that level, or if indeed they want to. What mix are we having elsewhere in the world ? and how is that happening. Perhaps they should be sorting out real crisis issues like the Euro !! If in doubt legislate or tax it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    Why just women quotas. Surely on an EU company they will impose a board member from every country of the EU too!

    Then age quotas, has to be next, why exclude the young?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.


    A point very well made.

    Maybe in the end, the grim truth is that women don't want to be directors in such numbers as men. Maybe their priorities are just, err, different.

    Equality has always been about making different things the same. Therefore it is a flawed notion from the start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    Just now
    Ridiculous idea. All that does is devalue the effort of those women who gained positions on a board through hard work and ability

    .... Trouble is from what I've seen the token women who do manage to gain a position on a board tend to be linked into HR - it is not a level playing field by any means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    Does that mean if I have a sex change I can get a promotion?

    Perhaps in 50 years time we'll be having 'positive' discimination against women to counteract the 'positive' discrimination against men.

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    As if Europe wasn't in enough economic turmoil already, the EU comes up with tokenist nonsense to make it even harder to compete in the world. How about best person for the job, regardless of race, religion, colour or gender? Surely that will cover all bases? The sooner we're out of this dysfunctional club the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    Quotas will surely increase competition: the fewer the positions available the more they’ll have to fight for them! Norwegian companies are already better managed than British ones thanks to this increased competition. The countries with the best living standards in Europe are imposing those rules. Whoever gets behind will suffer. It’s not about gender, but diversity:competition and survival.

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    What a ridiculous proposal! I think we all understand that equality is important, but this is taking things too far. If it were the same for sexuality I would loathe being the "token gay guy" merely there to make the minutes look "inclusive". If someone cannot do the job, they shouldn't be given the job. How will women feel if they suspect they were only chosen because they have ovaries?

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    OK so we have an eminently well qualified man for the job but lets promote a woman because she's a woman. Thick as a plank but qualified because she's a woman. Makes sense

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    This would hamper my efforts to reach the top in my profession. As a 22 year old male from a working class background, my chances are slim to begin with. This could breed a great deal of contempt in the workplace. At least there will always be jars that need opening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    So, if this goes ahead, everyone will always be able to wonder, of any woman on a board, if she's just there because of the quota. Brilliant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    These proposals assume women have superior talent and abilities which companies need but which through some deliberate mechanism, deprive themselves of and in so doing, treat women unfairly, suppressing them etc.
    In over 50 years of work I have seen no evidence for either; no great pool of underused capability and no organised system for keeping women down.
    A silly answer to a mythical problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    Ridiculous idea. All that does is devalue the effort of those women who gained positions on a board through hard work and ability.


Page 22 of 48


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