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 558.

    briesmith, to say "A silly answer to a mythical problem", is putting your head in the sand. Discrimination does exist. There is a pool of underused capability, many women will choose family over a career, most of us don't want to have to fight and make a political statement everytime we have a career move. Most of us just want to do our job do it well, and get the recognition for this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    Two questions: (1) are there fewer women than men on boards because of discrimination or because fewer women want these jobs? (2) will boards be more effective with a greater proportion of women on them or with a greater proportion of individuals who think carefully and pay attention to potential risks?

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    I'd prefer to get on a board by my own hard work, achivements and qualities. Not to tick some box on a form thank you very much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    2 glaring problems with this:

    1) any woman who actually deserves to be on the board will only be seen as a quota target rather than legitimately skilled

    2) Any woman brought in to satisfy a quota may well find herself in charge of billions of pounds and thousands of jobs when they are dangerously underqualified.

    Seems a great way to belittle women or steer large companies off a cliff

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    The quota idea is so out of date and has been ditched elsewhere. EU would better spend its time making itself more accountable to the individual citizens of its member states. Problem is the Commissioners are all failed ex politicians who have already been rejected by voters as incompetents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    That's right.
    That's the way to compete with emerging Far East.
    Right gender rather than best candidate.

  • Comment number 552.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    Discriminations in the workplace - ageism, sizest, racist, looks, height, etc.Sexism is the biggest issue - and couple with any or many of the ones I just mentioned, it is little wonder women are often overlooked for promotion. Merit is rarely considered. Until those who 'make' the decisions (usually MEN) change their perception, women and men who support them need to drive that change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    This reminds me of the female board member of Man City FC. Who claimed she was being discriminated against because she was not allowed into the players changing room after the game and all the male board member were.

    Imagine if a male board member wanted into an all female teams changing room, he'd be sacked on the spot. Not handed a large settlement like she was.

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    Is there any real discrimination against women? I haven't seen any in 30 years of work.

    I agree there is a perception of discrimination and women's groups use this to push for this sort of reverse discriminatory action.

    But where are the real blockages to opportunities for women? These are the things that should be removed. But only if they are there, certainly not if they are made up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    >25 Minutes ago
    >So quotas on male primary school teachers as well? Its only 'fair' and
    >I can see people not liking that much.
    This debate is about career progression, not entry. Yes, 11% of primary school teachers are male, but 37% of primary headteachers are men. So legislation that ensures men are equally represented at the upper levels won't work in their favour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    Theres no such thing as positive discrimination. All discrimination is wrong and leads to resentment. Have they actually looked to see if there are enough women with the skill sets/experience/or that even want to fill that many seats? What about the men that currently have those jobs? Will companies have to knowingly accept a candidate who is not the best person for the job?

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    Even though i encourage the importance of women in politics,this is silly. Its about which gender does things right in politics,its about who is more skilled. If Paris Hilton came up against Tony Benn to run my constiuency,even the most radical feminist couldnt about who would be more suited to run it!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    I've read this again and again and i'm really struggling with it.

    Ok. If i'm plank thick and happen to be in that 40% in the board room, i'm in?

    Madness! Are we not in a bad enough state as it is?

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    I am a female executive of the generation that came after womens-lib. I respect the achievements of that movement tremendously. But, I cannot support this idea of a quota for women. To be promoted to fill a quota would be like unwrapping a beautiful present to find it contained nothing. Just a disappointment. Get there on merit, have confidence in your ability and be never feel unworthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    While they (EU) are at it, they should debate a quota on stupid and intrusive EU legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    The laws relating to maternity leave for women is very onerous on employers and the balance of brains to time away from work is a tough decision for an employer. To make this even between the sexes it should be the state that picks up the tab for the replacement cost of maternity and paternity leave, so to protect the interests of 20-40yr old women.

    Its so easy to discriminate to protect profits!

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    Yes, by all means force these companies to take on female board members. This is what the EU is all about isn't it? No discrimination and a completely level playing field. Only trouble is with a mind set like that companies will gravitate down the tables of performance, just like the stupid EURO as some astute boards appoint former cleaners and waitresses as a token offer to comply. Fools!

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    Let it happen, won't make any difference.
    The companies will just create another level within the corporate hierarchy ie; if the law is written as '... women on the 'corporate board'', it'll change to 'cabinets'! Board room > Cabinet room. It happens all the time, I remember one company changed one job title - Marketing Account Manager to Marketing Executive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    There was a heap about this in the media a few months back and I came to the conclusion after watching some Commons Select Committee fact finding that there were probably a lot of under qualified and under performing men on Boards. All credit to women that they want to be qualified for these posts on their own merits, but come on girls, lets not under sell ourselves here.


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