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 658.

    So replace meritocracy with "it's not what you know, it's what gender you are"?

    Judging by all the comments here, just drop it now EU. But then, you never were famous for democracy.

    Incompetent? Just outright greedy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    Almost worth having a sex change for ... ALMOST !

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    644 little-old-me
    i cannot see why either sex cannot be equally incompetent, just that when we have a complete collapse with the monetary system in a few years from now.... women can get equal blame.
    these blokes arent that stupid

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    Glad to hear the UK is opposed to quotas. I'm opposed to them as well. All you want is a situation that if women are the best for the job they get it as with men. If they're not the best for the job they don't get it. Simplistic i know but that's it. This is the reality we need. The PC police will completely ruin us all one day and then things will start from scratch again. Like reality in a way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    I was accepted on to an engineering training scheme many years ago where they had quotas to encourage women into engineering. A few male friends of mine with equal qualifications were rejected from the scheme. During the first day tour of a car factory, one of the women employed to fill quotas asked, 'So, what is engineering?'

    Employment shoudl be based on selecting the most suitable candidates.

  • Comment number 653.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    647.Yours In Sisterhood
    ".....Meritocracy is a complete fallacy. It's not what you know it is who you know."

    Which would be exactly the situation with "positive" discrimination. Two wrongs do not make a right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.

    638.taciturne: So, in Africa, the women do ALL of the work, and none of the men do anything at all. What naked fantastical bias. Surely you realise that repeating this nonsense lends little credibility to your case. Directing micro credit exclusively to women is a European gender political imperative, it's not proof that women do all the work. Please be fair, what you're saying simply isn't true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 650.

    Does this also mean that schools (in particular primary schools) will be forced to have 40% male staff?

    Does it also mean that HR & recruitment departments (dominated by women) will also be forced to be 40% male?

    If those things happen then I'll applaud the initiative, until then it's just sexism.

  • Comment number 649.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 648.

    643; find a way for men to carry babies to term. Not sure how you would do it on an ongoing basis but that would probably do the trick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    Why is the quota not 50% of women in the boardroom true equality. What is wrong with men and women being equally represented at board level. Meritocracy is a complete fallacy. It's not what you know it is who you know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    As a viewer of University Challenge I am mindful that there are more females attending University than males - Is this why there are more males on the University Challenge panels? to create the gender equality required. The only time I see females is when St Helens are on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    If a woman takes time out to have a family, obviously this will interfere with her career.

    She cant be achieving anything towards career progress if not there.

    To say to the men that were not on maternity leave, 'sorry your contribution during this time doesnt count', would be discrimination against them?

    All this is just unnecessary and divisive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 644.

    A thought for those claiming women are not as good at being Directors as men.....

    .....what % of the boards of the world's major banks were men...

    .....and how big a (insert rude adjective of choice) did all those blokes create......??????

  • rate this

    Comment number 643.

    There has got to be away of leveling the playing field so everybody gets the same chance once you start talking about quotas you actualy defeat the object of getting the best person for the job you should not have a% male a% female I suppose you would have to have a % transgender as well it just makes it more complicated

  • rate this

    Comment number 642.

    Yet another idea that the EU have got to interfere. In my last job both female and male staff got their jobs through hard work and their own abilities. Nothing to do with their sex, just plain ability to do the job. We saw the leader or manager not their sex! This is just plain wrong, what planet do these idiots live on? Get us out for gods sake before they come up with another crazy idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 641.

    So when it was discussed that English football teams should have a specific number of English or 'home grown' players, it was said by the EU that was discrimination and they would not allow it. Now they're talking about quotas for boards to have 40% women. Hypocrits.

    Do all boards have to have 40% men?

  • rate this

    Comment number 640.

    I read mostly negative comments, even from women. EU=Ever Unfair

  • rate this

    Comment number 639.

    Why pick 40%? If it takes, say, 30 years experience to get a board position, then surely the quota would be the percentage of women in industry 30 years ago? I don't know the numbers, but I imagine that women made up rather less than 40% of the relevent workforce in 1982.
    That being the case, then a 40% quota will inevitably mean appointing women without either the experience or the ability.


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