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 738.

    Yep, we could all carry on scratching our scrotums and shrieking like baboons over something that won't happen in reality.

    If you have a daughter, niece, sister, aunt etc., you will naturally want them to do well in their education and chosen job/career - wouldn't you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    Fair enough. If they are going to impose a 40% quota for women then make maternity and paternity leave obsolete.
    When you think about it, it's a ridiculous concept that a person is able to leave her job for 9-12 months, on full pay, to care for a child, then return to where she left off, said child being dumped on somebody else. It's ludicrous. Have baby, then get back to work in a few days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    727 Marylyn
    Re what is the point of the EU - You don't need a postcard to write "zero"! The back of a stamp could contain the answer several times!

    I do agree entirely although considering their annual budget is around EUR 150 billion I am beginning to see why people don't want to be part of the EU as zero return for a EUR 150 billion annual investment doesn't seem to make sense :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    726. John G

    " best interests of all member states can be equated to everyone being equal but some being more equal than others"

    John, I think it is unhelpful if we look at member states as being individuals. We can all agree that the European Parliament represents all member states. It's a broad church, all views are listened to. Germany just has better ideas that all others agree with. ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    99% of nurses are women. FACT! This is outrageous and I demand and immediate introduction of 40% male nurses. The fact that 99% of nursing applicants are also women should have nothing to do with it....

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    There is no such thing as positive discrimination; there is only discrimination. Positive and negative only describe its outcome on those affected by it.
    Women are now better protected in the workplace than ever before, and, just like men, should be employed on the basis of ability and merit. Forcing companies to employ a person on the basis of their gender to meet a quota is perverse and foolish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    I don't believe men are more capable than woman at doing these high positioned jobs. Of course they have more experience: they've been doing it decades without female colleagues. How is a woman going to get any experience if the "more experienced man" gets the role every time? I'm open to other ideas to balance it out, but I'm not in favour of doing nothing just to avoid upsetting the status quo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    I'm really not sure that enforcement through legislation is the best way forward. However, I do believe companies must ensure that they have a broad spectrum represented on their board and other parts of their business. Doing so will bring benefits and ensure that they do not practice a business mono-culture. So yes, have competent male, female and ethnic mix throughout - it works!

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    I am totally against this. The best person should get the job, regardless of their gender, background, family connections or anything else. This seems discriminatory against other candidates and potentially creates a feeling of not knowing whether you fairly deserved the job or not. If I get a position I want to know it is because I was the best for it, not because I was needed to fill up a quota.

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    I'll support it if it applies to all levels of all jobs for both sexes. That's fair isn't it? I look forward to applying to be a member of the male quota of sex workers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    Interesting that the audio clip above quotes Mary Honeyball: an unsuccessful Labour candidate in 1987, but then became an un-elected MEP when Pauline Green stood down. What a surprise that someone who has no right to be in their position is in favour of this nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    716.John G "General question: What is the point of the EU (other than advancing the interests of Germany and France) - answers on a postcard please"

    = =
    Postcard? POSTcard? You don't need a postcard to write "zero"!

    The back of a stamp could contain the answer several times!

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    720 krokodil
    Q: What is the point of the EU
    A: Well, it works for the best interests of all member states. Look at Greece my friend, the EU is saving it from the mess it's in.

    Thanks krokodil so it's a bit like Animal Farm to the extent that best interests of all member states can be equated to everyone being equal but some being more equal than others - think I'm getting it now :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    This quota nonesense is typical of the PC obsessed world that we live in today. Let the best people have the job regardless of gender or race. And the first bloated company that should change its ways is the leftie crank infested BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    Few women get to main board level either as non exec or exec not because of direct discrimination in appointments but because few have the experience. They havent run the business units, global, regional or other or served on subsidiary boards. There are execeptions, but working out why this is generally so, whether or not it matters/can be fixed is the key to this issue - not quotas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    Assuming women are as capable as men, we should see an approximate 50%-50% composition on the boards, not the current 85%-15%

    This means current boards are promoting around 35% men that are less capable than women (negative discrimination based on gender). This law is necessary to compensate for it. Mixed boards will cause the discrimination to disappear, making the law unnecessary shortly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.

    This is the same problem that we have with our education system: instead of equality of opportunity we try to enforce equality of outcome through the comprehensive system.

    Result: unless you can afford private schooling everyone is held back to the level of the lowest common denon=mitator. So exams are dumbed down so everyone passes.

    It doesn't work in scools: won't work in the boardroom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    oh for heavens sake! What next? Positive discrimination is not going to help women, instead it will backfire. I'm a woman and proud of what I've achieved without having had a lift up because I'm a woman! Unfortunately, women who expect respect in the boardroom after being installed on the back on this legislation will be very disappointed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    716. John G

    " Agree Frau Merkel smokin' hot - what an asset at any fashion house.

    General question: What is the point of the EU (other than advancing the interests of Germany and France) - answers on a postcard please."

    Well, it works for the best interests of all member states. Look at Greece my friend, the EU is saving it from the mess it's in.

    And remember the Nobel prize. Well deserved...

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    Positive discrimination?

    Rubbish. I run a small business and would happily promote a boy or girl as long as the candidate is the right one for the job.

    As a woman the LAST thing I'd want is people to think is I got a job through a quota rather than by merit and suitability alone. How assured would that make me feel? It wouldn't.


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