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 958.

    Delaying the Women quota, well, well, a bit like the Saudis promising that women would get the vote and could run for office, I do not know all these men making decisions , oh right sorry forgot I had a pair of testacies so a man, look us men would not be here without women giving birth to us, they make up 53% of the population, perhaps if religion weren’t run by men this would be sorted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    The original EU proposal is both demeaning to women and anti business.In a time of recession boards must be free to select by merit.
    As a side issue what proportion of members of the EU Parliament are female?.
    Now is the time for Cameron to give us a referendum on leaving the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    948. Tim - Surely my guess will be better if I can consider 100%, not just an abitrary half.

    950 Fray: Will you please stop blaming gender and the old boy network. Funnly enough, the company run by the worlds richest woman - Gina Rineheart (Hancock prospecting) - has only 1 woman listed in the board/senior management page - her. the other 4 are men.

    You can't blame that on the old boy network

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    952. fray_bentos

    951- Name number 6 Karen Brady? God help you indeed, she isnt a russian billionaire
    No just the front woman for a trio of porn merchants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    This has to be the best example of PC, muddle-headed thinking by politicians since the previous best example of PC, muddle-headed thinking by politicians.

    Do they actually ever have ANY logical thoughts??

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    I see a big problem coming: when EU will try to decide that there must be 40% quote for women on the board of every family (possibly accompanied with similar quota for men) - they may have great difficulty with promotion of same-sex marriages at the same time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    951- Name number 6 Karen Brady? God help you indeed, she isnt a russian billionaire and may even influence the manager to bring through english talent. Whatever next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    950. fray_bentos
    We're got Karen Brady at West Ham, God help us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    UK Boardroom selection criteria 2012:
    1. Did you go to Eton? Yes -please proceed directly to the boardroom.
    2. Are you in possesion of a peerage? proceed directly to boardroom.

    Everyone else good luck, you may get a non exec role but better start your own business if you want to get to the top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    Why just pick the board room. There are all kinds of jobs that are largely filled by men that women can do. Be a sparky or truck driver. The list is almost endless. In 2 world wars women proved what they can do. So haw about doing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 948.

    940. Chad H

    The person with the best skill at the time should be chosen if the job has specific measurable skill requirements.
    Hierarchy jobs are generally low technical and have wide ranging grey skillset requirements, all with different weighting. Appointments are best guesses.
    Choosing from 50% of the population should easily allow a 'best' person to be guessed at.

  • rate this

    Comment number 947.

    Chad - yes there are less candidates, yes having children in the middle of your career holds many women back - but not to the low numbers of women at boardroom level right now. You seem to think that things are all equal now - they are not. Quotas force through women into senior jobs, some will be undeserving, most will be well deserved and will introduce a new dynamic and make business stronger.

  • rate this

    Comment number 946.

    We allowed a woman to occupy the very top position in the UK once and it was an absolute disaster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 945.

    The fact that this is even being proposed confirms that EU commissioners have fulfilled their required quota of idiotic ideas

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    @fray - so rather than see a statistic and say "panic panic quota", we instead need to look beyond. Are there less women in boardroom positions because there are less candidates? is this because they tend to choose other career paths? Is it because they choose to leave work for family (nothing wrong with that either for gender).

    If there is a quota there cannot be equal opportunity by definition

  • rate this

    Comment number 943.

    940-Chad -it has been acceptable to discriminate against women candidates regardless of ability based on gender forever - its quite funny watching all the guys here get hot under the collar at the suggestion that they should be discriminated against! Welcome to my world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 942.

    No need for women to worry their pretty little heads about this, I think most men would welcome a bit of eye candy in the boardroom.


    '...Currently, many companies have very few women at board level, mine has none whatsoever and no women in senior executive positions...''

    Perhaps that accounts for declining sales of tinned pies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 941.

    What's being done here is meritocracy is being replaced with a client state. Those who owe their promotions to laws from insitutions like the Eu will be expected to support those insitutions to protect their unearned posts.

    Its essentially unjust and evil in the way it will destroy the lives of others who would have justly earned those positions now to be used to bribe others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 940.

    933. fray_bentos - Actually, I don't, this is a purely hypothetical example. Does descrimination happen, sure... But I am yet to see a reason why men should be discriminated against when they are the superior candidate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 939.

    Chad to answer your question directly - women are not looking for an easy route to the top they are looking for an equal chance, thats all. Currently, many companies have very few women at board level, mine has none whatsoever and no women in senior executive positions. You hire the best person for the job but that must include women.


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