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European Parliament: Women on Boards discussion with National Parliaments

[Brussels 21 June] Report from the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee - Women on boards: discussion with national parliaments

All obstacles to the election of women on companies’ boards should be removed by applying principles of justice, equality and transparency, agreed most of the speakers in a meeting on Wednesday of the Committees on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and Legal Affairs with representatives of the national parliaments. Members want to clarify the scope and the binding nature of the draft legislation and the question of sanctions.

Evelyn Regner (S&D), responsible for the Committee on Legal Affairs, stressed: "There are very shocking low numbers of women in the top positions and we need to challenge and tackle it".

"I call on business to follow an open, transparent and meritocratic selection procedure" for their recruitment process, said MEP Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (EPP, EL) responsible on this file for the Committee on Women’s Rights.

The two Members welcome the Commission proposal to introduce an obligation to have 40% women on listed companies’ boards. In the working document presented today, both rapporteurs stressed three important issues still to be tackled: scope of the legislation, the binding nature of the rules and the question of sanctions.

Access to management boards

The criteria to choose women candidates for appointment to management boards should be transparent and based on merit.

The goal of 40% should be compulsory, while allowing member states to choose means to achieve it. Members support a flexible framework which gives room to EU countries to take national specifications into consideration. For instance, If national rules or company self-regulatory mechanism succeed to introduce women in the board, member states should not be obliged to implement the directive.

"In the time of crisis we do not want to burden companies with more bureaucratic procedures", said Ms Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou. The two co-rapporteurs suggested widening the scope of the directive by including small businesses (SMEs) for their role in European industry.

On the issue of sanctions, the rapporteurs believe that sanctions must be effective and companies that do not comply with the 40% obligation shall be excluded from public tender procedures.

Contributions from national parliaments

While some countries have already introduced compulsory gender quotas, like Austria, Belgium, Finland and France, some other countries still fear to do so or do not have a political majority to do so, like Germany and Lithuania.

In the United Kingdom, where quotas are unpopular, members of national parliament proposed other means to improve gender equality, like sharing best practices or issuing non-binding resolutions.
Several members of national parliaments raised concerns about the need to respect the principle of subsidiarity and respect national prerogatives.

Next step

The two co-rapporteurs will prepare a joint report which will be presented in July in both committees and then voted in September 2013 and by plenary in November (to be confirmed)

At EU level, there are still imbalances in the top positions, where only 15.8% of corporate seats in the largest listed companies are held by women. Several studies have shown that a higher percentage of women on company boards would have a positive impact on the performance of company, as well on closing the gender, employment and pay gaps..

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