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Locking arms to smash the glass ceiling

[Brussels, 25 February] On 24 February, the European Women’s Lobby, the largest network of women’s rights associations in Europe, launched its most recent progress report on women on boards in Europe, Cracks in the glass ceiling or just a trick of the light?, at a vibrant and engaging launch event supported by the Permanent Representation of Italy to the European Union.

The packed launch event attracted seven esteemed panellists from the business world, academia, the European Union and civil society. A structured yet informal meet-the-panellists group activity kicked off the evening, leading to a fruitful and dynamic panel discussion with excellent audience interaction, ending with a delicious Italian cocktail.

Cracks in the glass ceiling or just a trick of the light? shows that overwhelmingly, the most effective way to increase the representation of women in decision making positions – and in this case, on company boards – is through binding legislation with regular monitoring, intermediary targets and strong sanctions. While some countries (such as Iceland, Norway, France and Italy) have taken the lead and introduced legislation along these lines, Europe as a whole is dragging its feet and making progress that is all too slow. The very latest data show that just two out of ten board members in Europe are women.

The launch event of this report served as a springboard for a wider discussion around the importance of women’s leadership, the reasons for the ongoing overrepresentation of men in the higher echelons of decision-making, and the best ways to tackle the glass ceiling.
Some of the most memorable and inspirational quotes from our panellists were:

‘We have to smash the glass ceiling together’ – Monika Ladmanova, Advisor on Gender to Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová

‘There is a need for male champions of change’ – Dennis Abbott, Managing Director Communications, Burson-Marsteller Brussels

‘Macho culture and old boys’ clubs making decisions over our heads are dangerous for our democracies’ – Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby

‘It’s time to lock arms…this is a systemic problem and has to be looked at holistically’ – Professor Linda Scott, DP World Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Equipped with their newest report, the European Women’s Lobby invites decision makers, member states and companies to make a choice: to stick with a failed system or to commit to a sustainable future based around collaboration and creativity, where leadership takes on a new meaning and all people, women and men, are included equally in decision making processes. The EU directive on women on boards is one important step towards this transformative change and the EWL calls on this to be implemented without further delay.

Find the report here

See all photos from the event here

See the programme with speakers’ biographies here

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