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FEMM Committee says quotas for boards of private companies necessary

[European Parliament, Brussels, 29 October 2010] "If we want to achieve our objectives, we have to take measures such as introducing quotas, however it has to be part of an overall policy", said Greek MEP Rodi KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU (EPP) during in a public hearing of the Women’s Rights Committee issuing "Women and business leadership". It is also important that women have to be prepared to assume the role we are hoisting on them, concluded Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou.

The output of the public hearing, on Wednesday, will serve as a basis for the future initiative report, to be drafted by MEP Rodi KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU (EPP) who also is Vice-President of the EP. She pointed out that there are significant differences between the Member States related to how to bring women into higher level of businesses. Some countries are successful in this area.

On behalf of Joëlle Milquet, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Employment and Equal Opportunities, Belgian Presidency, Laurence Weerts, Deputy Head of Cabinet, pointed out that there are not only political, also economic reasons to address this difference of representation between women and men. Only 10 % of board members of Europe’s biggest companies listed on the stock exchange are women. According to several studies, companies with a balanced representation of the sexes in decision-making positions have a tendency of making better results, financially speaking, she said.

Silvia COSTA (S&D, Italy) believed that it would be good to look into long-term future to ensure developments are more balanced. However, there should be a broader view into gender equality, not only looking into women’s careers. As traditional pattern die hard, said Arni HOLE, Director General, Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, Norway, there has to be legal, radical and affirmative actions related to gender equality to achieve results, adding that gender equality is a key to economic stability.

Although there are statistics on women and men in decision making, Thaima SAMMAN, Director European Network for Women in Leadership, France, criticized the lack of clear quantitative and qualitative assessment of women in middle management levels in Europe. There should be a shift of the debate from "women on boards" to "women in middle management positions" or the discussion should comprehend.

Quota or no quota?

A quota for women in decision-making positions is necessary, said Marie-Jo ZIMMERMANN, Chair of the Delegation on the rights of women and equal opportunities for men and women, National Assembly, France, for management boards of companies shouldn’t be a men’s club. She stated that if it is not possible to push women through from the bottom up, then they have to be placed in the top from outside. She declared that "you cannot build on goodwill, a piece of legislation is needed to push things through".

Barbara MATERA (EPP, Italy) asked whether quotas might be a disadvantage and whether women cannot succeed on their own merits. Irene NATIVIDAD, President of the Global Summit of Women, USA, understands quotas as means of entrance. Quota is a global phenomenon, mostly in Europe. It is popular because of their effectiveness. Mrs Natividad stated that goals and targets are not working. That’s why legislation is needed and also an implementation plan. There must also be sanctions, she pointed out, if not, it would be a law without teeth.

Siiri OVIIR (ALDE, Estonia) stressed that the quota systems is a method for delivering results needed, adding that without sanctions the right to equality will be a de jure right, not a de facto right.

In Norway, Mrs. Hole said that the use of quota in political parties started voluntarily. She believed that quotas are a tool to speed up development. According to latest study results, Elizabeth BENHAM, President of International Federation of Business and Professional Women, USA, stressed that where diversity is a higher priority, executives also report a higher share of women in their senior ranks.

Andrea ?EŠKOVÁ (ECR, Czech Republic) commented that it should be encouraged that women should be in better positions, however employers should be flexible in whom they hire for such positions. She objected to the use for compulsory quotas to increase the level of women in leadership positions.

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