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More MEPs call for gender balance in companies’ boardrooms

[Brussels, 6 July 2011] Last week, at a conference in Berlin, Commissioner Reding reminded European companies that they have less than a year to voluntarily commit to achieving gender balance in their boardrooms. As Member States continue to elaborate how to address the under-representation of women in decision-making, more MEPs engage to give a clear message of support to quotas for women on boards.

In a recent interview for Europarl TV (see below) Vice-President Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou expressed some important arguments in favour of quotas as a means to improve gender balance in boardrooms. Ms. Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou stressed that equal representation of both genders in boardrooms is not only an ethical issue but also vital for their economic performance.

Moreover, studies show disproportionate figures of representation of highly educated women in decision-making positions. Approximately 60 per cent of academic degrees are obtained by women, while they constitute only 10 per cent of all directors across companies in the EU. Moreover, men constitute more than 90 per cent of all board members. These shocking numbers have urged MEPs to set ambitious goals and propose legislation.

On 25 May 2011 the EU Parliament’s Women’s Committee voted on proposals to impose quotas, allowing competent women access to top positions. Although some European countries, such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, have already recently introduced quotas, the EU aims to increase the number of women on boards up to 30 per cent by 2015 and up to 40 per cent by 2020 across all Member States.

Despite the fact that this European Parliament recommendation is not a binding legislative proposal, it still is a step towards achieving gender balanced in decision-making positions. MEP Silvia Costa believes that quotas need to be at least temporarily mandatory. In addition, Ms. Costa states, quotas have to be progressive, gradual and targeting both public and private companies.

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