Correspondent's Choice

This story about gender quotas on company boards was published by EurActiv on 15th July 2010.

The European Commission is considering introducing quotas to tackle gender imbalances in the decision-making bodies of private companies, where only 10% of members are women.

“Equality in decision-making is not yet a fact,” EU Fundamental Rights Commissioner Viviane Reding told a hearing of the European Parliament’s women’s rights and gender equality committee yesterday (14 July).

“I do not rule out the possibility of putting forward legislation in this area,” she added.

People close to the commissioner told EurActiv that the most likely action could be aimed at the private sector, with the introduction of gender quotas for boards of directors of top European firms.

Currently, only 11% of such positions are held by women in top European companies, according to the European Commission.

Reding considers the introduction of binding quotas as a last resort should companies prove incapable of voluntarily adapting their gender balance. However, she has already a figure in mind. Brussels could introduce an initial 20% quota to be applied by 2015, according to people familiar with the dossier.

However, no such moves are foreseen in the short term. “The commissioner will monitor companies’ behaviour until the end of 2011 before taking action,” an official close to the commissioner told EurActiv.

National measures

In Spain, Zapatero’s government passed a law in 2007 obliging public companies and listed firms with more than 250 employees to apply a minimum 40% quota for each gender in the composition of their boards.

Although the rule is only expected to become compulsory from 2015, it has already had an impact. Female representation on Spanish companies’ boards doubled from 5% in 2006 to 10% in 2009.

In Germany, the justice ministers of the Länder recently agreed to introduce gender quotas to boost female representation in the decision-making bodies of private companies.

Federal Minister for Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (Liberal Party; FDP) insisted, however, on the application of a voluntary company code to tackle gender imbalances.

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