Over the last decade, despite an intense public debate and some voluntary initiatives, little has changed to improve the gender balance in boardrooms across Europe. On 14th November 2012 the European Commission proposed legislation to accelerate progress, in a move which responds to strong calls from the European Parliament for action.
Boards in Europe's biggest companies are still dominated by one gender, and a glass ceiling remains, barring female talent from top positions. Women only make up 15% of non-executive boards and 8.9% of executive boards.
Today's Directive sets an objective of a 40% presence of the under-represented sex among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges. This should be met by 2020 for publicly listed companies and by 2018 by public undertakings. It does not apply to small and medium-sized companies (see the press release for details [668 KB] ).
The proposal was presented by five Commissioners representing the policy areas of justice and fundamental rights, the internal market, competition, economic and monetary affairs, entrepreneurship and employment.
President Barroso said it was "time for the European Union to step in, on the basis of the powers under the EU Treaties which the Member States have given us". Vice-President Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, said that progress shown in Belgium, France and Italy "clearly demonstrates that time-limited regulatory intervention can make all the difference."