Successes on Board

On 14 November, the European Commission agreed to propose Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding’s draft directive promoting 40% women on the boards of Europe’s listed companies to the European Council and European Parliament.  This is a very exciting first step for a visionary action supporting greater female leadership in Europe’s businesses, and in gaining ultimate approval for the directive among European leadership.

According to the Commission’s statement, a major justification for the initiative is the slow rate of female ascendency to top roles in European business, reflected by a “de facto” quota of 85 percent men in Europe’s boardrooms.

Just 1 in 7 board members (13.7%) at Europe’s top companies is a woman. This is only a slight improvement from 11.8% in 2010. At this slow rate of progress it would still take around 40 years to even get close to gender balance in boardrooms (at least 40% of both sexes).

One of the strongest arguments supporting the directive is that it would help to attract and retain women in the workforce by increasing their opportunities to advance and remain actively employed longer.  According to the Commission:

Opening the door to senior positions will act as an incentive for women to enter and stay in the workforce, helping to raise female employment rates. Having more women in the workforce will help achieve the target set by the Europe 2020 Strategy – the EU’s growth strategy – to raise the employment rate for women and men aged 20-64 to 75% by 2020.

For the record, the directive proposal was presented jointly by five male EU Commissioners and Vice-President Reding, with a notable absence of support from female Commissioners.  Once the directive was officially proposed, however, Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes went immediately on record in favor of it.

Until the directive is debated and approved, companies are still encouraged to voluntarily pledge their support of getting more women on their own boards, and it would do us all good to promote the organizations who have already made this pledge.

Meantime, we are also thrilled to report that we are over half-way to reaching our goal of 5000 signatures in our own grassroots campaign to support Vice-President Reding.  So THANK YOU to everyone for your great support so far, keep spreading the word, and if you have not done so, please sign the petition today!