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European Commission - Press release

Gender Balance: Business schools are crucial to getting more women into top jobs

Brussels, 26 September 2011 - EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding today met with leaders of Europe's business schools to discuss how to improve the gender balance in company boardrooms by encouraging more young women to follow a career in business. Despite around 60% of university graduates being female, women still represent only 12% of board members in Europe's biggest listed companies and only 3% of board presidents. Business schools play a crucial role in equipping young women for a career in business and helping them to reach the top. They are helping women to prepare for professional careers through seminars, training programmes and providing networking opportunities. Their initiatives follow Vice-President Reding's call to companies to pledge to voluntarily increase the number of women on corporate boards to 30% by 2015 and to 40% by 2020 (MEMO/11/124).

Business schools help shape the minds of future leaders. It is here that young women and men get inspiration for their business careers,” said Vice-President Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "We all have to make sure that our female talent considers this route in the first place. I am especially glad to see European business schools involved in this process. It reassures me that the education sector is strongly committed to the challenge of fighting the roots of inequality."

"This superb initiative of the European Commission is in total harmony with our goal of focusing on what is a major issue for Europe’s business schools and businesses – namely, how should we remove the glass ceiling that blocks our female graduates from pursuing top-level international careers, despite their being as equally well-trained as their male counterparts,” said EDHEC Dean Olivier Oger.

Today's meeting brings together deans of European business schools and female business leaders to discuss the role of women in European corporate governance. It is organised by EDHEC business school, the Global Telecom Women's Network (GTWN) and McKinsey & Company.


As Europe's population ages, women are crucial to meeting the Europe 2020 employment target of 75% (see IP/10/225). Joint efforts by governments, social partners and businesses are needed to improve the status quo.

Only 12% of members of the supervisory boards at Europe's largest companies are women and in 97% of cases the board is chaired by a man. Progress over the past years has been very slow: the share of female board members in the EU has increased by just over half a percentage point per year over the last seven years. At this rate, unless action is taken, it will take another 50 years before there is a reasonable gender balance (at least 40% of each sex) on supervisory boards. In the meantime, publicly-listed firms in the EU keep losing out on female talent.

On 1 March, EU Justice Commissioner Reding met chief executives and chairs of boards of publicly listed companies to discuss the under-representation of women on corporate boards. She challenged all publicly listed companies in Europe to sign up to the "Women on the Board Pledge for Europe" and commit voluntarily to increasing women's participation on corporate boards to 30% by 2015 and to 40% by 2020 (see IP/11/242 and MEMO/11/124).

The “Women Boardroom Pledge” is available on Vice-President Reding's website. It will help monitor how companies are working towards getting more women in top jobs. Every publicly listed company can sign the pledge and lead with a good example. In March 2012, the European Commission will re-assess the situation to see whether there has been significant progress and whether credible self-regulatory initiatives were developed to enhance women's participation in decision-making. Based on the results, the Commission will then decide on the next steps to be taken.

For more information:


Women on the Board pledge:

European Commission – gender balance in decision-making:

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

ANNEX: List of Participants

Business Schools and Universities Represented

Cambridge University: Judge Business School


Erasmus University: Rotterdam School of Management




University of St. Gallen – Institute for Leadership and Human Resource Management

London Business School

Oxford University: Center for Corporate Reputation

Women Members of the Board of Directors

Bridget Boone – Member of the Board of Directors of Fortis Private Equity Group, FB Acquisition Finance Holding B.V., Fortis Private Equity Holding Nederland B.V. and NeSBIC Groep B.V. , BGL Société Anonyme

Bridget Cosgrave – Member of the Board of Directors SES , Essinor , Steria and President GTWN

Hélène Deslauriers – Member of the Board of Directors of Southwest Water (UK) and Fluxys

Candace Johnson – President of the Board of Directors of Succes Europe, Croissance Europe and Innovation Europe, Founding Member of the Board of Directors of SES , Founding President of GTWN

Lady Barbara Judge (CBE) – Member of the Board of Directors Statoil ASA , NV Bekaert SA and Magna International Inc .

Organizations represented

EPWN – European Professional Women’s Network

Financial Times Non-Executive Director's Club

GTWN – Global Telecom Women’s Network

GUBERNA - Belgian Governance and Board Members Association

Institut des Administrateurs

WOB - Women on Board

EFMD – European Federation of Management Development

McKinsey & Co.

Luis Enriquez – Global Partner

Scott Beardsley – Global Partner

Astrid Marechal – Partner (Responsible for “Women Matter” report)

Mieke van Oostende – Partner (Responsible for “Women Matter” report)

Contacts :

Matthew Newman (+32 2 296 24 06)

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82)

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