Brussels, 13 March 2012
Statement by EU Justice Commissioner Reding on the European Parliament’s resolution on equality between women and men in the European Union
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, the European Commission’s Vice-President, said after the vote in the European Parliament's plenary in Strasbourg:
"I welcome today's resolution by the European Parliament on equality between women and men. The resolution, steered by Parliament Member Sophie In t Veld, emphasises that getting more women into the workforce is an economic necessity, especially during times of economic crisis. If we want to 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%, we need to make gender diversity a growth asset. The resolution, which calls for increasing female representation in corporate management bodies to 30% by 2015 and 40% by 2020, is an important contribution to the consultation that the Commission launched last week on how to improve the gender balance at the top of Europe’s large companies. I look forward to hearing more from citizens and businesses until the end of May.”
The lack of women in top jobs in the business world harms Europe's competitiveness and hampers economic growth. This is why several EU Member States – notably Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain – have started to address the situation by adopting legislation that introduces gender quotas for company boards. Some countries – Denmark, Finland, Greece, Austria and Slovenia – have adopted rules on gender balance for the boards of state-owned companies.
Gender balance in top positions has been shown to contribute to better business performance, improved competitiveness and economic gains. For example, a report by McKinsey found that gender-balanced companies have a 56% higher operating profit compared to male-only companies. Ernst & Young looked at the 290 largest publicly-listed companies. They found that the earnings at companies with at least one woman on the board were significantly higher than in those that had no female board member.
To identify appropriate measures for addressing the persistent lack of gender diversity in boardrooms of listed companies in Europe, the European Commission launched a public consultation on March 5 (see IP/12/213). The Commission is seeking views on possible action at EU level, including legislative measures, to redress the gender imbalance on company boards. The public consultation will run until 28 May 2012. Following this input, the Commission will take a decision on further action later this year.