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European Commission


Brussels, 9 July 2013

Vice-President Reding welcomes latest progress in European Parliament for women on boards

European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, today welcomed the latest progress in European Parliament in support of her proposal to improve the gender balance in Europe’s boardrooms (IP/12/1205). The Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL) voted by an overwhelming majority (37 in favour, 5 against, 4 abstentions) to support the Commission’s proposal. This follows the European Parliament Legal Affairs committee's vote on 26 June confirming that the Commission's proposal is based on the correct legal basis dealing with gender equality.

"It is good to see that one chamber of the European legislature, namely the European Parliament, is backing the Commission's proposal for more women on boards," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "The examples of Belgium, France and Italy clearly demonstrate: time-limited regulatory intervention works. Alone the fact that we have put a draft law on the table has already got things moving. Companies are starting to adapt even before the law is in place: we see more and more companies across Europe appointing women to their supervisory boards. The strong support of the European Parliament has helped accelerate progress. I would like to thank the rapporteur of the Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee, Marije Cornelissen, for her work. I will continue to work on parallel progress in the Council."

The Employment and Social Affairs Committee report underlines the need to maintain a balanced proposal and seeks to simplify the procedural aspect of the proposal (to take account of those instances of appointments which are not based on qualifications).

Progress and next steps: In order to become law, the Commission's proposal now needs to be adopted by the European Parliament and by the EU Member States in the Council. The European Parliament has appointed Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (Committee on Women’s Rights) and MEP Evelyn Regner (Committee on Legal Affairs) as co-rapporteurs (draftspersons) for the proposal. In parallel to today's EMPL Committee vote, the European Parliament's Committees on Legal Affairs (JURI) and Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) presented a draft report which also endorses the Commission’s approach. The JURI and FEMM committees, which are jointly responsible for piloting the proposal through the Parliament, are due to vote on this report in October.

The Council held a first discussion on the proposal in December (MEMO/12/940) and took stock of progress achieved under the Irish Presidency at the meeting of Employment and Social Affairs ministers (EPSCO Council) on 20 June 2013 (MEMO/13/584). The Lithuanian Presidency will pursue the discussion later this month.


On 14 November 2012, the Commission adopted a law which sets a minimum objective of 40% of the under-represented sex in non-executive board-member positions in listed companies in Europe by 2020, or 2018 for listed public undertakings (see IP/12/1205 and MEMO/12/860).

Main elements of the draft law:

  • If a publicly listed company in Europe does not have 40 per cent of women on its supervisory board, the new law will require them to introduce a new selection procedure for board members which gives priority to the qualified female candidates.

  • The law places the emphasis firmly on qualification. Nobody will get a job on the board just because they are a woman. But no woman will be denied a job because of their gender either.

  • The law only applies to the supervisory boards or non-executive directors of publicly listed companies, due to their economic importance and high visibility. Small and medium enterprises are excluded.

  • Individual EU Member States will have to lay down appropriate and dissuasive sanctions for companies in breach of the Directive.

  • The law is a temporary measure. It will automatically expire in 2028.

  • The law also includes, as a complementary measure, a "flexi quota": an obligation for companies listed on the stock exchange to set themselves individual, self-regulatory targets regarding the representation of both sexes among executive directors to be met by 2020 (or 2018 in case of public undertakings). Companies will have to report annually on the progress made.

For more information

European Commission database on women and men in decision-making:

Press pack – Women on boards:

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

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter


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