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European Commission


Brussels, 14 October 2013

Report on women and men in leadership positions and Gender equality strategy mid-term review

1. New Report on Women in Decision-Making:

What is the report on women in leadership positions?

The Report on women and men in leadership positions in the European Union 2013 looks at the current situation and recent progress for gender balance across a range of decision-making positions in the public and private sectors, including business, financial institutions, politics, civil service and the judiciary.

The report is, as far as possible, based on quantitative analysis of the situation with the majority of data being drawn from the European Commission database on women and men in decision-making, which can be consulted online. The database includes comparable data for EU Member States from 2003 onwards. Where relevant, 2003 is therefore used as the starting point for analysis of developments through time.

What are the main conclusions on women on boards?

The most recent figures show that women account for 16.6%, or one in six, of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU-27. The highest levels of female representation on boards occurs in Finland (29.1%) and Latvia (29%), closely followed by France (26.8%) and Sweden (26.5%).

Figure 1: Representation of women and men on the boards of large listed companies, April 2013

Source: European Commission, Database on women and men in decision-making.

In the six months covered by today's report on women and men in leadership positions (October 2012-April 2013), an increase in the share of women on company boards has been recorded in 20 Member States. The largest increases occurred in Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. The share of women on boards declined in Romania, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, Greece, Portugal and the UK.

Figure 2: Change in the share of women on boards by country, October 2012 - April 2013

Source: European Commission, Database on women and men in decision-making.

The latest EU-wide figure of 16.6% represents a 0.9 percentage point (pp) increase in the six months from October 2012 or an annual equivalent rate of 1.7 pp, down from the rate of 2.2 pp between 2011 and 2012.

In fact, since 2010, when the European Commission published its Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015) and first raised the prospect of targeted initiatives to address the under-representation of women in decision-making positions, the share of women on boards has risen by 4.8 pp at an average rate of 1.9 pp/year, almost four times the rate of progress from 2003 to 2010 (0.5 pp/year). This acceleration has been further fuelled by the women on boards proposal adopted by the European Commission on 14 November 2012 (IP/12/1205 and MEMO/12/860), which set a 40% objective for women on boards based on qualification. Recent developments also reflect the impact of EU-wide discussions about the need for a targeted intervention to raise the number of women on boards.

Figure 3: Share of women on the boards of large listed companies, EU-27, 2010-2013: Continuing Progress

It is important to note that the most significant developments since 2010 have largely occurred in countries where binding legislation has already been adopted, such as France (+ 14.4 pp to reach 26.8%), the Netherlands (+8.7 pp to reach 23.6%) and Italy (+8.4 pp to reach 12.9%). This further emphasises the importance of regulatory pressure for achieving tangible results.

Figure 4: Overview of some of the key drivers of progress since 2010:

Despite the progress made at board level, there are still very few large companies with a woman Chairperson or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The latest figures show that of the 587 EU companies covered by the Commission database just 26 are chaired by a woman (4.4%) and even fewer - 16 or 2.7% - have a female CEO. In just over half of EU Member States (14) no companies in the sample have a woman Chairperson and a similar number (but not the same countries) have no companies with a woman CEO

Figure 5: Share of women amongst board chairs and CEOs of large companies, April 2013

What about progress in other economic leadership positions?

In national central banks, men account for more than 4 out of 5 (81.4%) members of the most important decision-making bodies and women for fewer than 1 in 5 (18.6%) on average across the EU. However, the situation varies. Balanced decision-making, with at least 40% of each gender, exists in the central banks of Finland and Slovenia as well as those of Iceland and Norway outside the EU. However, there are also five Member States (Cyprus, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal, and Slovakia) in which not a single member of the main decision-making bodies is female.

The level of female representation in the highest decision-making bodies of central banks within the EU has remained (more or less) unchanged since 2003 (the first year for which comparable data were collected), fluctuating between 16 and 18%.

Figure 6: Representation of men and women in national central banks, 2013

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: European Commission, Database on women and men in decision-making

In EU-level financial institutions (the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund) the combined governing boards have a total of 57 members, and just 3 (or 5.3%) are women.

The governing council of the European Central Bank comprises the six members of the executive board plus the governors of the central banks of each of the 17 euro area countries. All of them are men. There are two women on the board of governors of the European Investment Bank, which is made up of one representative from each Member State (usually the Minister of Finance), and one on the board of directors of the European Investment Fund, which has seven members.

Although the total number of members of the three governing bodies has grown over the past decade from 36 to 57 (due to accession of new Member States), the number of women members is the same now as in 2003 (the first year for which comparable data were collected) and the overall proportion of women has never exceeded 11%.

Figure 7 - Representation of women in governing boards of European financial institutions, 2003-2013

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: European Commission, Database on women and men in decision-making.

What is the situation in politics at EU level?

The European Council currently includes four women out of 28 EU heads of state or government: Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany), Dalia Grybauskaitė (President of Lithuania), Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Prime Minister of Denmark), and Alenka Bratušek (Prime Minister of Slovenia).

In the European Commission, thanks to President Barroso’s insistence on female candidates in 2009, one third (33%) of the Commissioners are now women. This is the best gender balance yet – up from 5.6% in 1994/1995.

Figure 8: Representation of women in European Commission over the last 25 years

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) currently comprise 64% men and 36% women. The share of women in the European Parliament (EP) is significantly above the average for national parliaments (27%) and close to being gender balanced.

The European Parliament has been directly elected for five year terms since 1979, although its size and composition have changed substantially in line with the growing number of Member States. In the first Parliament, nine Member States elected a total of 410 MEPs (16% women) and over the years the proportion of women has risen by an average of 3 percentage points per 5-year term to reach 35% after the 2009 elections, a figure that has now increased to 36% following some replacements.

Figure 9: Representation of women and men in the European Parliament, 2013

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED
Source: European Commission, Database on women and men in decision-making. Data refer to the situation in May 2013.

And what about national politics?

In May 2013, women accounted for 27% of senior ministers in national governments. Three EU Member States have parity governments in which the numbers of men and women are equal or differ by only one: France, Denmark and Finland. Gender balanced governments (at least 40% of each gender) also exist in Sweden, where women account for more than half of senior ministers, and in Austria. The governments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are also close to achieving balanced representation. However, women account for less than one in ten members of the cabinet in Greece, Slovakia, Estonia, Cyprus and Hungary.

Figure 10: Representation of women and men in national governments (senior ministers), 2013

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: European Commission, database on women and men in decision-making. Data refer to the situation in May 2013.

Note: Senior ministers are those with a seat on the Cabinet or Council of Ministers.

In 2013, the single or lower houses of parliament in the 27 EU Member States comprised 73% men and just 27% women. This is 5 percentage points higher than the level ten years ago (22%) and although the trend since 2003 has mostly been positive on an annual basis, the rate of change has been slow. The share of women representatives has increased by an average of just 0.5 percentage points per year.

The EU figures conceal significant differences between countries and whilst some already have quite well balanced parliaments, others are lagging behind (Figure 11). Three countries – Sweden, Finland and Spain – already have at least 40% women in parliament, with Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands almost at this level. On the other hand, women account for fewer than 20% of members of parliament in Cyprus, Romania, Malta, Ireland and Slovakia and fewer than 10% in Hungary.

Figure 11: Representation of women and men in national parliaments (single/lower house), 2013

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: European Commission, Database on women and men in decision-making, data from the second quarter of 2013.

How are women doing in public administration?

On average across the EU, the top two levels of officials working in national ministries and other government departments comprise 36% women and 64% men (2012 figures). This represents a gradual improvement of 0.5 percentage points per year since 2007 when women accounted for exactly one third of top civil servants.

However, the overall figure conceals a difference in the share of women and men in the first and second levels of the hierarchy. In 2012, women accounted for 37% of the second levels of officials but only 29% of the highest level.

Figure 12: Share of women in the top two levels of (non-political) administrators in national administrations, 2012

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED
Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: European Commission, Database on women and men in decision-making.

Note: Countries are ranked by the share of women in the two levels combined.

What about the European civil service?

The European Commission is taking action to ensure gender balance throughout the administration as part of a comprehensive strategy for equal opportunities between men and women. The strategy set mid-term and final targets for the proportion of women in senior, middle and non-management (administrative) positions by 2014 (25%, 33% and 43% respectively), recognising that in order for change to be sustainable it is necessary to boost representation of women from the bottom up in order to provide a pool of talent for later promotion.

By 1 October 2012, the percentage of women in management positions had increased to the extent that the European Commission had met or was on course to meeting all three targets for 2012. It has been so successful in recruiting women in top jobs that on 1 October 2012 it had already exceeded its target for women in senior management for 2014.

Figure 13: Representation of women at three levels of European Commission

European Commission

1st Oct 2012

Target 2012

Target 2014

Senior management




Middle management




Non-management (administrative)




Source: European Commission, Women on Boards– Factsheet 4

What is the gender balance in the judiciary?

In 2012, around one third (34%) of all supreme court judges in EU Member States were women and two thirds men, but the balance varies enormously between Member States.

Figure 14: Representation of women and men amongst judges of national supreme courts, 2012

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: European Commission, Database on women and men in decision-making.

2. Gender equality strategy mid-term review:

What is the EU gender equality strategy?

The European Commission’s strategy for equality between Women and Men (2010-2015) was adopted in 2010 (IP/10/1149). It sets out 24 key actions under five headings: equal economic independence for women and men; equal pay for work of equal value; equality in decision-making; dignity, integrity and ending gender violence; and promoting gender equality beyond the EU.

What does the mid-term review of the strategy say?

Today’s mid-term review finds that, half-way through the strategy’s five-year time scale, the Commission is delivering on its commitments. It has taken action in the majority of areas covered, in particular in improving the gender balance in economic decision-making, tackling female genital mutilation, promoting equal pay and promoting equality within the EU’s overall economic strategy.

In addition to the legislative proposal for women on boards (see above), the Commission has, for example:

  • proposed two pieces of legislation to improve rights and protection for women who are victims of violence, which are now EU law. The Victims Directive guarantees a minimum level of rights for crime victims, wherever they are in the EU, with special attention to vulnerable victims such as women victims of violence (IP/12/1200). The regulation for an EU-wide protection order means that people who have suffered violence can rely on a restraining order obtained in their home country wherever they are in the EU (MEMO/13/510).

  • run a campaign to raise awareness of female genital mutilation, launched a consultation on how best to develop measures at EU level to fight female genital mutilation, and announced EUR 3.7 million in funding to support Member States' activities to raise awareness of violence against women and a further EUR 11.4 million for None-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and others working with victims. (IP/13/189);

  • promoted women’s employment and access to childcare through the Europe 2020 strategy. This included reporting on Member States’ progress towards the EU targets they set themselves for providing affordable and accessible childcare (IP/13/495);

  • instituted an annual European Equal Pay Day to raise awareness of the gender pay gap and how to tackle it. The Europe-wide event is now in its third year (IP/13/165);

  • supported equal pay initiatives in the workplace. The "Equality Pays Off" project aims to make companies more aware of the "business case" for gender equality and equal pay (IP/13/165). It includes training activities, events and tools for companies to address the pay gap.

More information

Press release IP/13/943

"Women and men in leadership positions in the European Union, 2013, a review of the situation and recent progress":

Gender equality strategy: Mid-term review

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

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

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter @VivianeRedingEU

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