European rules on quotas for women on company boards are necessary because businesses aren’t doing enough themselves, according to European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.
“I don’t like to intervene very strongly, but I thought it was the only way,” Reding said today in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “I tried to do it first with asking the companies to do it by themselves. What was the result? Nothing.”
Reding set out draft legislation in November asking governments and the European Parliament to approve rules for a 40 percent quota to favor women over equally qualified men for supervisory board seats. She said today such legislation was needed as the population ages.
“What convinced me to go this way? We are an aging continent, not having enough new talent growing, and then 65 percent of our university graduates are female,” she said. “We do have the talent, we do have the competence, and we don’t make use of it in our societies. Sometimes you need political leadership in order to change the business world.”
More women gained a seat on management and supervisory boards in 24 out of 27 EU countries last year, rising 2.2 percentage points to 15.8 percent in October from a year earlier, EU regulators said in a statement today. Ten percent of management board seats and 17 percent of places on supervisory, or non-executive, boards were held by women.
The measures would apply to about 5,000 listed companies in the EU by 2020 and state-owned companies by 2018, and exclude companies with fewer than 250 employees or global sales below 50 million euros ($67 million.)
Reding said a quota rule would be temporary.
“Once we have broken through the glass ceiling things will become natural,” she said. “This law has an expiry date. It is not meant to last, it’s meant to do its job and to break through.”
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