EU Plan for 40 Percent Quota of Women on Boards Gets Win

European Union companies may soon be forced to favor women over equally-qualified men for supervisory board seats after EU lawmakers backed draft rules that would impose a 40 percent quota for female directors.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, today voted with 459 votes in favor of the draft law, 148 votes against and 81 abstentions. To become law, the plans still need the backing of EU members states.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive authority, proposed the new law last year to make boards two-fifths female by 2020. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called today’s vote a “historic moment for gender equality.”

In 2013, 17.6 percent of non-executive board members of the EU’s largest companies were women, according to the commission. The European Parliament’s push for more female candidates in top posts almost scuppered the appointment of Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch to the European Central Bank’s Executive Board last year. Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann earlier this year said he won’t set a quota to promote women into management in the German central bank.

The measures would apply to about 5,000 listed companies in the EU by 2020 and state-owned companies by 2018, the commission said last year. They exclude companies with less than 250 employees or global sales below 50 million euros ($67.6 million).

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