EU Commission to rule on women board members for all companies?

  Forum Editor 18:17 23 Oct 12

Viviane Reding, Vice-President of The European Commission is scheduled to hold a press conference in Strasbourg about plans for mandatory quotas for women in the boardroom. The outcome of the press conference is likely to be controversial as nine national governments have sent letters to the European Commission to re-think the quotas. Vice-President Reding wants businesses to guarantee that at least 40% of board members will be women by 2020. Currently, women represent just 13.5% of company boards.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

  Woolwell 18:20 23 Oct 12

I'm against any kind of discrimination. Having at least 40% is positive discrimination but is still discrimination. It builds resentment as people get jobs not according to their ability or perceived ability.

  Al94 18:24 23 Oct 12

A non starter it appears

  Forum Editor 18:29 23 Oct 12


It's an interesting subject. The fact that only 13.5% of board members are women suggests that perhaps there aren't enough women considered suitable enough to be directors of companies. The truth is that there probably isn't a big enough pool of women in senior positions from which to select - it's the glass ceiling at work.

My eldest daughter is in a fairly senior position with an huge internationally known company, She works in the finance division, and has been told 'keep on as you are, and you'll be a director of this company by the time you're forty'. The problem is, she's been told that on several occasions, and still seen male colleagues promoted over her head - she has hit the glass ceiling.

It's a tricky issue, because the last thing companies need is legislation that forces them to promote women, just to meet a quota requirement. I don't have the answer, but there must be one.

  Forum Editor 18:34 23 Oct 12


"A non starter it appears"

Not quite. It hasn't been dropped, The vote has been postponed for a few weeks.

France, Spain, Italy, Iceland and Belgium have introduced quota laws. Norway, which is not an EU member, has had a 40% quota since 2003.

  morddwyd 20:42 23 Oct 12

This presumably because of perceived discrimination.

How long before we see quotas for other groups with a history of being discriminated against - Catholics, Jews, Homosexuals, and so on?

  Woolwell 21:53 23 Oct 12

I wonder if golf is part of the problem?

I don't think that the maternity laws help.

I feel that positive discrimination is just as bad as normal discrimination. Setting a quota of 40% is going to make that a necessity at a lot of companies. I would have thought that there was enough legislation already in place that if someone felt they had been refused a job offer on discrimination grounds then they could already take action.

I also feel that attitudes towards equality are changing rapidly anyway, and that over time we will likely see discrimination ironed out more and more without any need of intervention from government legislation.

  Forum Editor 22:53 23 Oct 12


"This presumably because of perceived discrimination." of course it is, what else would it be?

"How long before we see quotas for other groups with a history of being discriminated against - Catholics, Jews, Homosexuals, and so on?"

Surely you're not suggesting that an attempt to level the playing field for women is the thin end of a wedge?

  wee eddie 09:42 24 Oct 12

I have a prediction ~ Should this become a legal requirement, many decisions will be made in sub-Committee and then rubber stamped by the, newly constituted, Board.

  Forum Editor 10:25 24 Oct 12

wee eddie

There was opposition when the 40% quota law was introduced in Norway in 2003. Opponents said such positive discrimination would be unfair to men and that private companies should be given the freedom to appoint whichever candidates they preferred to their boards. Another common argument was that more competent men would be replaced with less skilled or qualified women.

Nine years on the true situation is much different. The percentage of female board members (45%)is actually slightly higher than the quota law demands, and since the law was introduced there have been no complaints from employers associations, nor have CEOs stated that they have had problems finding suitable candidates for the board. A 2010 study revealed that 36 percent of female board members had a university education lasting six years or more, compared to just 22 percent of their male counterparts.

It didn't all happen on its own however. When the Norwegian law was first passed the government stated that there would be a voluntary compliance period, allowing businesses time to introduce new policies and find suitable board members. It wasn't plain sailing; three years later the female board member percentage had only risen to 18%, so the decision was taken to enforce the law very strictly - the toughest penalty for failure to comply is compulsory dissolution of the business. It worked like a charm, and by 2009 the quota target of 40% had been reached.

The lesson to be learned is that women are not going to get a fair crack of the whip unless there is legislation to ensure it. Men will actively prevent women from rising to the top if they can.

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