Press: European Commission weighs options to break the ‛glass ceiling’ for women on company boards

“Brussels, 5 March 2012 – A European Commission report published today shows
that limited progress towards increasing the number of women on company boards
has been achieved one year after EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called
for credible self-regulatory measures (see MEMO/11/124). Just one in seven board
members at Europe’s top firms is a woman (13.7%). This is a slight improvement
from 11.8% in 2010. However, it would still take more than 40 years to reach a
significant gender balance (at least 40% of both sexes) at this rate.

Gender balance in top positions has been shown to contribute to better business
performance, improved competitiveness and economic gains. For example, a report
by McKinsey found that gender-balanced companies have a 56% higher operating
profit compared to male-only companies. Ernst & Young looked at the 290 largest
publicly-listed companies. They found that the earnings at companies with at least
one woman on the board were significantly higher than in those that had no female
board member.

To identify appropriate measures for addressing the persistent lack of gender
diversity in boardrooms of listed companies in Europe, the Commission launched a
public consultation today. The Commission is seeking views on possible action at EU
level, including legislative measures, to redress the gender imbalance on company
boards. The public consultation will run until 28 May 2012. Following this input, the
Commission will take a decision on further action later this year.

Today’s report on gender balance on company boards comes one year after EU
Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding challenged publicly-listed companies in
Europe to voluntarily increase the number of women in their boardrooms by signing
the ‘Women on the Board Pledge for Europe‘. By signing this Pledge, companies
commit themselves to raise female representation on their boards to 30% by 2015
and 40% by 2020. However, during the past 12 months, only 24 companies across
Europe have signed the Pledge.”

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