EU Plans Enforced Boardroom Gender Quotas – A Diplomatic Battle Begins

Europe’s listed companies will be forced to reserve at least 40 percent of their non-executive director board seats for women by 2020 or face fines and other sanctions under a proposal being drafted by the European Commission, revealed the Financial Times on Sept. 3rd. Although several EU countries—including France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands—have already adopted their own national quotas, such hard limits have run into fierce resistance notably by Britain and Sweden, which currently have no limits. The European Commission proposal, expected to be formally introduced next month by Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner, should be adopted through the EU’s majority voting process, which implies that the UK and Sweden will only be able to resist such compulsory measures if they are able to assemble a large enough blocking minority.

According to the draft, companies larger than 250 employees or with more than €50m in revenues would be required to report annually on the gender make-up of their boards. Those that miss the mandatory quota would be subject to administrative fines or be barred from state aid and contracts.

Ms Reding has decided to push the legislation because progress in improving gender balance on corporate boards is, in her view, too slow. Large companies have so far resisted mandatory quotas and urge Ms. Reding to put off the proposal, arguing that one-size-fits-all quotas interfere disproportionately with the freedom of companies and shareholders to organize their own affairs.

The EU has been attempting for nearly over a decade to boost the number of women in business through a series of voluntary actions. Whereas no one—not even Ms Reding—actually likes fixed quotas as compulsory legal instruments, recent cases highlight however that only countries that have adopted minimum thresholds have seen a marked improvement on gender balance on their corporate boards.

This article was written by Christophe de Callatay from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).
Celebrating Executive Women in Business and Women in the Board Room

In honor of the official American Business Women's Day on September 22nd, BlueSteps has launched an Executive Women in Business Initiative throughout the month of September. We will be featuring podcasts, interviews and more with female executives and executive search consultants throughout the month. In addition, we are offering 25% off BlueSteps Membership to all female executives throughout the month.

Learn more >>

Are you interested in being considered for a board of directors position?

Indicate your interest in your BlueSteps profile. Choose "Board Director" under career target. Update your profile now >>

Be visible to retained executive search consultants at the world's top retained executive search firms.

As a member of BlueSteps, your career details will be confidentially provided to hundreds of the world’s leading retained executive search firms in over 75 countries.  Benefits include:

•    Confidentially increase your visibility to top executive recruiters
•    Build stronger connections using a fully searchable directory
     of executive search consultants who are AESC members
•    Explore executive job opportunities being filled by
     AESC member executive search firms
•    Elevate your personal brand
•    Plan your executive career management strategy

Click here to begin connecting with executive search firms >>


The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Connecting with Executive Search

As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to:
- Learn about executive search and how it differs from other forms of recruiting
- Discover the best ways to connect with executive search professionals
- Understand how the search process works
- Implement strategies that will help you become visible to the search community
- And more!

Download Now!

About the author

BlueSteps's picture

About BlueSteps

BlueSteps empowers executives to reach their career goals with strategic career planning.


At BlueSteps, we thoughtfully create career management solutions that are designed to help leaders advance their careers, stay on track to build a long-term career playbook, and become a strong leader. Our tools and resources will help you:
  • Advance your career with tools to keep you on track. 
  • Access insider job market intelligence from the experts.
  • Identify and network with the right recruiters.
  • Discover executive jobs and board positions not found elsewhere.
  • Connect with world class career advisors for support when you need it.

Start Owning Your Career Journey >>

Other posts by this author

Share your thoughts

Stay Connected