Plans to step up pressure on European boardrooms to become more female-friendly were agreed during a meeting between Vice-President of the European Commission Viviane Reding and a delegation from the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels on November 5.
Chaired by EESC Vice President, Jane Morrice, the meeting was timed to coincide with the European Parliament debate on the EC's proposed Directive on Women on Boards which will take place in Strasbourg at the end of the month. All were agreed that the opportunity for real progress towards reaching gender balance at EU Board level should not be missed and the Vice President supported a proposal to convene a high-level round table of EU Executives to start the ball rolling.
"The economic and business cases for ensuring balanced representation at Board level are obvious", said Madi Sharma, representative of the Employers Group and EESC Rapporteur on the Opinion on Gender balance on Company Boards. "A meeting with top European company bosses will enable us to spell out the advantages for jobs and growth of having more women at board level and dispel the myths surrounding such things as the non-availability of well qualified female senior Executives".
As it currently stands, less than 14% of board members in the European Union are women and 96% of all Chairmen are men. There is also a big difference between EU Member States. Finland has the highest female representation at board level with 27%, according to the latest Eurobarometer figures, while Malta and Cyprus have the least with 3% and 4% respectively. The proposed EC Directive calls for a target of 40% of women taking their rightful place in the boards of publically listed companies by 2020.
The EESC delegation, which included Beatrice Ouin, from the Workers Group and Evelyne Pichenot from the Various Interests Group, gave their full backing to all efforts of the part of the EC Vice President to continue working on issues involving fair recruitment processes, increasing awareness of the EU-wide database 'Global Board Ready Women' and to make use of the EESC network in business, trade unions and others areas to support the objectives of the Women on Boards initiative.
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