By Ruth Marsden - 8th November 2012
Europe cannot afford to continue to waste female talent
Long overdue change can be fostered only by a gender quota law motivating the male-dominated business world to act
I am not a fan of quotas, but I like what quotas do
EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding will continue to push for a 40 per cent quota of women on company boards in the latest version of her proposed legislation, a parliament roundtable has heard.
"I am not a fan of quotas, but I like what quotas do," the Luxembourgish official said.
The roundtable, held on Wednesday, was organised by parliament's ALDE group to tackle the highly controversial issue of the use of quotas to increase the amount of women in top positions on company boards by 2020.
Reding said, "The past 100 years of self regulation have given us proof that self regulation doesn't work.
"Two-thirds of member states are at a complete standstill. The only real progress has been made in the Netherlands and France."
The EU gender quota law, which was postponed last month after a lack of consensus in the college of commissioners, is scheduled to be put back on the table next week.
Reding made it clear that certain features will remain, including a 40 per cent quota within a reasonable timeframe and application to listed companies only.
Qualifications must also be decisive criteria for candidates and the quotas will be a temporary law until the 'problem' has been solved and they aren't needed anymore, she explained.
The commissioner then went on to say that member states will play a vital role in the implementation of quotas, especially due to the fact that two thirds of EU governments had taken "no action at all".
"If we do not pave the road for them to engage, then nothing will happen," Reding warned.
"It is very important that the parliament continues their relationship with national parliaments and begin discussions."
The latest EU gender quota law is expected to be presented on November 14, which Reding hopes will secure the support it needs.
"The commission president has put this issue in the work programme for 2012, so there is not long to wait."
ALDE deputy Antonyia Parvanova, a joint host of the roundtable, congratulated Reding for putting this on the agenda.
The Bulgarian MEP said, "Long overdue change can be fostered only by a gender quota law motivating the male-dominated business world to act.
"Let's also recognise that quotas can only have an impact in combination with other measures to facilitate and support more women in senior positions in both the public and private sector."
German MEP Silvana Koch-Mehrin, also hosting, added, "There is a real need for acceleration. Even if quotas as an instrument are controversial, the outcome is convincing: Most progress towards parity on boards has been made where quota legislation has been introduced.
"Europe cannot afford to continue to waste female talent."
Norway was highlighted as an example of a country which already uses mandatory quotas.
Arni Hole, director general of the Norwegian ministry of children, equality and social inclusion, told participants, "40 per cent of the underrepresented gender has been elected to boards of governors in seven different companies. We had real numbers in place in four years.
"We have seen changes in corporate cultures and mental images of what competences and elected boards of governors should have," she added.
However, Hole went on to say that there are still disappointments in the sense that these gender balanced boards of governors did not immediately recruit and hire female CEOs.
"This will need patience and time for cultural change," she said.
Hole also argued that quotas in Norway were never seen as a "quick fix" to all aspects of gender equality or corporate life, "It was, and still is, seen as one tool in a rich tool box to increase gender equality," she added.