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The gender pay gap has been with us for a long time. Similarly the lack of women in the boardrooms and management of top companies is no longer hot news. Now a wealth of information from many EU countries has at least pointed to a better future for women in the workplace even as the effects of the current economic crisis are making things worse.
NORWAY STARTED THE BALL ROLLING but now an ever-growing list of countries are joining the ranks of those in favour of quotas for women in top management. The Nordic state’s 40% minimum ensures that neither men nor women can be over-represented on boards of directors and applies to all plcs and public sector bodies. While some EU Member States, notably Germany, still seem set against legal quotas, countries such as France and Spain have already followed with similar legislation while next-door neighbours the Netherlands and Belgium have taken different approaches.The Belgian House of Representatives recently passed a law to force public bodies and stock exchange listed companies to increase the proportion of women on their boards to one third. Larger companies will have six years to reach the target and small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are given eight years. The method prescribed for achieving this is quite novel as the law envisages that as each director leaves, the company will replace him with a woman until the 33% mark is reached. Sanctions for those that do not achieve the quota in time will be the loss of all benefits for directors followed by the replacement of the entire board if the position is the same after a further year. Over the border, the Netherlands government has stuck to the voluntary approach in requiring 30% of boards of management and supervisory bodies to be female by 2016. They have adopted the ‘comply or explain’ principle which means that the annual reports of firms will have to give reasons if the target is not hit in time.
improvement from the currrent 10% by next year then binding
legislation would be brought forward. EU fundamental rights
commissioner Viviane Reding agreed, ’If there has not been credible
progress by March 2012, I stand ready to take the necessary legislative
steps at EU level’, she said.
Outnumbered? Commissioner Reding wants to even things up
Although there has already been some
progress in recruiting women executives (see issue 49) through such
schemes as the ‘Talent to the Top’ foundation, today only 8% of all
managers in the country are female.