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Le blog de Zita

Why is binding legislation on gender quotas for executive boards necessary?

In last week’s blog, I asked whether EU Commissioner Viviane Reding is in favour of gender quotas for executive boards. I had high hopes, but the meeting of the EPSCO Council which took place on 17 February 2012 proved the EU is far from achieving European legislation on the issue.


Mrs. Reding presented the outcomes of the pledge she launched one year ago on her webpage and admitted that ‘the results were not entirely those she had hoped for’ but she also asserted that ‘mindsets have changed’. But does this mean she is ready to take this forward, considering that most Member States tend to believe in self-regulation? Or will Commissioner Reding bow to the Member States acknowledgement the need for greater representation of women on boards?

I am still a firm believer in the Norwegian success of boarding measures. In 2003, Norway introduced non-binding legislation to reach 40% of women on boards by 2005. But, in 2005 there were only 15% women on boards as compared to a little bit less than 10% when the law was introduced. That is why in 2005, when the Labour Party was back in power, the government decided to pass a binding law to reach the threshold of 40% of women on boards. The result has been reached, because the government actively pursued companies who failed to reach the target. This law is no longer controversial in Norway. This Norwegian situation clearly shows that thanks to quotas, women are able to reach the highest decision-making levels on their own merit and to overcome unequal competition with their male counterparts, who benefit from historical and traditional advantages.

While this question of democracy, equality and justice should be dealt with urgently, let us not forget the current unemployment situation in the European Union, especially for young people. As long as women cannot access the labour market, it is pointless to focus only on their representation in high level positions.

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