14th May 2013 – Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, met with Markus Klimmer, Managing Director at Accenture, today to discuss how best to improve gender balance on company boards.

Vice-President Reding said: “Gender equality at work is not a women’s issue, but a business and economic imperative.
Today, women still only represent 16% of board members in Europe – a shocking waste of talent when you think that 60% of university graduates are female.
Making use of female talent can improve companies’ performance. A number of studies from business actors suggest that companies with a higher share of women at top levels deliver stronger organisational and financial performance.
The question is just: how to get there? The answer is simple: time-limited regulatory intervention can make all the difference. The push for gender balance on boards is aining steam. The glass ceiling is starting to crack. The increase in the share of women on boards in Europe over the past year has been the highest yet recorded. It has been greatest in countries such as France, Italy and Denmark, which have recently introduced legislation on this matter. They are the motor of change.

Markus Klimmer, Managing Director at Accenture’s said: “By 2025 Germany is expected to face a demographic gap in the labour market of 5 million people. One third of this could be filled by increasing the participation of women in the economy. Germany’s and Europe’s competitiveness critically depends on mobilising all talent available. Women’s participation in the labour market is therefore not only a women’s or an equality issue but a question of sound economic policy. This issue is too important to be left to the often arbitrary whims of men in leadership positions.

Vice-President Reding added: “The proposal for a Directive that the Commission put on the table last year to make headway on gender equality strikes a reasonable balance. It is a fair deal both for the business world and for women who have the same right to pursue careers as men.
I am happy that Mr Klimmer and more and more men in the business world are recognising the importance of gender diversity and are supporting our objective. Key players in the business world like Accenture – which already has 36% of women on their board – are setting a good example that which companies should follow.

In November 2012, the Commission proposed a Directive setting a 40% objective of the under-represented sex in non-executive board-member positions in publicly listed companies, with the exception of small and medium enterprises (IP/12/1205 and MEMO/12/860). Companies which have a lower share (less than 40%) of the underrepresented sex among the non-executive directors will be required to make appointments to those positions on the basis of a comparative analysis of the qualifications of each candidate, by applying clear, gender-neutral and unambiguous criteria. Given equal qualifications, priority shall be given to the under-represented sex. The objective of attaining at least 40% membership of the under-represented sex for the non-executive positions should thus be met by 2020 while public undertakings – over which public authorities exercise a dominant influence – will have two years less, until 2018. Although the proposal is not yet law, it is already having an effect. The share of women on boards in publicly listed companies is on the rise (see IP/13/51): women represented on average 16% of board room members in October 2012, up from 11.8% two years earlier.
The new figure represents a 2.2 percentage point increase as compared to October 2011 and is the highest year on year change yet recorded. An increase in the share of women on boards has been recorded in all but four EU countries.

Next steps: The European Parliament co-rapporteurs Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (Committee on Women’s Rights) and MEP Evelyn Regner (Committee on Legal Affairs) are expected to present their draft reports in the coming months. The Irish Presidency of the EU has scheduled a discussion at the meeting of Employment and Social Affairs ministers (EPSCO Council) on 20 June 2013.


Source: European Commission press release, 14/05/2013