Due to the blockade of some Member States in the Council, the Commission’s Directive for a Proposal to increase the women’s share on boards to 40 % has been on hold since 2012. Now, the Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, wants to get the directive off the ground again; the European Parliament supports this proposal.
Hardly any progress without quotas
According to the current AK’s Frauen.Management.Report (Women.Management.Report), in 2019, on EU average only 28.8 % of board members were women. This means that the share of women has increased by 17.8 % since 2009. However, this increase is in particularly thanks to those Member States that implemented quota in recent years. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), in Member States, where no measures had been taken, only 15 % of women are represented on supervisory boards on average, which means just an increase of 3 % over the past 10 years. Hence, the urgency of a European regulation has lost nothing of its topicality and urgency.
Commissioner Dalli: “Women have waited long enough”
EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, regards quotas as a “necessary evil” to ensure gender equality in key positions. During a hearing of the European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on 21 September 2020, she reaffirmed that ending the blockade of this Directive would be one of the main objectives of her mandate. A legislative instrument would not only be the right way to ensure increased representation of women; it was also a question of good corporate governance: Studies show that companies that have women on their boards are more successful than those that do not appoint women to their board.
Parliament in favour of adopting the Directive since 2012
At the joint meeting of the Women's and Legal Affairs Committee on September 21, 2020, there was little understanding across most political groups for the continuing standstill. MEP Lara Wolters (S&D) remarked that Parliament already had done its homework way back in 2012. Based on the initiative of MEP Evelyn Regner (S&D), the subject of “Women on Boards” was put on the agenda of the European Parliament Plenary and discussed with Michael Roth as representative of the German Presidency as well as the Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, whereby the German MEP Maria Noichl (S&D) spoke of the “elephant in the room”: Germany itself had so far blocked the Directive; the MEP urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to take the brakes off at last.
Germany – Blocker and mediator at the same time?
Germany now has the opportunity to switch position and to prove an interest in gender justice. The German Europe Minister Michael Roth emphasised during the plenary session that he was representing the Council and not the German government which is split over the issue. He attributed an intermediary role to Germany and agreed that such a regulation was necessary to increase the women’s share.
The last attempt to extricate the Commission’s Directive proposal from the Council blockage through bilateral discussions had taken place under the Rumanian Presidency 2019 but had not been crowned with success. One can only hope that Helena Dalli’s initiative and the tailwind from the European Parliament, which had been sustained for years – as well as a Germany switching position – will mean that the Directive will be adopted at last.