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How to Manufacture Discrimination in the EU


24 Nov 2022


Social Europe & Jobs
Think Tank Rails Against EU for Imposing Gender Quotas on Member States

Brussels, Belgium. The new think-tank MCC Brussels delivered a swingeing critique on a new EU directive which imposes gender quotas on company boards of publicly listed companies. Passed in the EU Parliament without a vote on Tuesday 22nd November the new EU rules will force these types of companies to have at least 40% of their non-executive and 33% of director positions filled by the underrepresented sex by June 2026.


Ashley Frawley, Visiting Research Fellow at MCC Brussels and an expert on women and the family said in response to the directive,

“While gender equality may be a laudable goal, this directive side-steps the need to understand why many women do not find themselves in leadership positions. Instead, it imposes a highly undemocratic edict that the problem is now effectively ‘solved’ – EU member states must simply force their listed companies to place women in director positions. While the directive was passed with debate, this was largely a formality, as it was automatically passed. EU member states must now be made to conform or face consequences. 

More chillingly, in situations where the process for selecting candidates for appointment is made through a vote of shareholders or employees, companies must ensure that voters are informed of the quotas and the penalties for non-compliance. Not only is the EU effectively forcing companies to adopt these measures, but employees are essentially being directed on how to vote for their own leadership. The anti-democratic nature of this directive is further evidenced in its side-stepping of the fact that quotas and other affirmative action policies tend to be unpopular with the general public.”


Professor Frank Furedi, Executive Director of MCC Brussels, said:


“By seeking to eliminate gender inequalities using imposed quotas, the Parliamentary Institutions responsible for this Directive betray a profound ignorance of the causes of under-representation of women in the Board Room. Inequalities at work are a legacy of histories and traditions that cannot, and should not, be resolved by quotas that are themselves discriminatory. 


To imagine that across Europe, throughout individual countries with diverse cultures, the position of men and women in the workplace can be changed by imposing recruitment targets is an insult to national governments that are trying to tackle inequality while restoring business confidence and growth in a post-COVID, recessionary environment.


It is an insult to national parliaments and business leaders to impose this type of “gesture politics” from Brussels.”


Frawley, looking forward, warned, “These measures could lead to women’s work being devalued. Many women do not want doubt to be cast on their achievements by the presence of quotas. Indeed, the higher the level of gender equality in a country, the less support there tends to be for affirmative action policies such as this. It is further patronising to women to tell them that they need a leg up in the workplace as opposed to succeeding on their own merits.

Yet more patronising is the way that in the guise of supporting women, the real underlying causes of female under-representation are being ignored. Studies have consistently shown that women outperform men in education and the workplace until they have children. Within five years of having children, they begin to leave work or work fewer hours. Instead of focusing on childcare outside of the home, the problem is simply declared to be solved. But this is a problem that cannot be solved via edict.”


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