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Women on Boards Directive: landmark agreement to guarantee diversity and equality at the top


13 Jun 2022


Social Europe & Jobs

Tonight the European Parliament’s two negotiators, S&D MEPs Evelyn Regner and Lara Wolters, reached an agreement with the EU Council on the Women on Boards Directive. For over a decade, the S&D Group has led the calls for this landmark law to improve gender equality among both non-executive and executive directors of companies in the EU.

The Women on Boards Directive will introduce an open and transparent procedure to reach a minimum of 40% of women on non-executive boards of EU companies by the end of June 2026 with binding measures to achieve that goal. For member states that introduce quotas in both executive and non-executive boards, the overall minimum requirement will be 33%. Member states will also have to set up a penalty system for companies failing to comply with the rules.

Evelyn Regner MEP, the European Parliament’s negotiator on the Women on Boards Directive in the women’s rights and gender equality committee, said:

“I am incredibly happy and proud, because we the Socialists and Democrats took the lead in this important file, which will make a concrete difference for women! For too long we have been wasting women’s talent and opportunities in European business.

“This directive for more women on boards everywhere in the European Union is a major step that took us 10 years to achieve. But since I first worked on the proposal in 2012, we have progressed and now we have a directive for equal chances, fair selection processes and finally more women in the decision-making of companies! All this is only the first step of many but one that the S&Ds can be proud of.”

Lara Wolters MEP, the European Parliament’s negotiator on the Women on Boards Directive in the legal affairs committee, said:

“All the data shows that gender equality at the top of companies is not achieved by sheer luck. We also know that more diversity in boardrooms contributes to better decision-making and results. Despite years of roadblocks, I’m proud to have pushed member states to finally agree to this "women on boards" milestone that will push for progress in 27 member states at once."    

Note to editors:

Currently only 9 out of 27 member states have national legislation regarding gender equality on boards. Those member states who demonstrably already have effective national legislation would be able to suspend the measures in this directive in very specific circumstances, subject to regular review from the European Commission to ensure they are achieving the same target of 40%.

The selection procedures of companies will need to be adapted to include clear pre-determined criteria. In case there are two candidates with the same qualifications, the candidate from the under-represented sex would be selected. 

The most recent figures published in December 2021 by the European Institute for Gender Equality show that the share of women on the boards of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU has increased to 31.3%, from 11.9% in 2010. However, seven in 10 board members are still men. The gap is even bigger if we take into account just CEOs, both executive and non-executive, with 79.2% men and just 20.8% women. 

The European Commission presented the proposal back in 2012 and the European Parliament already adopted its position in 2013. After years of resistance in a conservative-dominated Council, the directive was unblocked by member states shortly after a new progressive German government was formed earlier this year.




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