The EU is getting very serious about it: it wants more women in top decision-making jobs. Many more. It recently launched ambitious five year targets. Viviane Reding, the Luxembourg commissioner for Justice (and Equal Rights) wants the number of women in board rooms of big companies to triple. Right now in Europe only ten percent of boards of directors are female. In the USA it is 25 percent.
Viviane Reding is a tough cookie. She said recently that she is prepared to enforce quotas if companies don’t move voluntarily. In her previous role she showed that she means business: as the EU commissioner for telecom and information technology she slashed the roaming rates of mobile phone companies when they ignored her ‘invitation’ to cut them down themselves. So, we might be in for some fire works by the end of this year. That is the deadline that Viviane Reding has given the big companies.
Quotas have long been a contentious subject. But in Europe the mood is quickly changing. Sixty percent of the university students are female. Without quotas it will take over half a century to close the gender gap in top jobs. The French parliament passed a quota law last month. Germany recently adopted gender quotas and Spain did so three years ago. How tough can it get? Well, in Norway companies got an ultimatum of two years to get forty percent of women on their boards. If you fail to do so, your company faces dissolution. This only applies to big publicly traded companies.
Reding points out there is a carrot. A recent Finnish study shows that firms with gender balanced boards are on average 10 percent more profitable than those with all-male boards.
What do you think about big companies imposing gender quotas?