In November 2012 the European Commission proposed a new Directive on improving gender balance among non-executive directors of listed company boards. Aiming to address the serious problem of women's under-representation in economic decision-making at the highest level, the proposed Directive would set a quantitative objective for the proportion of the under-represented sex on the boards of listed companies of 40% by 2020 (by 2018 in the case of public undertakings). This objective is not a rigid quantitative quota obligation that would result in sanctions if it is not reached. It is a procedural quota: the proposed Directive sets out a fair and transparent board selection process to be adopted until the 40% objective is achieved.

State of play

The Parliament adopted its first reading position on the proposal in November 2013. However, the Council of the EU has been unable to reach agreement on the proposal thus far. On 4 June 2015 a Progress Report was published by the Council of the EU confirming that whilst there is broad consensus among Member States in favour of the objective of the proposal, opinions continue to differ regarding the best way of achieving it. While a large number of Member States support EU-wide legislation, others continue to prefer national measures (or non-binding measures at EU level). It concluded that further work and political reflection will be required before a compromise can be reached.

For further information on the proposed Directive, see the European Commission’s June 2014 fact sheet.