Women quotas

Peter Spiegel

Viviane Reding announces her plan for female quotas on corporate boards in November

Remember EU commissioner Viviane Reding’s effort last year to get the EU to adopt 40 per cent quotas for women on corporate boards? Well, last night, in the words of one EU diplomat, it may have finally become “brain dead”.

At a meeting of employment ministers from all 27 EU members Thursday night in Luxembourg, a group of ten northern and eastern countries – including Germany, Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands – submitted a statement saying they would block the plan. Combined, diplomats said, the countries had more than enough votes to prevent it from ever seeing the light of day again. Read more

Now here is an striking quirk in European Commission recruitment: an institution dominated by men from old member states has taken a shine to women from new ones.

For all its preaching about gender equality, the Commission is conspicuously top heavy with men, particularly when it comes to policymaking jobs (so-called administrators). According to the latest Commission stats, women are outnumbered 45 per cent to 55 per cent; three out of four senior managers are men.

The situation is worse if you look at staff by nationality, especially for longstanding EU members. A meagre 23 per cent of Dutch Commission officials are female, 26 per cent of Belgians, 29 per cent of Brits and 31 per cent of Germans. In the top three civil servant ranks of the Commission, the Dutch ratio of men to women is an extraordinary 31:1.

No doubt the Commission want to see a better gender mix. But it seems the effort to improve the situation is generating some imbalances of its own. Read more

Peter Spiegel

Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, right, with France's François Hollande in Paris Monday.

And Sweden makes 11.

The letter-writing campaign over legislation due to be introduced by Viviane Reding, the EU justice commissioner, this year imposing a 40 per cent quota for women on corporate boards continues apace, with Stockholm becoming the latest in a series of governments to write to Reding and her boss, commission president José Manuel Barroso, announcing their opposition to the proposal.

For those keeping track, a UK-led group of nine member states got the ball rolling with a letter two weeks ago; the Danes followed up with one of their own the following week. France weighed in on Reding’s side last week, but the opponents have more than enough support to block the measure in the EU’s arcane legislative process.

The Swedish letter, which we have posted here, makes similar points to other opponents in that the two Swedish ministers who signed it – gender equality minister Nyamko Sabuni and enterprise minister Annie Loof – argue that while they support efforts to improve “gender balance”, their government “does not believe in legislation on quotas” to achieve it. Read more

James Fontanella-Khan

French finance minister Pierre Moscovici signed the letter to Viviane Reding from Paris.

Battlelines are being drawn between countries on a controversial European Commission draft legislation that would force public companies across the EU to reserve at least 40 per cent of their board seats for women.

As we reported yesterday, France became the first big country to come to the support of the proposal’s author, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, after a group of nine UK-led countries, which now includes Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary and the Czech Republic, weighed in against.

There are also divisions within the European Commission itself, with several men who hold key economic porfolios – including Olli Rehn (economics and monetary affairs), Michel Barnier (internal market) and Joanquin Almunia (competition) – backing Reding, while most of her female counterparts – including Neelie Kroes (digital agenda), Catherine Ashton (foreign affairs) and Connie Hedegaard (climate) – are opposed.

As is our normal practice here at Brussels Blog, we wanted to give our readers a bit more detail of the French letter we obtained. A copy of the letter, and our translation, after the jump. Read more

James Fontanella-Khan

Another day, another country opposing a nascent European Commission plan to impose a 40 per cent quota on women serving on corporate boards.

Last week, a UK-led letter to the proposal’s author, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, and her boss, commission president José Manuel Barroso, included nine countries, including the interior ministers of the Netherlands, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

This week, Denmark added its name to the list of opponents, sending its own letter to Reding. According to the letter, obtained by the Brussels Blog, Copenhagen believes more should be done to help women in business, but feels mandatory quotas are not the solution. Read more