The average share of women on the boards of the largest publicly listed companies across the EU has now reached 20.2%, according to European Commission figures.
This represents an increase of more than 8 percentage points since October 2010, when the European Commission first put the issue of women on boards high on the political agenda.There are only four countries – France, Latvia, Finland and Sweden – in which women account for at least a quarter of board members. The UK share of women on boards is 24.2% which puts it in seventh place, with France leading with 32.4%
The EU says just three in one hundred (3.3%) of the largest listed companies in Europe have a woman CEO (Chief Executive Officer). Despite some progress in boardrooms, the level of female representation in the top executive position has hardly changed over the past three years, it states.
With its Strategy for Equality between Women and Men, the European Commission put the issue of women on boards high on the political agenda in 2010. In 2011 it called for credible self-regulation by companies to ensure better gender balance in companies’ supervisory boards. It says by 2012 it became clear that progress was not visible and in November 2012 the Commission put forward a legislative initiative aiming to accelerate the progress towards a more balanced representation of women and men on boards of listed companies. The proposal, which has since been agreed, establishes an objective for a minimum of 40% of each sex amongst non-executive directors by 2020. If a company does not reach this threshold, it will have to apply clear and gender-neutral selection criteria in the selection process. In case of equal qualification, priority will have to be given to the candidate of the underrepresented sex.
The EC says the increased focus on women on boards has worked, but it wants to increase the rate of change. From 2003 to 2010 the share of women on boards rose from 8.5% to 11.9%, but since October 2010, the share has risen at four times the previous rate of change.
From October 2010 to October 2014 the share of women on boards increased in 23 of the 28 Member States. The largest percentage point increases were recorded in France, Belgium, Germany, the UK and Slovenia. The EC says most of the significant improvements took place in countries that have taken or considered legislative action or had an intensive public debate on the issue.