A major milestone for women in Europe: gender balance on corporate boards

We can celebrate all the women and men who persisted to debate, listening, advocating, writing and pushing to finally reach an agreement that will now be endorsed by the 27 countries in the EU. We congratulate all the people who fought for that since 2012. Finally, after a decade of hard lobbying, we have an EU agreement on our proposal for gender balance on corporate boards!

Currently, only 8.5% of board chairs in the EU are women. The objective of the new measures is at least 40% of non-executive directors or 33% of all board members by 2027 held by members of the under-represented gender. A great victory for companies.

The glass ceiling is a metaphor that describes the fact that a qualified person aspiring to advance within the hierarchy of his/her organization is stopped at a lower level due to discrimination most often based on sexism or racism. The glass ceiling refers thus to vertical discrimination most frequently against women in companies.

The glass ceiling represents an invisible barrier that blocks women from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy.

According to European Commission, „Europe has many highly qualified women with 60% of current university graduates being female. Nevertheless, women are underrepresented in high-level positions, including on corporate boards and the progress is very slow. Only a third of members of non-executive corporate boards are women and this is even less among executive boards. The Directive sets a target for EU companies listed on the EU stock exchanges to accelerate the reach of a better gender balance. It sets a share of 40% of the underrepresented sex among non-executive directors and 33% among all directors. These companies must ensure that board appointments procedures are clear and transparent, and that applicants are assessed objectively based on their individual merits, irrespective of gender.”

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Diversity is not only a matter of fairness. It also drives growth and innovation. The business case for having more women in leadership is clear. After ten years, since the European Commission proposed this directive, it is high time we break the glass ceiling. There are plenty of women qualified for top jobs: they should be able to get them.”

The legislation requires listed companies in all 27 EU member states to have women take up at least 40% of non-executive board seats or 33% of all board director roles by mid-2026.

There are great chances to break the glass ceiling and encourage talented women to access to companies’ boards. It is a great opportunity for the companies that embrace diversity&inclusion to grow, innovate and change the world.  

Photo: Pixabay

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