© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Speaks After Meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, January 7, 2022 Michel Euler / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo
(Reuters) – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will take a new impetus in boosting women’s representation on company boards, trying to unblock a quota law for women that has stalled since 2012.
“It is time to move forward with this dossier,” von der Leyen, the first woman to head the Brussels-based EU executive, told the Financial Times on Wednesday.
“It’s been on the shelf for 10 years, but there’s been a lot of movement and learning in those 10 years.”
Von der Leyen said there was “incredible” evidence that companies with a diversity board were more successful, and the introduction of legal requirements accelerated the pace of progress toward gender balance.
Nevertheless, gender equality initiatives in the EU have previously stalled, including a 2012 bill calling on listed companies to fill at least 40% of their seats on non-CEO boards for women.
Some EU countries have refused to adopt the goal as law, including Germany and some Nordic and Baltic countries.
Von der Leyen told the FT that she was ready to work with France to boost the proposed directive during the six-month EU presidency, and that she hoped Berlin would drop its opposition now that a new government has been formed.
EU lawmakers should work to resolve the directive in the first half of the year, if possible, and an agreement could “definitely” be reached at some point in 2022, von der Leyen said.
The directive does not prescribe sanctions, leaving them to member states and will not apply to small and medium-sized or unlisted companies, according to the Financial Times.
France currently has the strongest representation of women on the boards of the largest listed companies with 45%, according to the report, compared to an average of 30% for the EU as a whole.
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