A proposal for the imposition of a 40 percent quota for women on the boards of publicly-listed companies in the EU by 2020 was put on hold.
By Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Sofia -- 30/10/12
Under the proposal, companies could face fines if they don’t set aside 40 percent of their board seats for women by 2020. [Reuters]
A proposal to introduce a mandatory 40 percent quota for women on boards of publicly-listed companies across the EU by 2020 was pushed back on October 23rd amid questions about its legality and opposition to the plan by a number of the bloc's members.
European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso decided against putting the proposal to the vote at the EU executive arm's closed-door meeting on Tuesday to avoid its being rejected. Had that happened, the plan would have to be scrapped altogether.
The proposal was met with opposition by nine EU member states, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK.
Their authorities sent a letter to EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who drafted the legislation, acknowledging that there were an insufficient number of women on the boards of directors, but said they were against "the adoption of legally binding measures at European level."
Ginka Mashova, a spokesperson for Bulgaria's Labour and Social Policy Ministry, said the government's policy is to promote equality between men and women and oppose discrimination based on gender in recruitment.
"The imposition of quotas would not solve the problem," she told SETimes, adding that there is a need to first promote Reding's initiative within Bulgarian society in order to raise the understanding of the issue.
Reding said on Twitter she would "not give up." She said the legislation would return to the EC agenda "before the end of November."
"Across the EU, company boards are currently dominated by one gender: 86.5 percent of board members are men," Reding said.
The commissioner appealed to the bloc's largest companies last year to take measures voluntarily to increase the number of women on their boards, Nina Andreeva, Reding's spokesperson, told the Bulgarian National Radio in a recent interview.
"A year later, the number of women on company boards has increased by 2 percent only -- self-regulation proved ineffective," she said. "That is why Reding wants to [remove] the glass ceiling still preventing talented women for reaching the highest-level managing positions."
If Reding's proposal is approved and enters into force, companies that fail to fulfill the obligation to set aside 40 percent of their board seats for women by 2020 would face EU fines.
Bulgarian NGOs working in the field of gender equality "fully support Reding's initiative," Genoveva Tosheva, managing director of the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, told SETimes. "Women account for only about 11 percent of the members of the managing bodies" of the country's largest public companies, she added.
The foundation also said that women in Bulgaria constitute a majority, making up 51.3 percent of the country's population against 48.7 percent for men. Furthermore, the number of female university graduates, representing 22.3 percent of all women in the Balkan nation, is higher than that of men with tertiary education, standing at 16.7 percent of Bulgaria's male citizens.
Mihail Yanov, owner of the Sofia-based Marketing Partners Company, said he supported the idea of more women sitting on company boards in principle.
"First, women are better negotiators. They are also more open to [the problems of] the social group within which they live, or the business environment in which they operate. This is part of their nature," he told SETimes. "Given all this, a more balanced participation of men and women would be beneficial for business in general."