Article about seminar “Quotas in the Boardroom”

The “European Network of Women in Leadership” reported about the seminar “Quotas in the Boardroom – A Case for EU Competitiveness” hosted by Silvana Koch-Mehrin:


Viviane Reding presents Board Quota Directive at seminar hosted by MEP Silvana Koch-Mehrin


The seminar “A Case for EU Competitiveness – Quotas in the Boardroom”, hosted by WIL member and MEP Silvana Koch-Mehrin at the European Parliament, focused on the Directive on gender quotas for non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges, as proposed by Viviane Reding,  Vice-President of the European Commission.

In her keynote speech, Commissioner Reding backed up the proposed Directive with studies commissioned by businesses, demonstrating the positive impact of women’s participation in the economy. As such, the Directive sets a minimum 40% objective of the under-represented sex in non-executive board-member positions in publicly listed companies in Europe – an objective to be met by 2020, or by 2018 for listed public undertakings. The proposal also includes, as a complementary measure, a “flexi quota”: an obligation for listed companies to set self-regulatory targets. In addition, companies will have to report annually on the progress made.

Viviane Reding took the opportunity to also endorse the Global Board Ready Women Searchable Database. This database, which now compiles over 8,000 candidates, was launched by several EU business schools in 2012 and includes the profiles of several WIL members.

Several panelists from across Europe then reported on their experiences and opinions regarding the quota from a business and institutional perspective:

Yvonne Beiertz, Partner at the headhunting firm Spencer Stuart Associates, emphasized the positive and negative aspects of today’s board recruitment strategies. On the one hand, as boards become smaller because of the current economic situation, women risk being excluded even more. On the other hand, boards have very specific needs and require fewer generalist profiles, thus making it harder to find competent candidates.  Therefore, board-ready women and men would have to prove both: their intrinsic intellectual qualities, integrity and interpersonal skills, and their financial skills and commercial acumen. In order to increase the numbers of women on board, Beiertz recommended demanding that companies comply with the standards or explain their recruitment process, to start building the executive pipeline and to focus on the intrinsic qualities of candidates, whilst being flexible on their background.

Business associations across the continent generally oppose the proposed Directive. However, associations such as the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises, represented by its Deputy Director Trine Radmann, agree that policies aimed at improving the talent pipeline are needed.

Sophia Kounenaki-Efraimoglou, Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), explained that the economic crisis is not only an opportunity to reform governance to include more women in the decision-making process, but to change the culture of business as well.

Other speakers, such as Dr. Juliane Hilf, Partner at the Cologne office of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, highlighted that European competitiveness not only depends on having more women in boardrooms, but also on utilizing the talent of those 60% female higher education graduates across the whole economy.

In order to promote equal representation in other sectors as well, Silvana Koch-Mehrin has since nominated the German initiative “ProQuote Medien” for the annual European Citizen’s Prize, which rewards individuals or groups who have particularly distinguished themselves in strengthening European integration. The nominated initiative is a non-profit association demanding a binding female quota of 30% at all management levels in all print and online media outlets, TV and radio by 2017.

Viviane Reding’s proposed Directive for women in boardrooms will be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council with a view to adopting the proposal by the end of 2013.