Alessia Mosca MEP established this debate in the European Parliament to raise awareness of the challenges regarding the promotion of a new diversity in Europe and especially for the creation of a truly European presence of women in company boards. As the rapporteur of the EESC opinion on the topic I was invited to listen to the debate which was focussed mainly on the Italian models for better gender balance.
Patricia Toia MEP – highlighted that there is still a long way to go
Iratxe Garia Perez MEP – stated that it was time to break the male monopoly
Sylvie Goulard MEP – confirmed that it was the Fundamental Rights Charter which underpinned all the activities of the EU, and therefore gender balance in decision making is essential. Additionally she stated the EU competitiveness could be improved by increasing the number of women in the workforce, at managerial level and at company board level. So this was not an argument for improvement just for companies, but for the EU GDP.
Alessia Mosca MEP said that we need to avoid replicating the “old boys network”, we needed to be open and transparent in all cases and stop the back dorr access on key positions of influence. Education of both men and women, and especially of young girls was the key to succeeding in this objective and removing the long established stereotypes.
Giovanna Martelli , advisor to the Italian Prime Minister for Gender Equality , Monica Parrell Executive , Gender Equality Department , Presidency of the Council of Ministers and Viviane Redding, MEP and former Commissioner - highlighted that targeted objectives were needed as they now proved that where such measures had been put in place there were positive results. Countries were choosing the best models for them but overall significant changes were being made. In the case of France , the number of women on Boards had increased by 18% and in Italy by 14%. Many countries were now establishing annual quotas, with a final objective of 30% by 2016. These objectives are essential to increase transparency, ensuring a fair recruitment process and applying sanctions where the situation remained unchanged. Mrs Redding recounted the history of the Women on Boards Directive and was pleased that it had initiated change despite facing obstruction in the Council. But the fact that Germany and Italy had imposed measures nationally was a huge step forward.
Joanna Maycock , Secretary General of the European Women’s lobby said that we needed a new form of leadership , a Feminist Leadership. She said women were uncomfortable with “power” games and the traditional concepts of leadership. Now was a time for non-competitive leadership and together as women particularly we needed to strengthen the pipeline of women who were board ready and able to take up positions in the decision making process in Europe.
She also added that the EU institutions and enterprises needed a Zero Tolerance approach to sexual harassment and sexism and that the EU Women’s Lobby would be preparing a campaign in 2015 to highlight organisations who offended.
There were several other speakers who spoke on mainly the Italian model of gender equality. As the time over ran the debate had to be completed only in Italian.
Although this was not an EESC mission, this topic is of importance to the EESC and especially the work of the SOC section.
Copies: President Malosse
President Group 1
Group 1 Secretariat
SOC Section president
Brussels, 09/12/2014 (Agence Europe) - The Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU has the firm intention to win agreement on a 40% quota for women on company management boards, but nothing suggests that general guidelines can be reached by show of hand at the Employment, Social Affairs and Consumers Council (EPSCO) on Thursday 11 December, where ministers will discuss another controversial issue, maternity pay, which has been in deadlock at the Council for nearly four years.
Hard core. The Italian Presidency will have to take a hard line if a compromise is to be reached on the draft directive setting an indicative quota of 40% of women for non-executive posts on the management boards of large European companies quoted on the stock exchange. More than a dozen member states back the draft legislation, but a hard core oppose the idea of a binding quota (Denmark, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). The latter countries do not oppose the directive's aim of breaking through the glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching board level. The Czech, Austrian and Swedish delegations have not yet made their position clear. A vetoing minority is therefore not to be ruled out, but attention will focus on Germany, which initially opposed the quota, but recently introduced a quota of its own in its own country (see EUROPE 11206). Berlin has not yet informed Brussels of its negotiating stance.
Flexible compromise. The Italian Presidency will try to win round the hard core with a new compromise agreement that includes a flexibility clause to allow member states to decide on their own means for introducing equality. It also suggests delaying by three years the date on which the directive would come into force. At this stage, it is hard to say whether the Presidency's moves will pay off. It's touch and go, admitted a close source.
Maternity leave. The Presidency will also have its work cut out for it when it raises the question of maternity leave with the ministers. It has been in deadlock at the Council since 2011 (progress report), but the European Parliament decided on its position four years ago and the Commission is prepared to withdraw the draft legislation as part of it REFIT programme to reduce the legislative burden. In order to get the ball rolling, the Italian Presidency may suggest using the enhanced cooperation mechanism. (MD)