Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

E.U. Considers Sanctions to Get Boardroom Equality

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

E.U. Considers Sanctions to Get Boardroom Equality

Article excerpt

The proposal comes after the European Union justice commissioner said earlier this year that self-regulation had failed to accelerate gender equality in corporate boardrooms.

Companies that allocate fewer than 40 percent of seats on supervisory boards to women could face serious sanctions later this decade, under a proposal by Viviane Reding, the European Union justice commissioner.

Ms. Reding, who made the proposal Monday, has long campaigned for major changes in European boardrooms, and last year she gave corporations a final opportunity to improve their record on placing women in top management.

In March, she said that self-regulation had failed and that legislation would be required to accelerate gender equality in many of the most senior areas of business life.

If approved by her colleagues at the European Commission in the coming weeks, Ms. Reding's proposal would require state-owned companies to name women to 40 percent of the seats on supervisory boards by 2018, according to a summary of the draft proposal seen by the International Herald Tribune.

Publicly listed companies would face a deadline of 2020 to hit the same target.

The legislation would still need approval from the governments of the Union's 27 members and the European Parliament, and some powerful sections of industry have continued to warn against a system of mandatory quotas.

"Big divergences among sectors and national traditions mean any measures must remain voluntary," said Kimberley Lansford, a senior policy adviser at the European Round Table of Industrialists, a forum for the chairmen and chief executives of major corporations.

Some major technology and manufacturing companies have been particularly wary about placing constraints on the gender of board members, partly because of the relative paucity of women, compared with men, working in those fields in certain countries. …

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