Germany said on Thursday it would back an EU proposal setting a target of at least 40% non-executive members of the company’s board of directors to be women – likely ending a stalemate that lasted 10 years.
Berlin will vote in favor of the proposal in March, Anne Spiegel – the Minister for Families, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth – said in a statement on the 2012 Directive on management positions (often referred to as the “women on boards” proposal) on “improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of listed companies”, whose an updated version will be delivered to EU employment ministers at a meeting on March 14.
“The directive is a necessary step towards greater gender equality,” Spiegel said in the statement, which also included comments from Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who said “companies make better decisions and succeed better if their human resources policy reflects social reality.”
Dating from November 2012, the proposal intended “to set the objective of a minimum presence of 40% of the under-represented sex among the non-executive directors of companies listed on the stock exchange” and “to impose on companies whose share of share capital is lower under-represented sex among non-executive directors to introduce pre-established, clear, neutrally formulated and unambiguous criteria in the selection procedures for these positions in order to achieve this objective.
The European Parliament voted in favor of the Commission’s proposal by an overwhelming majority in 2013. But it never overtook member countries because several of them – including the previous German government under Angela Merkel – said that this was a matter to be dealt with at the national level. In recent years, Germany has passed its own laws aimed at increasing the number of women represented in corporate leadership positions.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had made breaking the deadlock a priority. “It’s time to move forward with this file,” she recently told the Financial Times. The French Presidency of the Council of the EU has also made the file an absolute priority on the agenda and has pushed the Germans to break the deadlock. “We have never hidden that we want to move forward on this important text on equality between women and men,” said an EU diplomat.
“The Women on Boards Directive has been shamefully blocked by the Council for more than a decade, undermining the substantial progress we could have made in this regard,” said Robert Biedroń, Chair of the Committee on women’s rights of the European Parliament. “Fortunately, for the first time in many years, we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.”
Biedroń said the Netherlands had also changed its position “and is now in favor of the directive”. So far, 18 out of 27 EU countries back the directive, Reuters reported, which is enough for it to be approved.
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), women accounted for 28% of the board members of the largest listed companies in EU countries in 2019.
France, EIGE said, “remains the only Member State with at least 40% of each gender on the combined boards of the companies covered”.
On Thursday, many MEPs welcomed the German government’s decision.
“It’s a big step forward,” said Hannah Neumann, a Green MEP from Germany. “A bit late, but finally. The change in German government unlocks many things that the conservatives have been blocking for years. »