The gender balance at the top levels of corporate Europe is changing, but not fast enough to meet the EU’s high standards for gender equality.
To help smash the glass ceiling, in 2012 the EU proposed new legislation that requires publicly listed companies with fewer than 40 percent women among non-executive directors to make appointments to those positions based on a comparative analysis of each candidates’ qualifications by applying pre-established, clear, neutrally formulated, and unambiguous criteria. Qualification and merit remain the key criteria for a job on the board. Small and medium-sized businesses—those with fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover of less than €50 million ($65 million)—would be exempt.
Regulatory pressure got the ball rolling, and the share of women on company boards has already risen to 15.8 percent in Europe, up from 13.7 percent in January 2012, according to January 2013 data. The new figure represents a 2.2 percentage point increase as compared to October 2011 and is the highest year on year change yet recorded.
To counter the misplaced perception that there are not enough qualified women to fill corporate board positions, you only need to look at the “Global Board Ready Women” list. All 8,000 women on this list fulfill stringent criteria for corporate governance (as defined by publicly listed companies), and are well qualified and ready to assume positions on boards. The European Business Schools Women on Boards Initiative has migrated this list onto an online database available for consultation by corporations and executive search companies.