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Workplace equality is a fundamental right

Equality between men and women is a fundamental right and a core commitment of the EU. While some progress has been made towards workplace equality, equality in senior management remains elusive. Despite years of rhetoric on equality in management, the share of women in the highest decision-making bodies of larger publicly-listed companies is only 16%. Binding boardroom quotas are an important tool to realising equal representation.

No excuses for underrepresentation

There are no credible excuses for the underrepresentation of women in senior management. Some companies claim that there are not enough women with the right qualities to become board members. However, for the past decade the majority of graduates from relevant studies are women: 60% of graduate students in economy, law and business studies are women. There are more than enough high quality female candidates to be found with the right recruitment and promotion policies.

Boardroom equality makes business sense

Companies with more diverse boards are better able to adapt to changes in the market and the economy. Research has shown that profits in companies with above average number of women directors are higher. The exclusion of women from senior management also deprives European business of the potential of this large section of the workforce. Promotion also plays a crucial role in workforce motivation; de facto excluding a section of the workforce from the full promotion scale is not good for motivation.

Boardroom quotas work

Despite years of rhetoric from business, the representation of women in senior management remains unacceptably low. Self-regulation has failed, however binding targets for women on boards have proven to be successful. In countries like Norway that have introduced binding targets already, the percentage of women on boards has risen significantly; the goal of 40% has been reached there. Finland has quota of 40% for companies in the public sector, which has also been achieved. In the EU as a whole, it is only 14%.

Breaking the vicious circle

Binding targets are needed to break the vicious circle: as long as boards are mainly populated by men, they will tend to choose other men like themselves for new board positions. It is a myth that current recruitment policies are based on quality alone and that binding targets would detract from that. Binding targets will stimulate companies to seek talent in new ways and, instead of adapting the profile to the man already informally chosen from traditional networks, be more quality-based. A diverse board is far more likely choose diverse new members. Ensuring equal representation of women in top decision-making positions is essential for helping to attract female employees to all levels in a business.


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