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EU economy ‘will suffer’ without more women in top jobs

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Summary of story from EU Observer, July 13, 2011

The internal market of the European Union (EU) will suffer if companies do not put more women on their boards, the EU’s gender equality commissioner Viviane Reding said yesterday.

Reding made the claim while standing alongside Chantal Gaemperle, a board member at French luxury label LVMH, who had just signed an EU-sponsored pledge to increase the number of women in the company.

The commissioner said that in March next year she will look to see whether companies have made a ‘clear, precise and measurable evolution’ towards greater gender balance within their walls.

‘If yes, there will be no need for European legislation. If no, we will have a problem with the internal market,’ said the commissioner, explaining that major companies who work across the EU will be confronted with different national laws on women quotas (see WVoN story).

Reding’s thinking is that if there is a public procurement tender in Spain, for example, Spanish companies who already have to oblige by national quota laws will have an immediate advantage over a German company, which does not.

France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy all have national rules concerning the representation of women in business.

The commissioner wants to boost female boardroom positions to 30 per cent by 2015 and to 40 per cent by 2020.

Currently women make up 10 per cent of directors and 3 per cent of chief executive officers in the EU’s largest companies, with the number of women on corporate boards increasing by around half a percentage point per year.

To date only seven companies have signed up to the public pledge, which has been up and running since March.

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