In an ideal world gender equality in business would be a given, but in reality corporate boards are still dominated by men. To ensure more equal access to the top of the corporate ladder, the Parliament voted for binding rules requiring that at least 40% of non-executive boards members at EU-listed companies are women.
Companies listed on stock exchanges in the EU would have to bring in transparent recruitment procedures so that by 2020, at least 40% of their non-executive directors are women, under a draft EU directive voted by Parliament on Wednesday. MEPs propose that companies which fail to introduce such procedures should face penalties. In 2013, only 17.6% of non-executive board members of the EU's largest companies were women.
Inequality continues to persist in the workplace despite women now getting more education than men in many countries. Only 14% of the seats on the EU's largest companies' boards are held by women, which is why MEPs are working on a proposal to increase the female presence. As this Friday's International Women's Day is dedicated to how the crisis is affecting women, we talked to the two MEPs in charge of steering the proposal through Parliament: Evelyn Regner and Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou.
Gender equality has failed to reach the board room: last year women held only 15% of non-executive board seats. However, this could soon change thanks to new rules backed by MEPs on 14 October requiring companies to have boards with at least 40% women. State-owned firms will need to do so by 2018, while all EU publicly-listed private companies will have until 2020.
The crisis has made it more difficult for women to balance work and private life and close the the pay gap with men, according to nearly one third of respondents in an EU-wide survey. The Eurobarometer survey on "women and gender inequalities in the context of the crisis" was commissioned by Parliament on the occasion of International Women's Day on 8 March. Violence against women was also seen as one of the most important gender inequality issues by a third of those polled.
Lower pay, professional glass ceiling, gender-based violence: there is no lack of challenges facing women today. Mikael Gustafsson, chair of the EP's women's rights committee, talked about these issues with our Facebook fans on 7 March. He also highlighted how the crisis had affected women more than men: "Women are more likely to work in the public sector than men, which has significantly been affected by austerity measures, and secondly women are more dependent on the welfare state."
Women account for only 30% of Europe's seven million people working in the information and communication technology sector, but boosting their number will be an economic necessity. The sector creates 120,000 new jobs each year and at this rate there will be up to 700,000 unfilled ICT-related vacancies by 2015. Experts discussed how to attract more women during an EP meeting organised by the industry and women's rights committees on the occasion of Girls in ICT Day on 25 April.
It seems you still have to be a wonder woman these days to climb the corporate ladder. Women make on average €8,000 a year less than men and few of them make it all the way to the top. The economic crisis has made the situation even worse. This year's International Women's Day on 8 March is dedicated to how women have been affected by the crisis. Find out more in our infographic.