Parliament calls for quotas to step up women's participation in politics and business 

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Legislation to reduce the gender pay gap and quotas to boost the numbers of women on company boards and in political bodies are among several proposals approved by Parliament on Tuesday to tackle gender inequality in the EU.

Parliament reiterates its call for new laws introducing quotas to boost female representation in corporate boards, should national measures fail to achieve this, in a resolution drafted by Sophia in't Veld (ALDE, NL), on Parliament's 2011 annual report on gender equality in the EU.

In a debate on Monday, Ms in't Veld urged Parliament and the European Commission to take tough initiatives to tackle inequality. "Spontaneously it ain't gonna happen: colleagues, it is now time to act!" she said.

In the same debate, Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, said proposals to this end may be put forward later this year. Parliament last called for such mandatory measures in a July 2011 resolution.

Corporate board quotas

To boost the numbers of women in executive positions in EU companies, the in't Veld resolution calls on the European Commission to assess national measures taken so far, and if it finds them inadequate, to table a legislative proposal to introduce quotas to step up corporate board quotas to 30% by 2015 and 40% by 2020.

Electoral quotas

Electoral quotas have been successfully introduced in France, Spain, Belgium, Slovenian, Portugal and Poland, and should therefore be considered as an option, notes the in't Veld resolution.

To ensure gender parity in political decision making, including electoral lists and top EU positions, binding measures and sanctions are needed at national and EU level, says a second resolution, drafted by Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, FI) and also voted on Tuesday.

To improve the gender balance within the EU institutions, MEPs urge national also governments to propose, after the 2014 European elections, both a woman and a man as their candidates for European Commissioner.

While 35% of MEPs are now women, average female representation across the EU's national parliaments remains unchanged at 24%. Only 23 % of ministers are women.

EU equal pay target

The gender pay gap has closed only slightly in recent years. On average, women in the EU still earn 17.5% less than men, only 12% of executives are women, and only 3% chair a board.

The in't Veld resolution calls for an EU equal pay target to reduce the gender pay gap by 10% in each EU country.. The Pietikäinen one calls for regular monitoring of measures taken, and binding corrective action where the targets set are not met. )

Paid maternity leave

MEPs also call on the Council to move forward on the Maternity Leave Directive proposal to ensure paid leave across the EU.

The resolution on the annual report on gender equality was passed with 361 votes in favour, 268 against and 70 abstentions. The resolution on women's representation in political decision making was passed with 508 votes in favour, 124 against and 49 abstentions.

Procedure: Non-legislative resolutions