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Gender quotas finally on the agenda in Europe

I promote women leadership


Gender diversity programmes: successes and room for improvement

Isabella Lenarduzzi

November 19, 2012


Quotas finally on the agenda in Europe

This week we celebrate Commissioner Reding’s success in getting the proposal for a directive on gender quotas on the Boards of Directors of stock-listed companies adopted by the European Commission. We salute her tenacity, determination and courage. She commented that this has been the most difficult battle in her 40-year political career. This shows the strength of resistance to change when it comes to sharing power! Everyone agrees that quotas are a scandal, but what is scandalous is that we have to have them so that women can finally be represented on the Boards of Directors on an equal footing with men and within a reasonable timeframe. This is a first step in crossing the barriers put up by countries such as e.g. UK and Germany. All that remains now is to convince that European Parliament and the Council, which comprises heads of state from each member state of the European Union. It’s not over yet.

Some European countries (11 in total) already have legislation on quotas. That’s certainly the case in Belgium, where the number of women on the Board of Directors needs to increase from the current figure of 11% to 33% by 2018. That’s just five years to triple the number… so there’s no time to lose. But results from Norway, the first country in the world to legislate on quotas (2008), has shown that it had little impact on the number of women in executive committees. And yet, it’s at this level, the executive level, where the real power is. However, in general, the number of women in executive committees is lower than on the Board of Directors. Only Belgium has managed to achieve 11% of women in both. This table highlights the situation elsewhere in the world.


Executive committees are more important than Boards

The number of women in executive committees is the direct result of their position at the heart of a company. That’s not the case for the Board of Directors. To have a seat in the executive committee is to have carved out a successful career. So having more women at this level is a winning strategy in the field of equal opportunities but it is also the best reservoir for supplying women as board members for other companies! Half of all BEL20 companies (the index used on the Brussels stock exchange), don’t have a single woman in the executive committee.

To succeed, we need a plan of action. McKinsey leads the way in this respect by publishing 41 measures, classified in three categories: top management commitment; professional development programmes for women; and gender diversity indicators. The study “Women Matter”, which is based on European averages, was this year supplemented with more detailed analysis on nine countries, of which Belgium was one. Author, Mieke Van Oostende has answered our questions and will present the results during the Wo_Men@Work Award ceremony on the 4 December at AXA Brussels. The study reveals that only 22% of companies surveyed have implemented more than 20 initiatives (out of the 41 recommended) although the European average is 47%. What’s worse, only 13% of companies have carried out 50% of the measures identified, compared with a European average of 40%. And that’s only among those companies that replied to McKinsey. We can easily imagine that those companies not replying haven’t even started!

JUMP has used the recommendations of McKinsey to check the positioning of its services with


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het artikel over "geslachtsquota" is natuurlijk een faire maatregel tegenover vrouwen, hoewel het misschien niet zo evident is hen te incorporeren in bedrijfsstructuren als ze daar geen vragende partij voor zijn.  Dit zou wel weerslag kunnen hebben op hun motivatie binnen die structuren en uiteindelijk kunnen wegen op de resultaten van die bedrijven.

Maar los van het hoera-geroep over deze maatregel, wanneer zal men het dan eens hebben over "vaderquota" binnen de gezinsstructuur als het gaat om de zorg en de opvoeding van de kinderen?  Blijkbaar worden geen beleidsmakers gevonden, om dergelijke gender-equality stimmulerende maatregelen als voor vrouwen in bedrijfsstructuren, ook op te leggen ten gunste van vaders binnen de gezinsstructuur.