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The goal? Get more women into senior positions in corporate companies
The European Union has agreed binding targets for boardroom gender equality in a bid to get more women into senior positions.
Norway did it first with legislation in 2005 and it proved a success – women directors went from 5 per cent to 40 per cent in just seven years. And now, (many) years later the rest of Europe is following suit.
From 30 June 2026 large companies operating in the 27 EU member countries will have to ensure a share of 40 per cent of the “underrepresented sex” – usually women – among non-executive directors.
In cases where candidates are equally qualified for a post, priority will go to the candidate of the underrepresented sex.
Listed companies will be required to provide annual information about the gender representation on their boards and, if the gender equality objectives have not been met, outline how they plan to attain them.
The EU’s proposal includes penalties for companies that fail to comply with selection obligations. These could include fines, as well as companies having their selection of board directors annulled by a judicial body.
Last year, EU data showed women occupied 30.6 per cent of boardroom positions, but this varied widely country by country. France, which has a 40 per cent women-on-boards quota, was the only EU country to exceed that threshold with more than 45 per cent.
Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Germany were the next best in class, with between 36 and 38.8 per cent of women in the boardroom. Falling short was Hungary, Estonia and Cyprus, where fewer than one in 10 non-executive directors were women.
“Diversity is not only a matter of fairness. It also drives growth and innovation. The business case for having more women in leadership is clear,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
“There are plenty of women qualified for top jobs: they should be able to get them”.
This is a positive next step for gender equality and we look forward to seeing more women bring their insights, wisdom and knowledge to the boardrooms.