Getting Women to the Top - Europe Takes Action
European Justice Minister Viviane Reding clearly thinks it’s time to prove that she means business. She wants to see the number of women on corporate boards in Europe rise to 40 percent by 2020. And in October, she intends to introduce draft legislation to achieve this goal.
If all 27 EU member states agree to the quota, companies could face such measures as fines, or the loss of state subsidies, if they do not correct the gender imbalance on their boards. Up to now, only Norway, France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands have introduced a quota to help women break glass ceilings. In Europe’s economic powerhouse Germany, women remain clearly under represented at executive level. Family Affairs Minister Kristina Schröder is in favor of a voluntary system, but fellow cabinet member Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen backs the EU’s more forthright approach. She also believes that a compulsory quota makes sound business sense. She says that if European nations want to remain competitive, then that’s only possible with more women in top positions.
Some companies are panicking in the face of political pressure from Brussels. Reding’s move is raising lots of questions. If firms have to appoint more women to top jobs in the next few years, what will happen to the ambitious men? Will they be discriminated against as a result? And shouldn’t jobs go to the best candidates irrespective of gender? They are also asking whether politicians should really be able to interfere in business matters to that extent. And some critics are sceptical whether sanctions of this kind can really break the male stranglehold on European boards.
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Christiane Meier- began her career in journalism in northern Germany working for several local broadcasters. She later made the move to Bonn before crossing the Atlantic in 2000 to take up a post with the German public channel "ARD", at its Washington bureau. Ms Meier returned to Germany in 2007 and is still working for "ARD". She is now based in Berlin where she is responsible for foreign affairs, the chancellor, the Greens as well as environmental issues.
Jonna van Kalker– the Dutch economist studied International Management in the Netherlands and Australia. She is interested in the issue of work productivity and gender. Van Kalker works and lives in Berlin.
Hildegard Stausberg- is a journalist who has been writing mainly about Latin American issues for the German daily “Die Welt” since 1999. Her career began at another German daily, the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, where she was the paper’s Mexico correspondent from 1988 to 1993. Stausberg worked for Deutsche Welle radio from 1993 to 1999.