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EU green light for gender balance targets on company boards

22 November 2022, 18:52 CET
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EU green light for gender balance targets on company boards

Office board meeting - Photo © endostock - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - By July 2026, big publicly-listed EU firms will need to increase women's presence at their helm, following the EU Parliament's formal adoption Tuesday of a law on gender balance on corporate boards.

The adoption of the so-called "Women on Boards" Directive comes ten years after the proposal was first made. It aims to introduce transparent recruitment procedures in companies, so that at least 40% of non-executive director posts or 33% of all director posts are occupied by the under-represented sex by the end of June 2026.

"We are removing one of the main hurdles for women to get the 'top jobs': informal male networks," said Parliament's co-rapporteur Evelyn Regner MEP: "From now on, competence will count more in a selection procedure than ever before, as will transparency."

In 2021, only 30.6% of board members in the EU's largest publicly listed companies were women, with significant differences among member states (from 45.3% in France to 8.5% in Cyprus). Even with increases in representation on boards, in 2022 fewer than 1 in 10 of the largest listed companies in EU countries have a woman chair or CEO.

Under the new rules, merit must remain the key criterion in selection procedures, which should be transparent. Listed companies will have to provide information about the gender representation on their boards to the competent authorities once a year and, if the objectives have not been met, how they plan to attain them. This information will be published on the company's website in an easily accessible manner.

Small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 250 employees are excluded from the scope of the directive.

Member states need to put in place rules on effective, dissuasive and proportionate penalties, such as fines, for companies that fail to comply with open and transparent appointment procedures. A judicial body could also annul the board of directors selected by the company if it breaches the principles of the Directive.

Once published in the Official Journal, the Directive will enter into force 20 days after publication and Member States will have two years to transpose its provisions into national law. They will have to ensure that companies strive to meet the 40% target for non-executive boards, or 33% for all board members, by 30 June 2026.

Further information, European Parliament

Adopted text (click on 22.11.2022)

Procedure file


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