Yesterday the European Parliament took a historic step forward in ensuring women’s leadership in business by urging the Commission to propose legislation including quotas by 2012 for increasing female representation in corporate management bodies of enterprises, if voluntary measures do not manage to increase the number of women.
Women currently make up 10% of directors and only 3% of CEOs at the largest listed EU companies. The Parliament voted by a very large majority to address this inequality by adopting a resolution that calls for women to make up 30% of top management in the largest listed EU companies by 2015 and 40% by 2020.
Unsurprisingly, Tory MEPs were once again shown to support the extremist ring-wing position in the Parliament, an honour previously reserved for UKIP. The 17 out of 26 Tories that bothered to turn up to the vote voted against any legislation that would ensure women take their rightful place in business leadership. They also voted against the report as a whole, showing that not only do they disagree with legislation to enforce women’s equality but they disagree with encouraging women in business leadership at all.
This just goes to show just how out of touch with real issues the Tories are. Firstly, such legislation would only come into effect when voluntary measures fail, giving businesses an opportunity to change their practices voluntarily. Secondly, not only have several countries, notably Norway, the Netherlands, France and Spain, pioneered this approach already but our own experience in the UK shows that quotas are a necessary tool for breaking down the barriers to women’s access to high power jobs. They are one of the only ways in which the masculine culture of boardrooms and politics can be forced to change. The Tories’ however have shown that they have no interest in such change, nor in having women in positions of power.
I have always been a supporter of the introduction of gender quotas and spoke in their defence on Women’s Hour yesterday morning which you can listen to here:
I wholeheartedly welcome this decision and congratulate the Parliament’s Vice-President Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou who drafted this resolution. I hope that the Parliament’s decision yesterday will lead to real changes for the women of Europe. It is shameful however, to know that so many of the MEPs Britain sends to the European Parliament only seek to block and derail the best of its work.