At the beginning of 2012 only 3.2% of executive positions in publicly listed companies in Europe were filled with women. Last year EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called for European’s largest companies to fill their executive boards with women. However, it didn’t generate the desired result. Far from it! Only 24 companies signed the “Women on the Board” pledge. This pledge aims to increase the number of women in executive positions up to 30% by 2012 and 40% by 2020. Not a single German company was among them. Now Reding wants to develop concrete proposals for a Europe-wide gender quota for large companies by summer 2012. Norway can be classified as a successful model in introducing a similar mandatory quota.
But there is already notably resistance to a legally binding quota. The German Family Minister Kristina Schroeder refuses to be dictated with the terms of the European Union although German commentators agree that there is a lack in the gender equality in the professional world. However, they are at one with Schroeder because they believe that a quota is not the best solution.
On one hand there are many points to argue against a gender quota. If the companies agree to the pledge they have to employ many women within the next 3 years which leads to a preferential treatment. Furthermore the nation has to create programs which offer women the opportunities to combine their professional life with family life. In most of the European countries these programs have not been discussed. On the other hand, companies resist on finding a fair solution to dress the balance between executive men and women. The Norwegian example shows that the balance between men and women in companies leads to an increase in transparency and a professionalization of decision-making which in turn is a gain for the companies. This process however may take a long time for companies and it is unclear if they can meet the requirements in such few years.
In conclusion, we can say that most aren’t thrilled about an implementation of quotas, but that they achieve at least the desired results. Otherwise we have to ask ourselves if it is necessary to achieve the results within such a short period time and if there are as many women who want the same kind of careers as men. The real question is, if Norway can accomplish equality within the workplace why hasn’t the rest of Europe followed?