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Women on Boards?

Gender Quotas and Positive Action under EU Equality Law

Masterarbeit 2011 68 Seiten


Even though European equality law has had a considerable impact on the law of the Member States concerning women’s rights to employment, it is still often the case that women experience a ‘glass ceiling’, which hinders their access to leadership positions in private companies. As identified by the UN Report on Women, women are on most boards of large companies, but their number still remains considerably low when compared to men. Although the Report acknowledges that in general opportunities of women with regard to employment have increased, the representation of women in leading positions is still too low. This ‘is especially notable in the largest corporations, which remain male- dominated. Of the 500 largest corporations in the world, only 13 have a female chief executive officer’. In the European Union, women hold only 11 percent of top company positions and the average proportion of women serving as chairman of the board of top companies was only 3 per cent in 2009. Among the European Union Member States, the highest percentage of women in boards can be found in Norway, which as the first country in the world introduced a women’ s quota of 40 percent for board members in 2004 by law. When quotas were proposed in 2002, the proportion of women in boards was only 6.8 percent, whereas it is now 34 percent. The success of the Norwegian example led to a political debate about female representation in leading positions throughout the Union. In September 2010, the Spanish government introduced a gender quota of 40 per cent for both, men and women to be achieved by 2015. France introduced a women’s quota for corporate boards in 2011 and other governments such as those of the Netherlands and Italy are positive about introducing similar quotas via legislation.
The reasons for the glass ceiling women still experience are manifold and involve old stereotypes, which are deeply rooted in society. It is this invisible barrier that justifies positive action measures in the first place: to remove deeply rooted social practices that interfere with the process of substantial equality in society in order to create conditions that give individuals equal access to employment. However, it would be too simplistic to argue that in equality law it is all about treating people equally. Rather, it is best resumed in the Aristotelian maxim: equality is about treating equal cases equally and unequal cases unequally. In the case of gender […]


ISBN (eBook)
946 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Universiteit Maastricht – European Law School
2011 (Oktober)
gender quota equality positive discrimination european union



Titel: Women on Boards?