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Under-represented? Ask Daddy for help! – EU Gender Parity

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It’s been more than five decades since you and I have equal rights. It is since 1957 that women and men have equal rights that come as one of the founding values of the European Union. And yet, in 2015 we are still struggling and we are crafting Directives, using them as incentives in the male-dominated world that ‘hey, don’t you know we are equal?’ ‘Come on, let us be equal.’

In 2012, Viviane REDING, former Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security proposed a Directive on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges and related measures. Why on that particular niche, I am not sure. None the less, thank you, Viviane, for acting.

She was working under the Barroso II Commission, and yes she was representing the under-represented; aka women. I am sure her demands were not paved with red velvet as she herself was manoeuvring as under-represented; being one of the nine women who got a chance to “send that elevator back”.

When she called for some actions, Europe looked miserable with barely 13.7% of corporate seats in the largest listed companies held by women. It seems that the preceding Council Recommendations in 1984 and 1996 just did not bring the results. Nobody listened to Daddy!

With a sluggish 0.6% increase, the continent’s women were yearning for help. Even if we did so more quietly than the women of the suffragette. We hoped long enough that Adam Smiths’ invisible hand will self-regulate the market, and men and women will find the equilibrium point for equality; just like that.

But only it did not happen. Daddy’s recommendation was not enough, and the different Members States acted with different policies or the lack of them thereof. Discrepancies took over the attempts for harmonization.

Hearing of Viviane Reding, Luxembourg's Vice President designate of the EC in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship before the EP Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, the EP Legal Affairs Committee and the Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee
“We need both genders on board to make a difference”

Viviane saw the importance of publicly listed companies and pushed for a quantified objective of reaching a 40% representation of women among the non-executive directors at these organizations.

I don’t know what to say: ‘thank you’, or ‘seriously‘!? The Articles 2 and 3(3) of TEU are clear: we are equal. And today, in 2015, we still need Daddy to make an order. But the kids just don’t wanna listen, do they?

Some do better than others. This is how we can reach a mediocre 20.2% women presence at the higher seats at the targeted companies.

Today, Viviane’s Directive however is still not sealed. But you know how it is, it takes time to educate the children. Some Member States – but let’s just name them: Denmark, Hungary, Estonia, Croatia, the Netherlands, the UK, and Sweden,- are still showing reservation on the Commission’s proposal.

The outgoing Luxembourg Presidency gave it a good try. Six months ago, it set gender equality among its top priorities and tried to keep it on the agenda. But someone needed more time to digest a proposal that is on the table for three years now, and that should be off from the table for the last 57 years already. So the directive that falls under an ordinary legislative procedure, giving weight to the European Parliament, just did not make it through.

The latest publication from 30 November 2015 by the Council of the European Union is where the incoming Presidency, Netherlands, can take over. And we can only hope that they will keep it on the agenda and that the new year brings some more ambitious news!

Until then, here is where we stand – read the the full Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges and related measures.

Virág Gulyás is the founder of MissCareer/Less, a startup dedicated to women who embrace change, and works as a freelance creative project manager. As a former ballet dancer, she faced the challenges of what it means to change a career and start a new life in a culture where success is defined in linear terms. She believes that raw, honest storytelling is the new generation of women empowerment. Virág is an author, speaker and develops workshops to empower women and young (un)employed people.

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