European Union Equivocates on Gender Equality

In summary, one could say that it was one step forward, one step sideways during European Union meetings in Brussels recently. The week of October 15 saw meetings at the EU celebrating SME Week, and at least one positive outcome of note – the signing of an agreement between the EU and UN Women to launch a joint regional program for women’s empowerment in North Africa, Spring Forward for Women. (In photo below, UN Woman Deputy Executive Director John Hendra (left) and European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Füle (right) sign the agreement).

They also issued a warm and fuzzy news release calling for a higher level of women’s entrepreneurship and job creation, and calling attention to their Women’s Entrepreneurship Ambassador program (a wonderful example that should be emulated elsewhere, in my view).

However, the news coming out of that week was a retreat from a proposal to impose a 40% quota on female representation on the boards of publicly-traded companies in Europe. The proposal has (quelle suprise!) encountered resistance from some governments, and certainly from the corporations themselves. The vote has been postponed, and may be watered down to a lower level or to voluntary targets.

Change is never easy, even when the results (as research has shown) will be better decision-making, higher employee retention, and higher profits and investor ROI.

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