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 Tuesday, 15 October 2013
What is the report on women in leadership positions?

The Report on women and men in leadership positions in the European Union 2013 looks at the current situation and recent progress for gender balance across a range of decision-making positions in the public and private sectors, including business, financial institutions, politics, civil service and the judiciary.

The report is, as far as possible, based on quantitative analysis of the situation with the majority of data being drawn from the European Commission database on women and men in decision-making, which can be consulted online. The database includes comparable data for EU Member States from 2003 onwards. Where relevant, 2003 is therefore used as the starting point for analysis of developments through time.

What are the main conclusions on women on boards?

The most recent figures show that women account for 16.6%, or one in six, of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU-27. The highest levels of female representation on boards occurs in Finland (29.1%) and Latvia (29%), closely followed by France (26.8%) and Sweden (26.5%).

Figure 1: Representation of women and men on the boards of large listed companies, April 2013

Source: European Commission, Database on women and men in decision-making

In the six months covered by today's report on women and men in leadership positions (October 2012-April 2013), an increase in the share of women on company boards has been recorded in 20 Member States. The largest increases occurred in Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. The share of women on boards declined in Romania, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, Greece, Portugal and the UK.

Figure 2: Change in the share of women on boards by country, October 2012 - April 2013

Source: European Commission, Database on women and men in decision-making.

The latest EU-wide figure of 16.6% represents a 0.9 percentage point (pp) increase in the six months from October 2012 or an annual equivalent rate of 1.7 pp, down from the rate of 2.2 pp between 2011 and 2012.

In fact, since 2010, when the European Commission published its Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015) and first raised the prospect of targeted initiatives to address the under-representation of women in decision-making positions, the share of women on boards has risen by 4.8 pp at an average rate of 1.9 pp/year, almost four times the rate of progress from 2003 to 2010 (0.5 pp/year). This acceleration has been further fuelled by the women on boards proposal adopted by the European Commission on 14 November 2012 (IP/12/1205 and MEMO/12/860), which set a 40% objective for women on boards based on qualification. Recent developments also reflect the impact of EU-wide discussions about the need for a targeted intervention to raise the number of women on boards.

Figure 3: Share of women on the boards of large listed companies, EU-27, 2010-2013: Continuing Progress

It is important to note that the most significant developments since 2010 have largely occurred in countries where binding legislation has already been adopted, such as France (+ 14.4 pp to reach 26.8%), the Netherlands (+8.7 pp to reach 23.6%) and Italy (+8.4 pp to reach 12.9%). This further emphasises the importance of regulatory pressure for achieving tangible results.

Figure 4: Overview of some of the key drivers of progress since 2010:

Despite the progress made at board level, there are still very few large companies with a woman Chairperson or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The latest figures show that of the 587 EU companies covered by the Commission database just 26 are chaired by a woman (4.4%) and even fewer - 16 or 2.7% - have a female CEO. In just over half of EU Member States (14) no companies in the sample have a woman Chairperson and a similar number (but not the same countries) have no companies with a woman CEO

Figure 5: Share of women amongst board chairs and CEOs of large companies, April 2013

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