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Gender balance in decision-making positions

Gender balance in decision-making © European Union

Across the EU, women are underrepresented in decision-making positions, particularly in politics and business, even if the situation varies between EU countries. In Autumn 2015, women accounted for 29% of members of the single or lower houses of parliaments in the EU countries.

In business leadership the situation is particularly disappointing: in October 2015, women accounted for just 22.7% of board members of the largest publicly listed companies registered in the EU countries.

The causes for the underrepresentation of women in decision-making processes and positions are multiple, complex, and call for a comprehensive approach to tackle the problem. They stem from traditional gender roles and stereotypes, the lack of support for women and men to balance care responsibilities with work and the prevalent political and corporate cultures, to name just a few.

What is the European Commission doing?

  • Ensuring the topic is on the political agenda - 'equality in decision making' is one of the priorities of the Women's Charter and of the European Commission's Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015pdf);
  • Cooperating with and supporting all stakeholders – governments, social partners, NGOs, business – in designing and implementing EU-wide activities to achieve gender balance in leadership positions;
  • Collecting, analysing and disseminating data, trends and information - the database on women and men in decision-making provides up-to-date figures;
  • Increasing awareness and promoting networking and the exchange of good practices among all stakeholders.

Gender balance in leadership

With its Strategy for Equality between Women and Men, the European Commission put the issue of women on boards high on the political agenda already in 2010. In 2011, following the publication of The Gender Balance in Business Leadership Staff Working Documentpdf(84 kB) Choose translations of the previous link , the European Commission called for credible self-regulation by companies to ensure better gender balance in companies’ supervisory boards. One year later, the Progress report on women in economic decision-making in the EU  made it clear that progress was not visible and a public consultation confirmed that further action was needed.

Women on Boards: Commission proposes 40% objective

In November 2012 the Commission proposed legislation with the aim of attaining a 40% objective of the under-represented sex in non-executive board-member positions in publicly listed companies, with the exception of small and medium enterprises. The aim of this new legislation is to accelerate progress towards a better gender balance on the corporate boards of European companies.

Further information and Press Pack

Database on women and men in decision-making

The database provides data on women and men in key decision-making positions for 34 European countries. The data covers women and men in politics, public administration, judiciary, business and finance, social partners and NGOs, environment and the media. 

Network to promote Women in Decision-making in Politics and the Economy: 2008-2012

The former European Network to promote Women in Decision-making in Politics and the Economy provided a platform at EU level for discussion of successful strategies and best practice to improve gender balance in decision-making positions. Working papers include:

Please find here all useful documents related to the gender balance in decision-making.

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