Malta is at the bottom of the list having women on boards of the largest companies around the EU. With just 4% we are well below the EU average of 16%, showing little progress achieved under GonziPN in promoting women in decision-making positions, even though 60% of our University graduates are female.
Inequality continues to persist in the workplace despite women now getting more education than men in many countries. Only 14% of the seats on the EU's largest companies' boards are held by women, which is why MEPs are working on a proposal to increase the female presence.
As this Friday's International Women's Day is dedicated to how the crisis is affecting women, we talked to the two MEPs in charge of steering the proposal through Parliament: Evelyn Regner and Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou.
Why did you decide to tackle the issue of women on boards considering it affects only a small percentage of the working population?
Evelyn Regner, an Austrian member of the S&D group, said: It's high time! It's a question of justice and equal treatment. When you want the economic world to function, you shouldn't always be like horses wearing blinkers. You can't leave out half the population.
Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropo, a Greek member of the EPP group, said: It is a highly symbolic issue. If women are treated better in the lower rungs of the hierarchy, we wouldn't need special measures to get them to reach the top. The more opportunities women have, the easier they will get into boardrooms. On top of that, several studies show it will boost companies' performance.
Don't you think that requiring boards to have at least 40% women will be challenging, especially for some business sectors?
Regner: Of course, it will be challenging, but having a board with at least 30% women is needed in order to change the whole way of working, the way of looking at things. However, we should be flexible: when you have an enterprise which is producing things consumed by men and where mostly men are working, I don't think we should have a board with 30% women. But this figure gives us something to aim for, which is good.
Kratsa: I'm in favour of a concrete target. The proposal offers a realist and workable way to achieve it. In addition, we already have a database of nearly 8,000 women in Europe who have the ambition, the experience and the competences to serve on boards.
What measures does the EP need to adopt next to help bring about a more gender-balanced work environment?
Regner: We need a more balanced percentage of women in the whole structure of the enterprise and therefore we need qualification programmes for women. It's not about who's number one, but whether enterprises create opportunities for women in all positions. Sanctions are also important to make the directive effective.
Kratsa: We now need to tackle social infrastructures and how people get ahead in companies as well as find ways to reconcile work with family life in order to give more space and visibility to women and give them the credit they deserve.
On 14 November 2012, the Commission adopted a law which sets a minimum objective of 40% of the under-represented sex in non-executive board-member positions in listed companies in Europe by 2020, or 2018 for listed public undertakings.