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E.U. Mulls Mandatory Quotas To Close Gender Gap At Executive Level

European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on Monday.
Yves Logghe

The European Union's justice commissioner says companies have not done enough voluntarily to narrow the gender gap at the top of publicly traded European firms.

Viviane Reding said self regulation has not worked, so it may be time to consider quotas.

"I am not a great fan of quotas. However, I like the results they bring," Reding said, according to the AP. "I believe it is high time that Europe breaks the glass ceiling that continues to bar female talent from getting to the top in Europe's listed companies. I will work closely with the European Parliament and all member states to bring about change."

The AP reports that a year ago, Reding asked companies to voluntarily add more women to corporate boards, but today she said, "I regret to see that despite our calls, self-regulation so far has not brought about satisfactory results."

Over the past 12 months, adds the AP, "only 24 companies had signed a pledge to ensure that 30 percent of their board positions are held by women by 2015."

Right now, only 14 percent of the board members of Europe's biggest companies are women.

At the rate the voluntary system is working now, said Reding, it would take 40 years to achieve a "significant gender balance."

The BBC reportsthat France, Italy the Netherlands and Spain are some of the countries that have instituted quotas.

Forbes reports that Reding pointed to France, where she said a legal mandate has resulted in progress.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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