The Power of Reding

I’m a big fan of the FT Brussels Blog. Today’s headline in particular caught my eye: “Women take over the Berlaymont.”

It outlines the growing attention around European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding’s latest crusade: increasing quotas for the percentage of women in the executive boardroom.

The European Parliament advised EU businesses last week to increase numbers of women in their boardrooms by next year or face a mandatory quota of 40% by 2020. While their recommendation is still non-binding at the moment, should voluntary efforts to increase female representation at the highest levels of EU businesses fail by next year, they encourage the European Commission to table legislation to make it binding. And here is where Commissioner Reding steps in.

As the FT points out, she has a tough job ahead. While some countries such as France, the Netherlands and Spain support binding quotas – Norway already has them – some expect the UK and others to resist. Social legislation has always been an uphill battle in Europe and this will be no exception. Yet if anyone can do it (I’m agreeing with the FT here), Viviane Reding can. You can keep track of the pledges she is collecting here.

As a colleague and I just discussed, were we policymakers, we’d be more eager for the social benefits that enable women in the workplace to come through (wide spread access to good childcare, proper maternity & paternity leave, etc). But obviously this isn’t enough.

Bottom line is, I have a general mistrust of quotas – but I more or less support any initiatives that try to even out the playing field…

But let’s open it up: what do you think?


PS – Looking forward to following what groups that regularly talk about such issues in Brussels think about the initiative, including the European Women’s Lobby and WIIS Brussels.


July 21, 2011 | 9:41 AM

The problem with quotas and positive discrimination is that they leave you suspicious. It is not only true when you want to help women, it remains a source of suspicion for coloured people or people coming from a "poor" social background. Do they actually deserve the job, or are they just here because the quota needed to be reached ? Especially when they make the mistake that even the male "blue blood" would have done ! Women are often better than men, from a working point of view. Then, do they need such quota ? And are you more valuable because you (men or women) are at the top job ? Women or men, staying home for raising kids or doing anything else they have choosen, if they bring all their faith in it, are more valuable for mankind than people seeking desperatly for spotlights.