Europe Postpones Vote on Gender Quota
A proposal to require company
boards to be made up of at least 40 per cent women was set aside on 23rd October by the European Commission because of concerns
about its legality and tough opposition from across the European Union. Viviane
Reding, the European Commissioner for justice and the author of the
legislation, said the postponement would give commissioners time to consider a
Mark Gray, a spokesman for
Commission President Barroso, said the body "decided to take a little more time
so that it can reach an ambitious consensus” and that it would next meet on
Nov. 14 to discuss the legislation.
Commissioner Reding had
intended penalties like fines or the blocking of appointments if a board tilted
too heavily toward one gender. The legislation had been written so that
corporate boards that did not include at least 40 per cent men could also risk
We at COFACE are of course
eagerly following this debate. We advocate for gender equality,
and it is absurd, that more young women graduate from tertiary education than
young men, yet when it comes to the top jobs, women somehow disappear.
However, women with care
responsibilities for either young children, or ageing relatives or disabled
family members may not take on such a responsibility, because they are fully
aware how much time it will require on evenings and weekends. Therefore, we
need better reconciliation policies for all women, in any jobs, and hopefully
this along the way will tilt the balance in the right way. This is a more
bottom-up approach than what Commissioner Reding suggests, but we believe one that
could actually work.
To read one of
Commissioner Reding’s speeches on quotas, go here
Action-oriented research on men’s participation in parental and family responsibilities
was done by COFACE in partnership with the Belgian federal Institute for gender equality and in conjunction with seven COFACE members.
Women’s engagement with employed work has immediate visibility since it takes place in the public sphere. Men’s involvement in family work, by contrast, does not tie into the same social value-claiming process. Men’s performance of household and family tasks is arguably much more "revolutionary” in terms of changing established norms and values than women’s involvement in employed work.
Taking family time into account in the organisation of working time
increasingly seems to be the prerequisite for successful implementation of the gender equality principle
. For that to happen, however, the concept of reconciling work and family life needs to be rethought in universal terms, i.e., in terms that embrace both men’s and women’s wants and needs, not just those of women, as has too often been the case so far. These universal terms can only come about from balancing men’s and women’s needs and wants in terms of time for family life.
Where families specifically are concerned, men must realise that the future of equality in the family depends first and foremost on them, their commitment and ability to negotiate and socially impose the legitimacy of their presence in the home to look after and take care of their children or other dependent family members.
Lone-parent fathers who have to contend with this situation could help spearhead change in this respect.
Engineering real equality between men’s and women’s rights cannot stop short at the workplace and public sphere, however essential that may be. It must also extend to the private sphere where the family holds pride of place, failing which the existing gender inequalities will be perpetuated indefinitely.
Published on 09 Nov 2011
Updated on 30 Nov 2012