Berlin might drop opposition to EU plans for women’s quota on company boards

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The new German government is taking a fresh look at EU efforts to introduce a quota for women on company boards, a spokesman said, raising the chances that European legislation that has been stalled since 2012 may finally be unblocked.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that she would make a new push at boosting women’s representation on company boards.

Germany and some Nordic and Baltic states in the past resisted such a quota, arguing the matter should be settled at a national level.

“It’s time to move forward with this file,” von der Leyen, the first woman to lead the Brussels-based EU executive and an outspoken advocate of a women’s quota when she was a German government minister, told the Financial Times.

“It’s been sitting on the shelf for 10 years now, but in these 10 years there has been a lot of movement and learning.” she said, referring to a 2012 proposal calling for listed companies in the EU to fill at least 40% of their non-executive board seats with women.

Von der Leyen now hopes for the backing of the new government in Berlin and support from France, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency for the next six months.

“The balanced representation of women and men in committees is an important concern of the German government,” a German government spokesman said. “The ministries are currently looking into the legal proposal by the European Commission in order to find a common position.”

The proposed directive does not set out sanctions, leaving these to member states, and it will not apply to small, medium-sized or unlisted companies.

France currently has the strongest female representation in the boardrooms of the biggest listed companies at 45.3%, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality, against a 30.6% average for the EU as a whole.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke Writing by Sabine Siebold Editing by John Chalmers and Frances Kerry)

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