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European Commission weighs options to break the 'glass ceiling' for women on company boards

A European Commission report published yesterday shows that limited progress towards increasing the number of women on company boards has been achieved one year after EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called for credible self-regulatory measures (see MEMO/11/124). Just one in seven board members at Europe's top firms is a woman (13.7%). This is a slight improvement from 11.8% in 2010. However, it would still take more than 40 years to reach a significant gender balance (at least 40% of both sexes) at this rate.

Gender balance in top positions has been shown to contribute to better business performance, improved competitiveness and economic gains. For example, a report by McKinsey found that gender-balanced companies have a 56% higher operating profit compared to male-only companies. Ernst & Young looked at the 290 largest publicly-listed companies. They found that the earnings at companies with at least one woman on the board were significantly higher than in those that had no female board member.

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