Board quotas for women? EU lawmakers set new rule for 2026

Board quotas for women? EU lawmakers set new rule for 2026

European Union

Negotiators inside the European Union have confirmed the bloc’s first-ever quota for women on corporate boards, with the aim of securing gender equal representation for 450 million people.

The “landmark” law stipulates that listed companies in all 27 EU member countries work toward 40 percent of non-executive board seats be held by women, or 33 percent of executive and non-executive roles combined by mid-2026.

The law was first deliberated on a decade ago, before stalling. But with increased support from Germany and France– each of which have implemented their own independent gender quotas in recent times— the plan gained traction again before being agreed to by member states.

“We’ve finally been able to kiss the Sleeping Beauty awake,” Lara Wolters, a Dutch socialist and a lead negotiator for the European Parliament on the matter told Reuters.

Right now, corporate board representation varies dramatically inside the EU. In Estonia for instance, just 9 percent of non-executive seats are held by women while in France it sits at more than 45 percent.

Following France, countries including Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Germany boast between 36 percent and 38 percent female participation in the boardroom but there is a lag with smaller countries like Hungary and Cyprus.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), an EU agency, says quotas have proven most effective in improving balance on boards. However, with no set penalties in place for countries unwilling or slow to comply, it remains to be known whether the policy will work.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said: “After 10 years, since the European Commission proposed this directive, it is high time we break the glass ceiling. There are plenty of women qualified for top jobs: they should be able to get them.”

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