The bill would require listed companies in the 27 EU member countries to have women hold at least 40% of non-executive seats on boards, or that women hold 33% of executive and non-executive positions combined.
The proposal, which stalled a decade ago, has gained new momentum with new support from Germany and France this year.
“It looks like we’ve finally succeeded in waking up Sleeping Beauty,” Lara Wolters, a Dutch socialist and the European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the issue, told Reuters.
The issue of gender representation in the bloc of 450 million people varies widely, with Estonia having 9% of non-executive seats held by women and France over 45%. The latter has its own legal target of 40% and is the only country in the EU to exceed this target.
The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), an EU agency, said last April that these binding quotas have proven more effective in improving the balance on boards of directors. administration than countries that legislate on more flexible measures, if at all.
Overall, the representation of women on corporate boards has increased after France, Germany and Italy introduced national policies since 2010. But progress has stalled recently, with less than a third of non-executive members of the boards of the largest listed companies in the EU being women, he said.
The next round of talks, expected to be the last, between the European Parliament and the 27 EU nations begins at 13:00 GMT on Tuesday and Wolters was optimistic for a deal later in the day.
She said parliament was pushing for 2025 as the target date for meeting council quotas, up from 2027 in a previous proposal. Penalty for non-delivery was still under discussion, she said, with “naming and shaming” latecomers as a potential compromise.
Wolters said the historic agreement would set the course for the future in which large unlisted companies should also be covered, as well as the EU’s own institutions like the European Central Bank:
“It’s a foot in the door. And then, we go from there.”