The EU Prioritises Reducing the Gender Pay Gap

With gender inequality being so high on the EU’s list of priorities, it’s no wonder that new action is being taken to address the pay differences that exists in some of Europe’s biggest companies. The European Commission has announced that it will be taking steps to attain a “40% objective of the under-represented sex in non-executive board-member positions in publicly listed companies, with the exception of small and medium enterprises.”

Current statistics show that 85% of non executive board members and 91% of executive board members are men, which is a figure the commission would like to see greatly reduced. Under new proposals, companies whose non executive directors are 60% male or more would be required under legislation to prioritize women for future roles.

The Gender Pay Gap

The EU defines gender pay gap as the gross hourly earnings of women and men across the whole economy. According to Eurostat, as of 2008, the pay gap was 17.5% on average across all member states, with there being substantial differences between countries. For example, Italy, Slovenia, Malta Romania, Belgium, Portugal, and Poland showed a gap of less than 10% over the whole economy, whereas Estonia and Austria had a pay gap of over 25%.

Slow Progress

Moves to achieve the EU’s goal of women making up 40% of top roles in big companies have seen a lot of opposition from some of the member states. Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden have previously blocked the move over fears the EU was taking it’s interference in domestic affairs a step too far, and other states like Hungary and Poland are opposed the this proposition for ideological reasons.

As a result of this opposition, the EU has seen that the move towards greater diversity in its top companies has progressed at a much slower rate that it had hoped. Data from recruiter Egon Zehnder shows that in the UK women made up 29% of recruits in boardrooms last year, which is only down from 32.1% in 2014.

Addressing the Inequalities

Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner for justice and gender inequality is due to publish the new proposals which it’s hoped will address the pay gap and inequalities that exist. Jourova said in a statement that “We have so much evidence that it is good for business to have diversity, to have women and men on boards. Women make up 65% of university graduates, so why don’t we use that talent and the investment?

Women have a very good talent for long-term, sensible spending [and] for crisis-solving because they can come up with proposals for negotiation and compromise. It is a necessary balance to the approach of men: attack and escape. We are addressing the member states with a strong call to look into it and change their renumeration policy in the public sector. The gender pay gap is also partly caused because women have more duties at home and take part-time jobs. And are paid less. It is a trap.”

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