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Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

International Women's Day

© Kroll

Today we celebrate the 101st anniversary of International's Women Day. While we can be proud of more than a century of progress, this day reminds us that much work lies ahead for gender equality.

Across the EU, women are largely outnumbered by men in positions of responsibility in businesses. One year ago, I challenged publicly-listed companies in Europe to increase the number of women in their boardrooms. On 5 March I published a report showing that limited progress has been made since then. 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.

The lack of women in top jobs harms Europe's competitiveness and hampers economic growth. In most European countries, we are starting to lack talent. Today, 60% of Europe’s universities are female. Women represent an untapped pool of talent. Getting more women into the labour market can improve Europe's competitiveness and help companies.

I believe it is high time that Europe breaks the glass ceiling that continues to bar female talent from getting to the top in Europe's listed companies, which is why I have now launched a public consultation to assess whether action at EU level, including legislative measures, is needed to redress the gender imbalance on company boards.

Gender equality makes good sense for two reasons: our economies and our businesses. My message on International Women’s Day: Women really mean business.