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Illustration of 2 human figures on a seesaw, with the larger weighing one end down © iStock/Mark Stay

We want your opinion on how to get companies to appoint more women to their boards of directors. In Europe's top firms, just 1 in 7 board members is a woman.

Change at the top has been slow. Take the boards of the EU’s biggest publicly listed companies: women make up just 14% of members – compared with 12% in 2010. And only 3% of board chairs in the EU are women, about the same as 2 years ago.

Europeans agree something must be done to right this imbalance. In a recent survey , almost 9 out of 10 respondents said women should be equally represented in the top jobs in business (given equal qualifications). And about 3 in 4 favour legislation on gender balance on company boards.

Opening the door to senior positions encourages women to enter and stay in the workforce, helping to raise female employment rates and making full use of their skills.

More women in top positions would increase Europe's competitiveness. Studies by consultants McKinsey and by Ernst & Young have found that companies with a more equitable balance of men and women have higher profits.

Last year, the Commission encouraged public companies to voluntarily pledge to raise the number of women on their boards to 30% by 2015 and to 40% by 2020.

Since then only 24 companies across Europe have made the commitment to change. Now the Commission is exploring other measures and has launched a public consultation to find out if the EU can do more – including setting quotas.

France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain already have laws setting quotas for company boards. Meanwhile, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Austria and Slovenia have rules on gender balance for the boards of state-owned companies.

The consultation was launched on EU equal pay day, 5 March, which highlights the lower pay a woman receives compared to a man doing the same job.

The online consultation is open until 28 May. Comments will help the Commission develop proposals on improving gender balance on company boards, expected later this year.

More on gender equality in decision-making positions

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