The lack of women in top business jobs harms Europe's competitiveness and hampers economic growth and why several member states – notably Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain – have started to address the situation by adopting legislation that introduces gender quotas for company boards. Some countries, such as Denmark, Finland, Greece, Austria and Slovenia, have adopted rules on gender balance for the boards of state-owned companies.
Gender balance in top positions has been shown to contribute to improved business performance, competitiveness and economic gains. For example, a report by McKinsey found that gender-balanced companies have a 56% higher operating profit compared to male-only companies. Whilst Ernst & Young looked at the 290 largest publicly-listed companies and found that the earnings at companies with at least one woman on the board were significantly higher than in those that had no female board member.