Representation of women

In 2016, women accounted for 29% of parliament members in EU countries. The number of women in business leadership is low: in April 2016, women accounted for just 23.3% of board members of the largest publicly-listed companies registered in EU countries.

The causes for the underrepresentation of women in decision-making processes and positions are multiple and complex. The main reasons are traditional gender roles and stereotypes, the lack of support for women and men to balance care responsibilities with work, and the prevalent political and corporate cultures.

What is the European Commission doing?

  • putting the topic on the political agenda – 'equality in decision making' is one of the priorities of the strategic engagement for gender equality
  • cooperating with and supporting all groups concerned (governments, social partners, NGOs, business) to design and implement EU-wide activities on gender balance in leadership positions
  • collecting, analysing and disseminating data, trends and information – see the database on women and men in decision-making below
  • increasing awareness and promoting networking and the exchange of good practices among all groups concerned

Gender balance on corporate boards

In November 2012 the European Commission proposed legislation to increase the number of women on corporate boards by 40% in publicly listed companies. 

Press pack (2012)


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