That feisty Viviane Reding. The relentless EU Justice Commissioner pushed forward her agenda to increase the number of women on European public company boards to 40% by 2020. The EU proposals, which met with some opposition by a few EU members, notably the UK, were softened to eliminate sanctions. The proposals were approved by the European Commission and now must go before the European Parliament and national governments before they can become law - maybe in 2014.
Here at home, when the number of women directors increases by even a single percentage point* we whoop with joy. We don't like quotas, but maybe some national clarity on diversity standards would grease the skids for quicker action. SEC commissioners, are you listening?
Of course, real change won't happen until companies make diversity a priority - and that is a slow process. According to the 2012 Board of Directors Survey by Heidrick & Struggles, Women Corporate Directors (WCD) and Harvard Business School, 46% of US directors and 57% of directors outside the US say that board diversity is not a corporate priority. Dr. Boris Groysberg, the Harvard professor who conducted the survey said that, "On many boards, creating an inclusive culture for the organization has not been a point of focus."
While quotas could catapult board diversity to the top of the corporate agenda, male and female directors alike are unenthusiastic about relying on them. However, notes Dr. Groysberg, " “although most female directors do not personally support quotas, they might view them as necessary to effect change."
Short of quotas, keeping the issue alive in the media and on the minds of stakeholders is a good way to get corporate decision makers to think seriously about the gender issue. A committed and organized effort is what's needed to effect change.