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Achieving gender balance in decision-making

Women in the EU make up more than half of the population and yet they continue to be under-represented in decision-making positions in all fields.

Women and men in political decision-making

Women are still significantly under-represented in decision-making positions in all fields. On average across the EU, women account for 33% of members of national parliaments. This means that still two thirds of members of Parliament are men and progress is slow and uneven. Women represent 32% of senior ministers in Member State governments and only 26% of leaders of major political parties.

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Cartoon view inside a box with two floors. On the upper floor there are two well-seuited men shaking hands. On the floor beneath are several women in line on some stairs trying to climb up. The two floors are separated by a glass ceiling.

Women and men in economic decision-making

Women’s progress in corporate leadership has gradually increased but the top jobs are still largely occupied by men. Around 30% of board members of the EU’s largest publicly listed companies are women. Women still only hold less than 1 in 10 board chair and chief executive officer positions (respectively 8.5% and 7.8% in October 2021). The most significant improvement is observed in countries that have taken legislative measures to increase gender balance on boards.

 Find more statistics.

 

What could be done to achieve gender balance?

The under-representation of women in decision-making is a very broad and multifaceted issue. It needs to be placed in the context of a number of policy efforts aimed at improving gender equality. This includes policies to increase the employment rate of women, to reduce the gender pay gap, to tackle gender segregation in education and employment and to tackle non-transparent nomination and promotion schemes still prevalent in political and corporate cultures.

Moreover, it is necessary to promote family-friendly policies, to support a more equal distribution of caring and domestic responsibilities, to improve the work-life balance for both women and men and to overcome gender stereotypes. Measures should be implemented to eliminate individual, organisational and social obstacles to women’s representation in leadership positions.

Men occupy the vast majority of leadership positions. They are the ‘gatekeepers’ to the positions of power. Engagement of male senior leaders is one of the driving forces for change. This applies both in politics and in the corporate world.

See more on Work-life balance

See more on measures to address the gender pay gap

See more on Gender balance in decision-making

Proposal for a directive on gender balance in corporate boards

 

Documents

7 DECEMBER 2015
Council Conclusions of 7 December 2015 on equality between women and men in the field of decision-making
English
(HTML)
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6 MARCH 2018
Factsheet: What Europeans have to say about women & politics
English
(203.68 KB - PDF)
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5 FEBRUARY 2018
2017 - Opinion of the Commission’s Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men on Gender Balance in Decision-making in Politics
English
(442.2 KB - PDF)
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