US business lobbies press for laws on boardroom diversity

Greek companies will soon be mandated to meet a 25% female quota on their boards following a landmark decision for gender diversity.

The quota requirement has been included as an amendment to the bill transposing the EU Shareholder Rights Directive II (SRD II) into Greek law, and is the result of a consultation led by a group of academics specialising in corporate governance.

The academic group includes Professor Konstantinos Sergakis of the University of Glasgow, who posted details of the development on LinkedIn. He said he was “delighted and honoured our consultation response has led to amendments to the final version of the Greek Bill”.

He added: “[We are] happy to engage further with market actors in Greece to inculcate a meaningful compliance agenda with the new legislative framework.”

With its second phase to come into force on 3 September 2020, the Shareholder Rights Directive has been designed to improve corporate governance as well as encouraging shareholder engagement and better standards of transparency.

Overall, the directive is designed to encourage companies away from short-termism, focusing on areas such as director remuneration. However, the Greek amendment marks the first time it has been used to tackle the EU’s poor record on gender diversity at a board level.

According to the European Commission’s 2019 report on equality between men and women, since 2015, progress on corporate gender inclusivity has stalled. As of October 2018, the proportion of women on the boards of the EU’s biggest companies was only 26.7%.

Within this, France was the only EU member state with at least 40% female representation at board-level, while women account for less than a third of board-level positions in Italy, Sweden, Finland and Germany.

According to the same data, women made up less than 10% of board members in Greece.

However, the EU has become increasingly vocal on the subject and in March 2020 announced it was revisiting a 2012 directive that would make 40% female quotas on non-executive boards mandatory for European-listed companies.

As part of a new five-year strategy to tackle gender equality in all EU member states, the directive would also include potential fines for companies failing to meet the quota.

Last Updated: 9 July 2020
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