All over the EU, women are still largely outnumbered by men in positions of responsibility, and this in all areas.
Especially at the highest level, women remain substantially under-respresented in senior positions, whether it be in administration, in politics or in business. For example, in the EU member states, women on average make up 25 % of the members of parliament and 26 % of the ministers of government. And even in the European Parliament currently only 35 % of the members are women.
The situation is worst in the industry, with an average of 10 % women members of the boards of the largest EU listed companies and only 3% women member of the council of presidents.
End 2012, the European Commission proposed new legislation (COM(2012)0614) to tackle this last issue. Purpose would be to attain a 40% balance for non-executive board-member positions in publicly listed companies, with the exception of small and medium enterprises.
In view of the High Level Round Table on “Gender Equality in Parliament’s Management Positions” in the context of the International Women’s Day 2013, the EP Library selected a list of interesting publications and background information on the topic.
EU publications and websites
Women in the European Parliament: Political Posts / EP Equal Opportunities Unit, 2013
This publication shows the representation of women and men in the EP at political and level.
Women in the European Parliament / EP Equal Opportunities Unit, 2012
This annual publication shows the representation of women and men in the EP, both at political and administrative level. It also provides information on gender equality bodies and stakeholders and on policies and achievements in the field.
Database : Women and Men in Decision Making / EC, DG JUST
As a part of its commitment to promoting gender equality in decision-making, the European Commission established a database monitoring the numbers of men and women in key decision-making positions in order to provide reliable statistics that can be used to monitor the current situation and trends over time.
Gender balance in business leadership : a contribution to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth / EC, COM(2012) 615 final, 14 November 2012.
This Communication presents the state of play of women’s under-representation in business leadership positions. It highlights the main obstacles to women’s career progression and explains how a new EU legislative initiative would make change structural and irreversible.
Women in Economic Decision-Making in the EU : Progress Report / EC, DG JUST, 2012
This report shows that the number of women in company boards remains at low levels. If current trends of little progress continue, a significant gender balance of 40% will only be reached in 40 years.
Gender Quotas in Management Boards / EP, DG IPOL, Pol Dept C, 2012
The note reviews the evidence on the effectiveness of legal instruments as compared with voluntary regimes in narrowing the gender gap on corporate management boards.
The Quota-instrument : different approaches across Europe / European Commission’s Network to Promote Women in Decision-making in Politics and the Economy Working Paper, June 2011, 25 p.
Quotas in politics / Library Summaries Piotr Bakowski, October 2012
Quotas in politics may be defined as an affirmative measure which establishes a fixed percentage for the nomination or representation of a specific group. They are generally used to increase the participation of this group in decision-making positions and most often take the form of a “critical minimum”, such as 20, 30 or 40 per cent
Electoral gender quota systems and their implementation in Europe / EP, DG IPOL, Pol Dept C, 2011
In 21 of the 30 EU/EEA countries countries some type of gender quotas are in use, either legislated or voluntary party quotas. The report evaluates the effectiveness of different quota types in different electoral systems.
Women in European Politics : Time for Action / EC DG EMPL Report, 2009
This report aims to raise awareness of the extent of gender inequality in politics by analysing the current situation and investigating some of the reasons that the persistent deficit is proving so difficult to break down.
Recruitment and Equal Opportunities Systems in National, European and International Civil Services / EP, DG IPOL, Pol Dept C, 2008
After defining the civil service, their size and the proportion of women, this study offers an overview of recruitment systems and equal opportunities policies in the public administrations of the Member States of the European Union, the European institutions, the Secretariat of the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Secretariat of the Council of Europe.
Women in Europe / Fondation Robert Schuman, 2013
Statistics on Women Ministers in the 27 Governments – Women in the 27 National Parliaments (lower and single houses) – Women in the European Parliament
Women in Parliament in 2011 : The Year in Perspective / Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), 2012
This annual IPU brochure provides an overview and analysis of progress made and setbacks encountered by women in parliament further to elections and renewals held over a year.
World map : Women in Politics 2012 / Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the UN-DAW
The poster is a “snapshot” of the presence of women in the Executive and Legislative branches of Government, in January 2012.
Women and Politics : The Glass Ceiling / Irina Zamfirache, Journal Of Comparative Research In Anthropology And Sociology, vol 1, n° 1, 2010, pp. 175-185
The article follows some key dimensions in understanding the gender-role in politics: the glass ceiling, the role of the media in drawing the image of the woman politician, the gender affinity effect.
Women Matter 2012 : Making The Breakthrough / McKinsey & Company, 2012
Today, women remain underrepresented on corporate boards and executive committees. The report presents the recent work to benchmark the gender diversity programs of 235 European companies, the majority of them among the Continent’s largest.
Women on Boards in Europe : From a Snail’s Pace to a Giant Leap ? / EWL, 2012
The report assesses the current situation and progress in ten European countries. It provides a comprehensive overview of the measures adopted in recent years at national level to increase the representation of women in the boardrooms. Based on this analysis the report proposes how legislation and other policies could be made more effective – both at the EU level and at national level.
Glass Ceiling is Cracking : Self-regulation Beats Quotas / FINNCHAM, 2012
Women’s number on corporate boards increases still sharply. This can not be said about the CEO and executive management levels. But the number of women leading business operations has increased. The comparisons between Finland, Norway and Sweden are interesting and show how well the Finnish self-regulatory regime functions.
The Corporate Gender Gap 2010 / World Economic Forum, 2010
Leading companies are failing to capitalise on the talents of women in the workforce, according to this first study to cover the world’s largest employers in 20 countries and benchmark them against the gender equality policies that most companies should have in place but are in fact widely missing. It identifies the barriers women are confronted with.
Only a few women reach top positions / S. Kohaut; I. Möller, IAB Brief, 2010
Women are rarely found in top management positions of large firms. Although more women do hold positions in middle and lower management, they still do not reach a proportion that reflects their share of the workforce.
Specialised Articles and Studies
Gender Wage Gaps, ‘Sticky Floors’ and ‘Glass Ceilings’ in Europe / Louis N. Christofides, Alexandros Polycarpou, Konstantinos Vrachimis, 2013
This paper attempts to understand the gender wage gap across 26 European countries. The size varies considerably across countries, definitions of the gap, and selection-correction mechanisms.
Female representation but male rule? Elite entrenchment, gender quotas and the political glass ceiling / Olle Folke, Johanna Rickne, Center for Labor Studies Uppsala University, Working Paper Series 2012 nr 9.
The share of women in legislative assemblies has grown substantially, but there is still under-representation and it is more severe for more influential appointments. This pattern is mirrored in Swedish municipalities, for which the career developments of all 35.000 elected politicians over six election cycles are analysed to examine why women fail to rise in the political hierarchy.
The Effect of Public Sector Employment on Women’s Labour Martket Outcomes / Anghel Brindusa, Sara de la Rica, Juan J. Dolado, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 8468, July 2011
This paper addresses the role played by Public Sector (PS) employment across different OECD labour markets in explaining: (i) gender differences regarding occupational choices in either PS or private sector, and (ii) subsequent changes in female labour market outcomes.
Can Gender Parity Break the Glass Ceiling? / M. Bagues, B. Esteve-Volart. Review of Economic Studies, 2009
This paper examines whether the gender composition of recruiting committees matters. It makes use of the unique evidence provided by Spanish public examinations, where the allocation of candidates to evaluating committees is random. We find that a female (male) candidate is significantly less likely to be hired whenever she (he) is randomly assigned to a committee where the share of female (male) evaluators is relatively greater. Evidence from multiple choice tests suggests that this is due to the fact that female majority committees overestimate the quality of male candidates.
Leadership and Gender: Dilemmas in UK Public Administration / K. Miller, 2009
Within a public administration context the lack of the descriptive representation of women at senior or leadership echelons of the public service limits women’s ability to impact upon decisions and policy processes, and consequently limits the substantive representation of women in policy.
Glass Ceilings or Gendered Institutions? Mapping the Gender Regimes of Public Sector Worksites / R. Connell, In : Public Administration Review, 2006, vol 66, n°6, pp. 837-849
This essay reports on a field study of organizational gender arrangements in 10 public sector worksites in New South Wales, Australia.
The Glass Door: The Gender Composition of Newly-Hired Workers Across Hierarchical Job Levels / W. Hassnik, G. Russo, IZA – Institute for the Study of Labor, 2010
This paper examines the gender composition of the flow of new hirees along the organizational hierarchy of jobs. Findings show that women have a reduced chance to be hired at higher hierarchical levels, a phenomenon referred to as the “glass door”.
More information on the glass ceiling and the situation of women in politics, business and the administration can be found in this selection of publications from our Catalogue and from the EP Library’s intranet pages