womenonboards1Ambitious yet necessary is the 40% target for women on non-executive boards of publicly listed companies,  was the conclusion of the event organized by the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies and the European Parliament Office in Cyprus, in cooperation with Cyprus Federation of Business and Professional Women on “Women in Company Boards: Promotion of the EU Directive”. The event took place at the Filoxenia Conference Centre in Nicosia on the 21st February 2014.

Within this framework the event, which initiated a public dialogue with all relevant stakeholders, was launched with a video message by Vice-President of the European Parliament Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, who presented the developments leading to adoption of the Directive by the European Parliament as well as its main provisions. She stressed that the directive that was adopted by the European Parliament last November has huge symbolic value for a contemporary European society and invited the Council of the EU to meet the expectations of European citizens for a greater equality. “To achieve this balance, the main objective of the Directive is to renew the lists of candidates and to attract new talent, particularly women,” she said, noting that the 40% target by 2020 is not simply a sterile quota but foresees structural changes for more transparent recruitment procedures for the election of members of company boards, based on merit.  “A more dynamic and balanced representation of women on boards is absolutely necessary, for reasons of equality and justice on the one hand, and to ensure competitiveness in a globalized business environment on the other”, she said.

IMG_1467Alexandra Attalidou, Acting Head of the European Parliament Office in Cyprus, said in Cyprus women represent only 7.7 % of the members of boards in the largest publicly listed companies and stressed that the strengthening of participation of women in the labor market in general should be a fundamental component of efforts for economic recovery. The European Parliament is convinced that the Directive will not only improve corporate governance but will accelerate recovery of the European economy.

The loss of potential economic growth due to inadequate representation of women on boards was emphasized by Susana Pavlou, Director of the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies (MIGS), who noted that “extensive research points to the positive impact of women’s participation in company boards for the adaptability and profitability of businesses.”

IMG_1466In her intervention Kikoula Kotsapa, President of the Cyprus Federation of Business and Professional Women welcomed the Directive saying that she looks said he looks forward to advancing and applying its provisions in order to eliminate continuing discrimination and inequality against women who constitute 51% of the population and have limitless educational qualifications, talent and skills.

Louise Glennon, from the National Women’s Council of Ireland and the European Women’s Lobby, stressed during her presentation that women should not be excluded from economic decision-making and that there is extensive evidence demonstrating that companies that embrace diversity and equality yield great profits. However she stated that “Women will not appear on the boards automatically. Companies need to adopt strategic and targeted measures to achieve specific targets” she said.

Finally, Leonidas Pashalides of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce agreed that women’s participation in company boards can yield significant results, and stressed that women are responsible for a significant percentage of all consumer purchasing decisions. However, he expressed disagreement with the imposition of a quota, and believed that targets on gender equality on boards would be best achieved through self-regulation mechanisms.