“Gender equality is not an academic debate but a question of society”, said Viviane Reding, Member of the European Parliament and former European Commissioner, at a seminar organised by the EIB Institute. “Sixty per cent of university graduates are female”, she noted, adding “we cannot afford to lose this 25 year investment” by not giving women more opportunities in the workplace.

When she was Commissioner, Mrs Reding proposed in 2012 a European directive aiming to give women a 40% representation on the board of publicly listed companies, small and medium enterprises excepted. The European Parliament supported her. “Just  launching the debate resulted in bringing the number of women on boards from 12% to 20%” and in many Member States adopting their own law, she said.

European institutions have also increased the number of women in management positions though more at the middle management than at the top management level. The European Commission, which has 27% of women in top management positions and 37% in middle management, launched a programme to identify and promote young talented women.

Mrs Reding underlined the importance of “role models for women”, concluding “we are on the right way but with still a long way to go”.