Today the European Business Schools Women on Boards Initiative is migrating their 'Global Board Ready Women' list of 8000 women into an online database. The women on this list all fulfil stringent criteria for Corporate Governance as defined by publicly listed companies and are well qualified and ready to go on boards as of today. This ever growing list of "Board Ready Women" – which will now be consultable online for corporations and for executive search companies – makes it clear that there are more than enough eminently qualified women to help lead Europe’s and the world’s corporations into the 21st century and that it is now time to shatter the glass ceiling that keeps these women from ascending to board of directors positions.

"We need to use all of our society’s talents to ensure that Europe’s economy takes off. That is why the European Commission has proposed a European law for boosting gender balance in company board rooms," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner. "I often hear the argument that there are not enough qualified women to occupy positions in the boardroom. Today European Business Schools and their colleagues around the world are shattering those myths as well as glass ceilings! The list shows that the qualified women are there – 8 000 of them. Companies should now make use of this untapped pool of talent."

The "Global Board Ready Women" searchable database list and forum will be administered by the Financial Times Non-Executive Directors’ Club on the global business platform, LinkedIn. All women listed in the Global Board Ready Women (GBRW) searchable database are suitable to be considered for publicly listed company board-level positions and meet a clear set of criteria as developed and defined over the last year and a half by the organization members of the European Business Schools/Women on Board initiative (see below).

Every application to be part of this database is formally assessed and reviewed and only those women who meet the criteria are accepted. Participating Business Schools and Professional organizations apply the same criteria for their participating Alumnae and Members.

Notably, all women on the list have at least five years’ experience in one or more of the following roles:

  • Chair and/or NED of listed/private corporations
  • CEO, COO, CFO or other C-suite exec/director level in listed/private corporations
  • Family member and controlling shareholder of boards of large family companies
  • Director of government agencies
  • Director of non-profit orgs
  • Institutional investment community senior professional
  • Professional firms senior partner serving boards and their committees as clients
  • Entrepreneur
  • Senior academics with relevant experience


In November 2012 the European Commission proposed legislation to improve gender balance on company boards based on merit and qualification. The proposed Directive sets a minimum objective of 40% by 2020 for members of the under-represented sex for non-executive members of the boards of publicly listed companies in Europe, or 2018 for listed public undertakings.

The proposal also includes, as a complementary measure, a "flexi quota": an obligation for listed companies to set themselves individual, self-regulatory targets regarding the representation of both sexes among executive directors to be met by 2020 (or 2018 in case of public undertakings).

Qualification and merit will remain the key criteria for a job on the board. The proposed Directive establishes a minimum harmonisation of corporate governance requirements, as appointment decisions will have to be based on objective qualifications criteria. Inbuilt safeguards will make sure that there is no unconditional, automatic promotion of the under-represented sex. In line with the European Court of Justice's case law on positive action, preference shall be given to the equally qualified under-represented sex, unless an objective assessment taking into account all criteria specific to the individual candidates tilts the balance in favour of the candidate of the other sex. Member States will also have to lay down appropriate and dissuasive sanctions for companies in breach of the proposed Directive.

The EU's competence to legislate in gender equality matters dates back to 1957 (see SPEECH/12/702). Council Recommendations on promoting the balanced participation of men and women in the decision-making process date back to 1984 and 1996. In addition, the European Parliament has called for legally binding quotas at EU level in several Resolutions.

A report by the Commission in March 2012 showed that, across the EU, company boards are currently dominated by one gender. There are also big differences between countries, with women making up 27% of board members in the largest Finnish companies and 26% in Latvia, but only 3% in Malta and 4% in Cyprus. Progress is only visible in countries that have introduced legally binding laws for company boards. France, which introduced a legal quota in January 2011, accounts alone for more than 40% of the total EU-wide change recorded between October 2010 and January 2012.

For more information

Downloadable video message from Vice-President Viviane Reding:

Press pack – Women on boards:

Eurobarometer survey on gender equality:

Factsheets on gender equality:

Gender Equality in the European Commission

Gender Equality in the Member States

The Legal Basis for a European initiative

The Economic rationale of Gender Legislation

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

European Commission database on women and men in decision-making: