1 to 11 Meeting with Marina Yannakoudakis MEP

Marina Yannakoudakis – Conservative MEP for London – talked on 28th March 2014 about Women Quotas on Boardrooms during a 1:11 Meeting at BN Magazine. Mrs Yannakoudakis is a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, and Conservative Spokesman for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.

Marina Yannakoudakis MEP put forward her case for the beneficial impact of having more women in top executive positions. Stressing that greater diversity in the business world is paramount, she outlined what, in her opinion, is the best way to increase the number of women on boardrooms. Her professional experience as finance director in a small company, prior to her election to the European Parliament in 2009, was very important in explaining her view on the subject.

Mrs Yannakoudakis started by explaining what has been hitherto done at the European level to achieve this target. In 2012, a legislative proposal for introducing a mandatory 40 per cent quota of women representation on boardrooms was presented by Viviane Reding (EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship). This proposal – entailing strict sanctions for non-complying companies within a set deadline – was blocked in the College of Commissioners, before even beginning the legislative process. Learning from this experience, the Commission approved a softer version of the legislative proposal that gave individual member states more discretion over the method and targets for more women on boardrooms. Nevertheless, Mrs Yannakoudakis explained that this proposal got excessively amended by the European Parliament in the Women’s Committee, which reintroduced sanctions for non-complying companies and extended mandatory quotas to small businesses as well as PLCs. Therefore, the Council of Ministers – the legislative organ of the EU representing individual member states – refused to take the proposal any further and stopped it.

Successively, Mrs Yannakoudakis stated that quotas are not the right way forward. Firstly, quotas have proven ineffective in giving women real weight in the company’s decision-making apparatus. For instance, in Norway – where a 40 per cent quota has been enshrined into law – women have been given mostly non-executive positions on boardrooms. Secondly, they undermine those women who got on boards by merit and ability. Mrs Yannakoudakis explained how the best method to get more women in executive positions is through a voluntary approach, originating from the private sector. The 30% Club – launched by Helena Morrissey in 2010 and signing up major companies to voluntarily achieve a target of 30 per cent women on their boardrooms – was quoted as a perfect example of this approach. Moreover, Mrs Yannakoudakis placed renewed emphasis on the effectiveness of mentoring schemes.

Questions from the audience tackled a number of issues concerning this topic. It was principally asked what are the main drivers behind this objective and whether there is evidence supporting that the so-called voluntary approach is actually working. Mrs Yannakoudakis replied by underlining that pathways to help get more women on boardrooms should be modelled on their life choices, rather than driven by a one-size-fits-all approach. Additionally, she also pointed out how the Davies Report – published by the House of Lords – confirmed that the voluntary approach is actually producing significant results in its ultimate objective, although there is still a long way to go.