In the context of the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020–2025, the EU Parliament has adopted a new directive aiming to close the gender gap on corporate boards of large (the “Directive”), with listed EU companies imposing at the same time the obligation for transparent assessment procedures on the basis of the candidates’ merits, irrespective of their gender.
Pursuant to the said Directive, Member States must set an objective to ensure that at least 40% of non-executive director positions at listed companies are held by members of the underrepresented sex. If Member States choose to apply the new rules to both executive and non-executive directors, the target would be 33% of all director positions.
Listed companies that are not subject to this latter objective, must set individual quantitative objectives with a view to improving the gender balance among executive directors. Also, Member States must ensure that listed companies which do not achieve the objectives referred to above (40% and 33% respectively), as applicable, adjust the process for selecting candidates for appointment or election to director positions. Hence, if the targets set are not being met, companies will need to explain how they intend to meet these objectives.
To ensure compliance with the requirements of the Directive, listed companies will be obliged to provide information, once a year, regarding their respective boards’ gender representation and measures being undertaken to achieve the applicable quotas. On the basis of the information provided by the listed companies, a list of those companies satisfying either of the Directive’s requirements (executive, non-executive directors, all directors) annually will be published by each Member State.
The Directive exempts from its application SMEs, i.e. companies that employ fewer than 250 persons and have either an annual turnover not exceeding EUR 50 million or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding EUR 43 million.
Finally, Member States are required to implement “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” penalties for infringements by listed companies. Τhe Directive further obliges Member States to ensure that in the performance of public contracts and concessions, listed companies comply with applicable obligations relating to social and labour law in accordance with the applicable EU law.
The Member States must adopt and publish the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive by 28 December 2024.
Listed companies in the EU must meet the targets set above by 30 June 2026.
Generally, Cyprus enhanced its position in the gender equality field (there has been an increase in women actively involved in politics) having of course considerable room for improvement while laying solid foundations at a socio-political level. Cyprus has adopted a National Action Plan on Gender Equality 2019 – 2023 setting various measures aiming the promotion of equal participation in decision-making. It remains now to be seen how the Directive’s provisions will be implemented at national level, undoubtedly bringing about a positive effect for the country’s economy and a safeguard of equal labour opportunities especially for women’s employment in the companies concerned.