A report from the Council’s conclusions on gender equality in decision-making, including some encouraging but non-binding policies.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Council adopted conclusions on equality between women and men in the field of decision-making on 7 December 2015. Here the Council welcomed the report on the review of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the EU Member States: Gender Equality in Power and Decision-making, which gives an overview of women’s and men’s engagement in political, economic and social decision-making in the period from 2003 to 2014.

The Council also called on the Member States and the Commission to take certain actions on the basis of the report. All of these actions are non-legislative in nature, such as reporting and making studies, disseminating data or reviewing progress.

Member States are urged to ‘recognise the benefits of pursuing a balanced representation of women and men in political decision-making’ and promote this balanced representation, for example by introducing a ‘zipper system’ where male and female candidates appear alternately on voting lists. Public and private companies and other organisations are to pursue a more equality-friendly corporate culture, including flexible working arrangements and transparency in recruitment and promotion practices, and to encourage the involvement of top management in these efforts.

The Commission is to adopt a new strategy for gender equality after 2015, promote this strategy and report on gender equality, monitor progress, and actively pursue gender balance at all levels of decision-making within its ranks.
The fact that the list does not include any legislative initiatives or binding promises from the Member States, coupled with the fact that the Council failed to agree (yet again) on the women on boards proposal, indicates that the Council is deeply divided in matters relating to gender equality. It looks like the women on corporate boards proposal may soon face a similar fate to the maternity leave proposal, which was withdrawn earlier in 2015 by the Commission, despite the heavy lobbying that the Luxembourg Presidency did on the file. The Dutch Presidency does not mention this in its priorities.