Men currently represent over 85 percent of all executive posts in the European Union, an imbalance some prominent women in EU institutions are trying to correct, but their efforts have run into widespread opposition.
Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, has been struggling to overcome obstacles to her draft proposal for binding gender quotas, and had to scale back the plan after lawyers in the Commission said its main tenet was unlawful.
Ms Reding had wanted to push a binding 40 per cent quota for women on company boards, enforced with sanctions. And earlier drafts of her proposal showed that she wanted a quota to be enforced by 2020.
But officials say that has now been diluted in the proposal, which was still being drafted ahead of a vote by the 27 EU commissioners later on Tuesday afternoon.
The EU’s legal service said countries cannot be obliged to reach the 40 per cent female quota, but can ensure that more is done to address gender bias on boards.
Previous drafts outlined hefty sanctions for companies which were not meeting the quota. In a recent version the size of such sanctions has been left to member states to decide.