The European commission is introducing proposals for a quota for women on company boards to change the slow progress to gender equality.
Vĕra Jourová, the commissioner for justice and gender equality, will publish proposals that prioritise women when candidates of equal merit were being considered for the same role.
Her proposal will be put into place in companies whose non-executive directors equal to more than 60 per cent male.
According to research by the recruiter Egon Zehnder, 2016 saw women make up 29 per cent of recruits to UK boards, down from 32.1 per cent in 2014.
However, the number of women on the boards of the largest listed companies across the EU has more than doubled to 22 per cent in 2015.
Women still account for only 7 per cent of board chairs and presidents and 6 per cent of chief executives in the biggest companies in the EU.
Speaking to The Guardian before the introduction of her proposals, Jourová said: “We have so much evidence that it is good for business to have diversity, to have women and men on boards.
Women [make up] 65 per cent of university graduates, so why don’t we use that talent and the investment?
“Women have a very good talent for long-term, sensible spending [and] for crisis-solving because they can come up with proposals for negotiation and compromise.
It is a necessary balance to the approach of men: attack and escape.”
Jourová told the publication she believes that discrimination plays a big factor in the full-time equivalent employment rate of 40 per cent for women and 56 per cent for men.
She said that current EU legislation is ineffective because it is not strongly enforced and suggested legislation to force listed companies to publish gender-specific statistics.
“There are no teeth [to current laws],” she said. “According to our estimates, discrimination accounts for 8-10% of the gap. There is not enough enforcement.
It must be done by labour inspectorates, and it should be captured in collective bargaining by the trade unions.”
Jourová, the Czech Republic’s representative in the commission also said she felt that gender roles are segregated, stating that typically, nurses, social services, teachers are women and are underpaid.
“The gender pay gap is also partly caused because women have more duties at home and take part-time jobs. And are paid less. It is a trap.”