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Explainer: Von der Leyen's push for more women in boardrooms

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Remember this awkward moment?

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was relegated to the sofa…

while European Council President Charles Michel and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan took the only available seats.

It was a snub rooted in sexism, she said.

"Would this have happened if I had worn a suit and a tie?

Now, von der Leyen is making a renewed push at boosting women's representation on company boards,

by working to unblock European legislation for a women's quota that has been stuck since 2012.

Let's take a look at the proposed legislation and the state of play in the bloc regarding gender balance in top corporate positions.

So, what’s the proposed legislation?

Back in 2012, the European Union's executive proposed that listed companies with more than 250 employees must fill at least 40% of non-executive board seats with women.

The target would be reached by giving priority to the candidate of the under-represented sex when equally qualified people apply for the same job.

Companies missing the quota would have to explain why…and spell out what steps they will take to meet the target.

The proposed directive would affect some 2,300 companies in the EU, according to estimates.

The EU lead by example in 2019 when Von der Leyen bagged the top job

and France's Christine Lagarde became President of the European Central Bank.

(Donald Tusk) "We have chosen two women and two men for the four key positions - a perfect gender balance. I'm really happy about it. After all, Europe is a woman."

But what’s been holding up the legislation?

A majority of 18 of the 27 EU countries support the directive.

But that is not enough for the super majority needed for approval.

Denmark, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and Slovakia

have opposed the legislation, arguing the issue should be regulated at a national level.

Under former Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany also sided with this group,

but the new government says it will take a fresh look.

Should Berlin drop its opposition, it would tip the balance in favor of the legislation, experts say.

What’s the state of play now?

So far, eight EU countries have adopted national mandatory gender quotas for listed companies

Ten have taken a softer approach, using a range of measures and initiatives.

(Sanna Marin, Finnish Prime Minister) "No, I don't feel like a role model. I might be for some people, but we are all just human beings.’’

And nine countries have not taken substantial action.

France is the frontrunner, with the strongest representation of women in the boardrooms of the biggest listed companies at 45.3%..against a 30.6% average for the EU as a whole.

That's according to the European Institute for Gender Equality.

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