Breaking with the Cabinet position, all of Estonia's members of European Parliament cast their vote yesterday in favor of requiring 40 percent of board members at listed companies to be women.
The European Parliament on Wednesday voted 459-148-81 in favor of the draft law that would introduce gender rules on non-executive officers by 2020. The measure still needs approval from each EU member state.
Estonia has been noteworthy for both the low number of equally qualified women working in executive and senior government positions, and for its free market policies.
The Cabinet has advocated a strictly free market position on the gender quota issue, saying that it supported gender equality but that alternative measures that do not restrict free enterprise should be preferred.
Estonian MEP Siiri Oviir noted in comments to Äripäev that the measure also implicitly supported a 60 percent requirement for male executives. Vilja Savisaar-Toomast, the Reform Party's only MEP, told ETV that although she did not usually support quotas, there was a lack of fruitful solutions in the area.
Very few if any Estonian companies are affected by the measures, which would apply to about 5,000 listed companies in the EU by 2020 and state-owned companies by 2018. The minimum to qualify is 250 employees or global sales of 50 million euros.