Minister of Social Affairs Taavi Rõivas, whose portfolio includes the equal treatment commissioner's office, has staunchly opposed gender quotas for corporate boardrooms. The Estonian government and business community side with him, he said.
"A Europe-wide quota seems a completely inappropriate measure, which in Estonia's context would definitely not yield the desired results," Rõivas told uudised.err.ee.
Emphasizing that the issue of inequality should certainly be dealt with, he said the proposed solution would not solve the problem, but exacerbate it.
Rõivas said all of Estonia's publicly traded companies had opposed quotas when he posed the question to them in his previous position as head of Parliament's EU Affairs Committee.
Indeed, in comments today, a number of executives and board members echoed Rõivas's opinion, saying board members should be selected based on solely on competence and that small countries like Estonia do not have a large talent pool. High-ranking representatives of Harju Elekter, Tallinna Vesi, Tallink and Olympic Entertainment Grupp all opposed quotas.
Baltika Grupp, an Estonian-based clothing manufacturer, is currently Estonia's only listed company that satisfies the EU Parliament's proposed 40 percent quota.
"I would nevertheless like to emphasize that we have not purposefully appointed men or women to those positions and have always chosen the best candidates regardless of gender," said Baltika chairman Jaakko Sakari Mikael Salmelin.
"It could happen that a company finds just a few candidates with the necessary experience and qualification for an available job position. The problem is that if in the given situation all of the candidates are of the same gender, it is difficult for the company to meet the criteria of the directive," he said.
Last week, the European Parliament voted to require at least 40 percent of corporate board members to be women by 2020. In order to come into force, the bill must be approved by the EU Council.
All six of Estonia's MEPs voted in favor of the bill.
MEP Vilja Savisaar-Toomast, who recently joined the Reform Party, told ETV last week that she previously opposed gender quotas but that alternatives for raising equality have not been successful.