Epstein on Proposed EU Quotas for Women on Corporate Boards

Is Women’s Empowerment a Bureaucratic Imperative?
Richard A. Epstein
Defining Ideas
March 13, 2012

Times are tough. Both the European Union and the United States are facing stagnant economic growth, high levels of unemployment, excessive debt, and an aging population. I am not alone in urging the European Union and the United States to make major reforms of their labor markets as an essential step toward economic growth. Sadly, serious progress on reform has lagged behind on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yet, in at least one respect, the United States is in far better shape than the European Union. I refer to the advancement of women in business, particularly their representation on corporate boards. For the EU, compulsion is the preferred path, while in the United States, to date, voluntary action is the name of the game.

To see how the EU is marching off in the wrong regulatory direction, it is necessary to examine the recently released study of the European Commission, “Women in economic decision-making in the EU: Progress report.” Its major proposal is to require quotas for women on corporate boards—unless of course these boards reform themselves first by, ahem, “voluntary” action.

Faculty: 
Richard A. Epstein