Loss of Face or Loss of Reality? An in-depth analysis of the factors explaining why the European Commission is keeping the Women on Boards Directive on the agenda

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This article analyses why the European Commission is keeping its proposal for a directive on gender balance in non-executive boards of listed European businesses on the agenda, despite clear resistance by the Member States. Exploring this is interesting, as not much is known yet about why some proposals remain on the agenda for a long time without being withdrawn by the Commission. By applying the method of explaining-outcome process-tracing, this article seeks to gain insight into the different factors that have led to this particular outcome. All in all, a combination of various factors can explain this. The Commission, first of all, is strongly committed to this file because of their general commitment to ensuring gender equality. This case-study also shows that it is acting as a policy entrepreneur, anticipating (not always correctly) different window of opportunity to open. At the same, it also feels pressured by the European Parliament and several other actors, such as interest groups, to keep this proposal on the agenda: the Commission is afraid to lose face, or lose credibility when it removes this item. These factors play a somewhat different role in the different phases of this case. Currently, the Commission is anticipating a new window of opportunity to open, quite possibly in the form of Germany changing their position on the file, in order to get the proposal adopted at last.
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