EU commissioners are due to debate proposals that would force quotas for women on corporate boards
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding is in favour of the proposals to make it mandatory for companies to reserve 40% of seats for women
But several countries, including the UK, are opposed to it
The debate comes after the European Parliament criticised the lack of female candidates for the European Central Bank (ECB)
A parliamentary committee - in a resolution passed by 21 votes to 12, with 13 abstentions - called on the European Council to withdraw the candidacy of Luxembourg's Yves Mersch for the ECB executive board, saying his appointment would mean that the board would be all male up until 2018
'Time is now'
The debate on Ms Reding's quotas plan is due in Strasbourg on Tuesday
If there is enough agreement, the proposals will be put to the European Parliament, which could vote to make gender quotas mandatory across the 27 countries in the European Union
"Of course, there will be some opposition. But Europe has a lot to gain from more diverse corporate boards," Ms Reding said on Twitter
"The European Parliament has called for action to get more women into boardrooms. The time to act is now"
At the moment, less than 15% of board positions in EU member states are currently held by women, according to the Commission
Ms Reding's proposals on compulsory numbers of women come after France, Spain, Italy, Iceland and Belgium introduced quota laws. Norway, which is not an EU member, has had a 40% quota since 2003
Her opponents argue that voluntary targets and increased efforts to change attitudes would be more effective in the long run
UK Business Secretary Vince Cable is leading a campaign against the quota proposals, backed by ministers from eight other countries
In the UK, the percentage of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies has risen over the past year to a record 16%, but the UK government wants the biggest listed companies to have a minimum 25% of female directors by 2015