European Union officials have given preliminary approval to broadening the bloc's Ukraine-related sanctions to include people, companies or organizations that have profited illicitly from Russia's takeover of Crimea.

Brussels - Female representation in company boardrooms took an appreciable step forward in 2012, the European Union said on Friday.

With gender equality being pushed by EU managers as a priority issue, new figures published by the European Commission showed that women held 15.8 percent of company directorships in January 2013.

That was up from 13.7 percent in January last year.

The share of boardroom seats held by women rose in all 27 EU states with the exception of Poland, Ireland and Bulgaria, the data showed.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, a fierce advocate of equality for women, said pressure from Brussels was bearing fruit, with women already making up 60 percent of all EU university graduates. - Sapa-AFP