Gender Equality and the EU

By September 15, 2014Legal Update
Employee Engagement

A House of Lords committee has called on the Government to block the introduction of a 40 percent quota for women on company boards by 2020.

The House of Lords European Union sub-committee found the proposed requirements from the EU to be “misguided”, and advised the government to maintain its approach of self-regulation and talent development.

Baroness O’Cathain, chairman of the committee, said “Returning to the issue of women on boards after our original 2012 report, we can see that the UK and other member states are making encouraging progress in addressing the number of women on boards, albeit still too low.

“However we feel that our original conclusions from that report still hold good – namely that quotas fail to address the underlying cause of gender inequality, and that member states need to foster a sustainable change at the heart of business instead of resorting to quotas.

“In particular we believe that a stronger flow of women into, and up, the company ranks would get us to where we want to be.”

According to statistics published last week, women hold 23.8 percent of non-executive director positions in FTSE 100 companies, a figure that drops to 18.6 percent when expanded to the FTSE 250.

Despite opposition from the UK and a handful of other countries, the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs committee and Women’s Rights and Gender Equalities committees voted to approach the introduction of a quota, with 40 of 55 members voting in favour.

Audrey Williams, discrimination partner at law firm Eversheds, told The Telegraph “It is still likely to be met with polarised views and may even be blocked by member states in the EU Council… I expect further controversy before any agreement is reached on this proposal.”

Whether or not the quotas are enforced, the proposal has stirred debate about gender equality, or the lack thereof, in senior business levels. In the face of such a clear imbalance (as supported by a recent ONS survey), that is by no means a bad thing.

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