A House of Lords committee has urged the government to reject EU plans to introduce quotas for women on boards.
The HoL EU Committee called the EU’s plans to bring in a target of at least 40 per cent female board members by 2020 “misguided”.
The European Commission originally proposed a change in legislation in 2012 because, the it said: “The current figures for women on boards were too low and had not changed significantly for years.”
However, the British committee said that the EU approach is misguided, and that more efforts should be put into ensuring a supply of women from lower down the organisation and through into senior management roles.
In addition, the current voluntary targets set out by Lord Davies in his 2011 Women on Boards review have seen levels of female representation in the boardroom rise to more than 20 per cent. However, many critics have warned that the increase has been too slow. The government introduced Lord Davies’ voluntary target for publicly listed companies to have 25 per cent women on their boards by 2015.
The committee has urged the UK government to stick with its self-regulatory approach, which has resulted in good progress (currently above the EU average) without the need to resort to quotas.
Baroness O’Cathain, committee chairman, 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 still 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.
“We urge the government to stand firm in its position against this directive. We would also like the government to clarify its intentions should the directive be agreed at EU level – for example, would the government look to demonstrate that it can meet the objective using national measures, thereby exempting itself from the proposal?”