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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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EU Parliament votes in favour of binding female boardroom quotas


The EU Parliament voted in favour of introducing binding quotas for women at the top table at the same time as a report revealed that UK progress on appointing females to executive board-level positions had been slow.

The vote by the EU Parliament followed a consultation that was launched last week by EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding into whether action, including legislation, should be taken at the pan-European level to redress the gender imbalance within many company boardrooms.
MEPs responded in the affirmative today, however, by agreeing to boost female board representation at publicly-listed companies to 30% by 2015 and 40% by 2020.
However, Fiona Bolton, a partner at law firm Eversheds, said that, despite clear support from MEPs, any attempt to introduce EU-wide laws was likely to face “stiff opposition” from a number of countries.
In addition, because law-making process tended to be slow, any EU-scale change was still “some distance away”.
But that did not mean there could be “no room for complacency”, she warned, not least because the idea of setting quotas had gained traction in various countries in recent years, including Norway, France, Spain and the Netherlands.
Moving in the right direction
Moreover, although today’s report from the Cranfield School of Management showed that FTSE companies were moving in the right direction, Lord Davies’ target of 25% of boardrooms comprising women by 2015 were “less ambitious than those envisaged by Brussels, where patience appears to be wearing thin”, Bolton said.
Therefore, she pointed out: “If UK business leaders want to avoid new legislation being imposed on them, the key will be to keep up the momentum and demonstrate real and lasting progress through voluntary means as well as identifying what measures, short of quotas, have worked.”
Both the Cranfield report entitled ‘The Female FTSE Board Report 2012 – Milestone or Millstone?’ together with statistics also released today by Lord Davies on progress so far revealed that female directorships had risen to 15.6% of the total, up from 12% last year.
In the year to January, 47 new female appointments were made (25%) out of a total of 190. This means that there are now 141 women filling 163 positions out of a total of 1,086 on FTSE 100 boards as some are doubling up and performing two roles.
The number of firms with no women on the board dropped to 11 and the number with one rose to 50, however.
But Helen Wells, director of Opportunity Now, business-led charity Business in the Community’s gender campaign, attested that, although the current “business-led approach” was having an impact, it did not go far enough.
“Whilst I welcome the significant increase in the number of non-executive roles held by women, real equality would mean women being promoted up through the ranks to executive jobs as well,” she added. “We still have a big mountain to climb – women make up 49% of the labour market, but men hold 84.9% of executive board positions.”

One Response

  1. Quotas

    I can understand why women want equality in selection for promotion and that some boards would benefit from  womens’ common sense . However, I believe that setting quotas for  seats on the board is a bad idea. It could also lead to quotas being set for other classes, including, ‘ though not limited to’ the handicapped, or  different ethnic groups,.And what about those who are underheight, or left- handed? You think I am joking ? Just look at the height of directors – how many are short ?

    Surely the answer is for managers  to be more objective in selection for development, promotion, challenging assignments, important business opportunities and responsibilities. It is this that will create the pool of people who are of high potential and who, if they so decide, will take up positions where they have to sacrifice promotion for the sake of their other interests which often include the family.

    Of course women can be outstanding managers and be of board calibre. I have three in my close family and know plenty of others who could if they had wished have set their sights on a directorship.

    Objectivity in development and selection, yes,  but quotas ? No.



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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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