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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: UK rounds up allies to fight EC female board quotas


The UK has launched a Europe-wide campaign in a bid to block proposals by Brussels to impose a 40% quota for female board representation on FTSE 100 companies by 2020.

According to the Financial Times, a pointedly-worded letter has been sent to at least 10 other European Union governments, including Germany and Sweden, that appear sympathetic to Britain’s stance.
Once they have signed, the aim is to send the missive to European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, and his justice secretary, Viviane Reding. Reding is the primary sponsor of the proposed quota system, with her goal being to try and reduce today’s gender imbalance across the EU’s 27 member states.
The latest EU data indicates that in January, women held only 13.7% of board positions in large corporates and that progress under the existing voluntary schemes had been slow – an average annual increase of just 0.6% over the last decade or so.
But the proposals currently being drafted by the EC would see large listed companies facing fines or other sanctions if they failed to act on the issue. Firms that have more than 250 staff or generate more than E50 million per annum would also be required to report annually on the gender make-up of their boards.
But a draft of the British letter, which has been seen by the newspaper, noted that individual countries were already trying to increase the number of female non-executive directors at board level through their own voluntary or mandatory schemes.
“These efforts must be granted more time in order to establish whether they can achieve fair female participation in economic decision-making on Europe’s company boards,” it said. “For these reasons, we do not support the adoption of legally binding provisions for women on company boards at the European level.”
The legislation, which is expected to be formally introduced by Reding next month, could be adopted by the EU through its complex majority voting process, which means that the UK would be unable to veto its passage alone.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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