Gender balance in the boardroom - is there a role for the EU?

15 June 2012


Is gender imbalance on company boards an EU issue, or should it be a matter for national governments?

What is the case for gender diversity on boards? Does it bring economic benefits, does it benefit corporate culture, or is it simply the right thing to do?

These questions and others will be amongst those at the heart of a new inquiry launched today by the House of Lords EU Sub Committee on Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment.

The European Commission is currently considering whether to propose legislative quotas in order to improve the representation of women on boards across the EU, with a decision expected in the autumn. However, the UK Government argue that a “voluntary approach” from businesses is having significant benefits in this country, with the UK on course to see more than 25% of board appointments held by women in 2015.

The inquiry will look to address the fundamental question in this area: whether gender imbalance on company boards is an issue for European policymakers; and if so, what form that EU action should take. The question of self-regulation versus legislation has been a significant topic in the UK; the Committee will examine it in a European context, taking into account the need for any policies to take account of cultural and structural differences in boardrooms across the EU.   

The Committee’s call for evidence, published today, asks specifically:

  • Are quotas the only option? What other measures could the EU employ?
  • Can or should gender diversity be incentivised?
  • What are the positive and negative effects of legislative quotas? What impact have quotas had elsewhere in Europe?
  • What does success look like in this area?

The full call for evidence is available here. (PDF PDF 87 KB)

The deadline for submitting written evidence is Tuesday 10 July.