Government respond to Women on Boards report

15 January 2013

On 9 November 2012 the Lords EU Committee published a report on Gender Equality on Corporate Boards. The Government responded to the report on 20 December 2012.

Government response to the House of Lords European Union Committee report on Women on Boards. (PDF PDF 225 KB)

A debate on the ‘Women on Boards’ report was held on Tuesday 13 November 2012, on the eve of the EU’s expected announcement of legislation to tackle gender inequality in the corporate world. The Committee received an oral response from the Government at this stage, offering support for the report in general terms.

The Committee welcomed the formal written response from the Government. In their response, the Government largely agreed with the recommendations in the report, particularly the support for the voluntary business-led approach that the Government is currently undertaking.

In its report, the Committee said that whilst they agree there is a leadership role for the EU in furthering the cause of increased equality in the boardroom, quotas would “risk setting back voluntary efforts without achieving broader gains”. It therefore urged the Government to oppose strongly any such measure.

The Committee instead called on the European Commission to bring forward measures to monitor the number of women in senior positions on an EU-wide basis. The report suggested that the Commission should also facilitate self-regulatory efforts in Member States which can highlight good and bad performers, giving voluntary efforts a chance to succeed before quotas are considered.

The Committee’s key recommendations were that: 

  • a voluntary, business-led approach to gender equality on boards would be more effective than legislative options, in encouraging long-lasting change;
  • the European Commission should continue to show leadership on the issue of women on boards by maintaining a high profile on this issue and holding Member States to account;
  • corporate governance regimes should be reformed to require companies to report at a national level on the proportion of women at every level of their workforce. The Commission should use this data to determine on an annual basis if progress is being made at Member State and EU levels, and to inform possible policy responses;
  • principles like those found in the UK’s code of conduct for executive search firms could be implemented on a voluntary basis across the EU. 

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