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EU quotas for women on boards are misguided, say Lords

A House of Lords EU Committee has written to the Government urging it to stand firm against the EU proposal to impose quotas for women on boards.

As a follow up to their 2012 report, Women on Boards, the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Employment held a short inquiry looking into the EU proposal, and the current Government position.

The EU Directive currently aims to introduce an objective of at least 40% representation of women (the underrepresented sex) by 2020, because, the Commission claimed, the current figures for women on boards were too low and had not changed significantly for years.

The Committee believes  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.

The Committee is urging the UK 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.

Committee Chairman, Baroness O'Cathain, 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?”

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