Workplace Rights: Boardroom diversity

Low female representation in top jobs is a thorny issue, but there is a powerful business case for addressing it.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Concerns about lack of boardroom gender diversity have been growing internationally and several EU countries have adopted quotas, apparently successfully, to achieve change. The UK and certain other states are opposed to 'one-size-fits-all' quotas, citing risks that positive discrimination might undermine women's progress by leading to accusations of tokenism.

Despite pledges by the Government to promote gender equality on boards of listed companies, progress through self-regulation has been slow. Unless businesses speed up, they are unlikely to achieve the targets proposed by Lord Davies last year in his report, Women on Boards.

This process will probably be overtaken by more direct measures imposed from Europe. The European Commission, frustrated by the snail's pace of progress and perceived lack of commitment in some member states, is gearing up to propose legislative action on gender quotas for corporate boards.

These proposals could be adopted by majority voting, though the UK Government is busy seeking allies to block them.

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors, email: employment@lewissilkin.com.

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