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Delay for compulsory female board quota vote

A last minute deferral has delayed a crucial vote on controversial proposals set to introduce compulsory quotas for women on corporate boards.

Yesterday, the European Commission postponed its vote on plans set to force companies to set aside 40% of board seats for women by 2020, when lawyers cast serious doubts about the move’s legality under EU rules.

EU commissioner Viviane Reding’s plans will now be voted on in a month’s time.

Commissioners were reportedly nervous about backing the plan after lawyers raised concerns about its lawfulness. A source told Reuters:

‘Many were surprised not to receive a draft proposal that could be described as lawful according to our own legal service.’

The move will please business secretary Vince Cable, who has spearheaded a campaign against the quota proposals with the backing ministers from at least eight other member states.

Critics of Reding’s stance argue that a voluntary approach will shift deep-seated attitudes more effectively.

But Reding only requires a simple majority of the 27 commissioners to have her plan rubber-stamped. It would then be put before the European Parliament for any amendments as a precursor to implementation.

Quotas are seen by many to be deeply damaging to the furtherance of women's participation at the highest level of the corporate world because female board members could be viewed as crude, quota-filling fodder.

The EU's legal team is believed to back the opinion that member states cannot be forced to legislate for a 40% female target.

A recent parliamentary committee urged the European Council to withdraw Luxembourg's Yves Mersch candidacy for the ECB executive board, as his appointment would ensure the board would be made up entirely of men until 2018.

The UK recently saw the number of female FTSE 100 board members hit a new record at 16% - still someway short of the government’s plans to hit 25% by 2015.

Women currently occupy 15% of board positions in EU member states.

Published 24 October 2012


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