Compulsory gender quotas end

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THE government has welcomed the scrapping of EU plans for compulsory gender quotas in the boardroom – but vowed to carry on working to boost female representation at the highest corporate level.

The European Commission’s plans, watered down in the face of fierce opposition, still set a target of achieving a minimum 40 per cent female presence among non-executive board members by 2020 for publicly listed companies except small and medium-sized firms.

Public sector listed companies will have to meet the target two years earlier.

But the timetable will not apply in countries already taking action to improve gender balance, and “qualification and merit” will still be the key criteria for jobs on the board.

According to latest figures, female representation on boards in the UK could reach 27 per cent by 2015, and 37 per cent by 2020, compared with 16 per cent today.

The current EU average is less than 15 per cent, although gender quotas have already been introduced in domestic law in France, Italy, Spain, Iceland and Belgium. But nine member states including the UK have been pressing the Commission to drop compulsory quotas.