The focus on gender diversity at board level is not a new phenomenon. Initial spotlight came following the 2011 report from Lord Davies and subsequent publication of a European Commission consultation suggesting potential legislative measures
to enforce diversity.
It had previously been noted that there has been steady growth in the number of women holding directorships in FTSE 100 companies. This growth has thus far prevented any legislative measures being taken within the UK, which has opted for
a voluntary system incorporating changes following the UK Corporate Governance Code.
However, a fresh light has been cast on the idea of diversity in corporate governance as the European Commission began drafting a proposal enforcing a mandatory quota of 40% of non-executive director board seats being reserved for women in
listed companies. The concept of a European level legally binding quota for the representation of women at board level has been primarily supported by Viviane Reding the EU Justice Commissioner.
Whilst, unsurprisingly, large companies have resisted the legislative move it is interesting to note the different stances taken by member states. Countries such as France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands all already have in place national
quotas in contrast to UK and Sweden who currently have no set limit.
The UK has demonstrated its objection to legislative measures being taken and has subsequently gained enough support to block the 40% quota proposal. Although a bold move this does not mean that the UK is not supporting the idea of increased
gender equality at board level; rather that measures should be taken at a national level.
With this in mind it seems increasingly important to ensure equal opportunities at all levels of employment as increasing pressure from Europe may see of harsher measures being introduced within the UK. Unless it can be demonstrated that
there is a growth in the number of women at board level, it seems that more rigid guidelines (with the possibility of sanctions) may come into place forcing diversity through legislation rather than natural commercial development.
To discuss how we can provide further advice in connection with these issues, please contact Keith Kennedy, a Partner in our Corporate Team, by email to
email@example.com or alternatively you can call Keith on 0161 833 9211.
The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No responsibility for this article’s accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any
of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of the contents of this article.