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EU could bring in gender quotas for board membership

The European Union could introduce Europe-wide legislation introducing quotas for female membership of boards of directors, a legal firm has warned.

Eversheds made the comments after the launch of the ‘30% Club’ by several multinational businesses, which will try to voluntarily increase the amount of women in boardrooms, as reported by HR earlier this week.

Also this week former business minister Lord Davies met with businesses to discuss improving gender equality.

Audrey Williams, partner and head of discrimination and international law at Eversheds, said: "Although fixed quotas have been mooted in the past, they would require legislative change and Lord Davies’ recent comments would suggest that this is likely to be considered a step too far.

"Nevertheless, quotas could still be brought in by the EU at some point. This summer, the EU's Fundamental Rights Commissioner, Viviane Reding, warned companies that if they do not improve the gender balance on their boards, Europe-wide legislation may be introduced to force the pace of change, possibly using new powers under the Lisbon Treaty to impose gender quotas.

"So even if Lord Davies stops short of imposing quotas in the UK, businesses still need to take a close look at their talent development and retention programmes to ensure they are doing enough now to nurture the careers of those women who could be the directors of the future."