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EU proposals on quotas for women slammed by the UK

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The UK Government has reacted strongly to a proposal by the EU commission to have more women in the boardroom.

The Government proposes a voluntary quota of 25% for women in board seats by 2015, below the 40% by 2020 proposal from The European Commission.

The EU justice commissioner from Luxembourg, Viviane Reding, is expected to formally introduce it by majority vote next month. This means if passed the UK would not be able to veto it.

A spokesman for the UK department for business, innovation and skills (BIS) said: "We made clear in our response to the European Commission's consultation on addressing gender imbalance that we do not support proposals for mandatory quotas.

"The UK will definitely not be supporting anything that has come through from the European Commission. We know British businesses don't want it and the vast majority of the public don't want to see it," he added.

"Places such as Norway have these quotas and they've seen a massive rise in women being appointed in non-executive roles, which we feel is worse as they end up being treated like tokens," said the BIS spokesman.

When asked why many women think senior roles in business are not for them, the BIS representative responded: " Evidence suggests women often have a lack of confidence or a lower perception of their own skills and they sometimes find it difficult to gain the necessary skills and experience to operate at board level".

The UK is among a host of countries, including France, Italy and Sweden against this proposal. A member of the British representation in Brussels said: "We are not leading the charge, but rather forming part of a pack."

Independent research from the Cranfield School of Management (CMS) has found that companies with more women on their boards outperformed rivals, with a 42% higher return in sales, 66% higher return on capital and 53% higher return on equity.

CMS added that quotas being introduced are not just about gender equality but also about improving the performance and productivity of companies.