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Quota for 40% of women on boards has been approved

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The EU has approved the proposals from justice commissioner Viviane Reding to have 40% of women on company boards by 2020.

Reding tweeted the news this morning but an official announcement is expected later.

They will still need to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, but Reding said she was confident they had enough support to be passed.

In a speech today Maria Miller the culture secretary and women and equalities minister, will accuse Reding of "patronising women" while arguing that the UK's voluntary code has resulted in key successes.

Miller will say: "The way to do this is not through special treatment or regulation like the European commission's quotas idea, which patronises women and undermines the business case.

"It is about removing the barriers to achieving goals, so that women are supported all the way from the shopfloor to the boardroom. We are making real progress in driving transparency and equality in our workplaces and will continue to do even more."

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has welcomed reports that the EU Commission has decided against bringing forward mandatory quotas for the number of women on company boards. Ann Francke, CMI's chief executive, said:

"The under-representation of women in British boardrooms has to change, and fast, but the introduction of quotas in law is not the right way to do it. Women managers do not want to sneak into the boardroom after forcing the door with a legal crow-bar.

"The door should be thrown open to welcome them, because the evidence shows that more gender-diverse boards perform better."

Francke added: "Companies need to step up the pace of change that we have seen since Lord Davies' report. They also need to fix the talent pipeline to make sure more women reach senior management jobs."