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Today is D-Day for EU debate on women on boards quotas

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EU commissioners are set to debate today proposals that would force quotas for women on corporate boards.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding is in favour of the proposals to make it mandatory for companies to reserve 40% of board seats for women.

Several countries including the UK are opposed to it.

If there is enough agreement, the proposals will be put to the European Parliament, which could vote to make gender quotas mandatory across the 27 countries in the European Union.

At the moment, women, according to the Commission, currently hold fewer than 15% of board positions in EU member states.

Reding's proposals on compulsory numbers of women come after France, Spain, Italy, Iceland and Belgium introduced quota laws. Norway, which is not an EU member, has had a 40% quota since 2003.

A survey of 547 female UK workers published today, in The Daily Telegraph, shows that only 4% of women aspire to join the top table, with a similarly small number looking to become a chief executive. Some 37% aspire to reach manager level, but nearly a fifth - 17% - are happy to stay in assistant jobs during their careers.

Liz Field, CEO of Financial Skills Partnership said: "Boardroom diversity can bring any business vast benefits. However, just fulfilling quotas doesn't address the core issues that prevent women from reaching top positions.

"There is a concerted effort in the finance industry to introduce diversity in the boardroom, nonetheless more emphasis should be placed on sustaining the momentum if we are to reach the 40% mark which the commission wants. More needs to be done to craft a culture where talent is nurtured, otherwise when this current generation of females retire there will be a gap in the market."

Field added: "Plans need to be implemented as soon as possible to insure that companies are not forced to put women on boards but appoint them because they have cultivated their talent.

"Long term plans of tailor-made development programmes, mentoring schemes and female business networks are good steps towards fostering a good diversity attitude in the workplace."

HRmagazine.co.uk will report on the decision when the outcome has been made.