A British Conservative has hit out at draft European Commission proposals to legally enforce quotas from women in the boardrooms of major companies, describing the idea as "meddlesome".
The Financial Times
reported today that commissioner vice-president Viviane Reding – whose brief covers justice, fundamental rights and citizenship –would table legislation in October for fines to be introduced for listed companies that do not reserve at least 40 per cent of non-executive board seats for women.
But Conservative member of the European Parliament Marina Yannakoudakis, who speaks for her party on women's rights, slammed the suggestion and said it would be "bad for genuine equality".
"Imposing strict quotas, which are both arbitrary and artificial, cuts across the freedom of businesses to make their own decisions and the freedom of women to succeed on merit," said the London MEP. The issue seemed to be a "holy cow" for the commission despite being of "zero concern to most members of the public", she added.
Currently only 13.7 per cent of board positions in listed European companies are held by women. A number of countries, including France, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain have introduced national quotas but others, such as Sweden and the United Kingdom, are fiercely opposed.
According to the Financial Times
, which obtained a copy of the draft legislation, companies that failed to meet the requirements could be barred from state aid and contracts as well as being fined.
The paper quoted the proposals as saying: "Progress in the share of women on company boards is very slow, with an average annual increase of just 0.6 percentage points over the past years." It adds that varying rates of improvement across the EU have led to "highly divergent results" in different member states.
In article for PublicServiceEurope.com
earlier this year, when Reding said she was looking at putting forward legislation, Greens/European Free Alliance MEP Marije Cornelissen said the "time had come to act".
"After almost 30 years of trying to improve the representation of women via self-regulation, the time has come to act. Mandatory quotas are the only way to ensure the under-representation of women in management positions is finally addressed," she wrote, adding: "Now the time has come to act and put legally binding quotas in place."