News story

UK stands up for British business

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Quotas are not the answer to boosting the number of women on boards, is the clear message to Europe today.

Instead, the UK is supporting businesses to do the right thing. Recent figures show this approach is working, with more women than ever in the UK’s boardrooms. Almost 16 per cent of senior positions are now held by women, up from 12.5 per cent last year.

Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May said: ‘We abandoned the last government’s approach of simply trying to dictate how people should behave.

‘We are encouraging firms to use women’s talents by helping them see the business benefits. But we must allow them to get on with their job.

‘Our voluntary approach is reaping rewards. The past year has seen the biggest ever jump in the number of women on boards, and some of the UK’s leading companies are now reporting on gender diversity, which will help more women rise to the top.’

Led by business

In March this year, European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding launched a consultation seeking views on action at an EU-level to address the issue, including legislative measures such as introducing quotas.

The government has today written to the Commission making clear it does not support EU action in this area, backed by evidence that the number of women in senior positions can be increased without resorting to burdensome regulation.

The Home Secretary added: ‘It is particularly encouraging that this progress is being led by business, as this is the route to long term change.’

Research led by Cranfield School of Management shows if momentum continues, the number of women on boards will exceed Lord Davies’ target of 25 per cent by 2015, and potentially reach 36.9 per cent by 2020.