EU Briefing

Gender diversity on boards: do quota systems work?

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Gender diversity on boards: do quota systems work?

Published June 2015

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The UK Government encourages a voluntary approach to improving the gender balance in company boardrooms, but an EU initiative under negotiation in Brussels sets a minimum compulsory quota of 40% representation for each gender. These contrasting approaches raise crucial issues for female diversity: do we want or need compulsory quotas, and what are the most effective ways of improving the representation of women in senior roles?

This EU Briefing explains the aims and provisions of the proposed directive and looks at the state of play in Europe and the Norwegian gender quota law. 

Drawing from a CIPD literature review, the Briefing looks at evidence of the impact of quota systems and the pros and cons of an enforcement approach. It also includes findings from a survey of CIPD members, in which 55% of respondents feel that a voluntary approach to setting organisational targets is more helpful than a mandatory quota system. However, respondents would like to see a more ambitious target for female diversity, with the majority advocating equal representation and a 50% voluntary target for women on boards.