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The European Union is currently debating how to promote the equal participation of women and men in decision-making at all levels and in all fields. Given that gender equality is enshrined in Article 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, progress is slow and the de facto gender equality has yet still to be attained.

Encouraging women into senior management positions is a crucial part of the global drive to improve equality between men and women. In an environment with a shortage of independent non-executive directors with appropriate skills, women are still a largely untapped source of talent for boards. This is the position of ACCA (the  Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), which welcomed the endorsement by EU ministers in charge of employment and social affairs of a renewed European pact for gender equality , which is aimed at increasing women’s presence in decision-making bodies. As a first step, the global accountancy body wants to see transparent diversity reporting by companies placed at the heart of these efforts: companies should adopt policies on boardroom diversity and report annually on progress made.

There is a need for greater diversity, not only in terms of gender, but also in background and experience. Transparency is the key to overcoming gender inequalities in companies – not quotas. At this stage, new regulation on this issue should not be the route to go. To allow for greater transparency, part of the solution would entail companies to routinely report gender-detailed HR data for all staff, including board members. Organisations should also build support programmes and provide access to role models, networks and mentors to help women break down the boardroom doors.

Making appointments to a board of directors of a public company is a very serious business and should be taken seriously both by the company and the individual director. It must ultimately be about assembling the right collection of skills and experience. Company law imposes extensive personal responsibilities on individual directors. The cause of diversity would not be met by lowering of standards.

 

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