All-women shortlists aimed at getting more women on the boards of large companies have been ruled illegal by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
The Commission said the practice would be unlawful as a way of tackling underrepresentation.
The news will come as a blow to Business Secretary Vince Cable who has long been an advocate of female only shortlists to address the low numbers of women in top jobs.
Cable had asked the EHRC to examine the legality of the plans and it concluded that it did not believe it was lawful to address underrepresentation “by longlisting or shortlisting only female candidates to the detriment of male candidates”.
It said that an all-women shortlist would only be legal if there was no “predetermination”.
The EHRC concluded that it constituted unlawful sex discrimination to select a person for a role because of their gender and that positive discrimination was not permitted.
Women currently make up 22% of board positions in FTSE100 businesses.
The Lord Davies’ report into gender equality in 2011 recommended that FTSE100 boards should aim for a minimum of 25% female representation by 2015.
Maybe this helps in our deliberation over positive discrimination for women in leadership by ruling it out! Quotas are controversial. In our opinion they may hinder progress by increasingly the chance that women leaders are not perceived as talented but rather as a member on a shortlist. See the recent Cabinet Catwalk coverage by the media.
Sara@ Beth Cauldwell
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:44am BST
They didn't say that any all woman short-list was illegal, only ones where it was predetermined, so presumably any all male short-list would be ok as long as it was just a coincidence that there were no other genders on it.