All-female lists to close gender gap deemed unlawful

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has ruled that the use of all-female shortlists to get more women in the boardroom is unlawful under equality law. The EHRC’s guidance said: “It constitutes unlawful sex discrimination to select a person for a role because of their gender. The law does not permit positive discrimination when making an appointment or a promotion. However, the law provides scope for companies to address any disadvantage or disproportionately low participation on boards by enabling or encouraging applications from a particular gender, provided selection is made on merit.” The rejection of women-only lists was supported by the Institute of Directors. Oliver Parry, the IoD’s corporate governance adviser, said: “We hope that the guidance issued today will help boards to appoint more women through measures including aspirational targets, wider advertising for posts and mentoring and shadowing programmes.”

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