Britain is leading the charge to shoot down the push for gender equality across the European Union. And it looks as though it may have succeeded.
The UK has persuaded eight other EU countries to sign a letter declaring their opposition to a quota system that would require 40% of seats on corporate boards to be filled by women by 2018. Germany and Sweden also say they oppose the measure. That's enough to block passage of the new rules.
Officials opposing the quota plan claim to agree that more needs to be done to get women into positions of power in the business world, but argue EU-wide mandates won't work. They say "fair female participation" will be best achieved by national efforts.
France, Spain, Italy and several other European countries already have gender equity quotas, but the EU's justice commissioner Viviane Reding insists mandatory quotas are needed across the continent, as voluntary efforts to advance women have failed. Today, only 3.2% of European corporate heads are women, and they hold fewer than 14% of board seats across Europe.
This doesn't just show the UK government's unwillingness to push for gender equality – although it does show that. It's also the latest case of Britain throwing cold water on much needed reforms in Europe's financial and corporate sector. The UK loudly opposed a financial transaction tax which would force the City of London to contribute more towards fixing many of the problems its own activities have caused; it has blocked curbs on super-risky high-frequency trading of stocks; and has stood against measures to protect workers' pensions.
Read more: Nearly 10 years later, Norway's gender quota is working just fine ...
Sources: Financial Times, NY Times, EurActive, BBC, Guardian, eFinancial News, Spiegel