The global body for professional accountants has welcomed a House of Lords report that rejects EU quotas on the number of women on company boards.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) said the UK's experience has shown that progress can be achieved without quotas.
In its report, Women on Boards, the Lords EU Committee says that whilst they agree there is a leadership role for the EU in furthering the cause of increased equality in the boardroom, quotas would “risk setting back voluntary efforts without achieving broader gains”, and urges the Government to strongly oppose any such measure.
The peers said a legislative quota would be unpopular with many of the women it would seek to help.
The Committee said the EU should facilitate self-regulatory efforts in Member States which can highlight good and bad performers, giving voluntary efforts a chance to succeed, before quotas are considered.
Helen Brand, ACCA Chief Executive said:
"Since the Lord Davis Report was published 18 months ago, which called on companies to increase female representation at board level putting voluntary targets in place, we have seen more women appointed to board level of UK companies than in the previous 10 years.
"The EC needs to address why it is that comparatively few women progress through corporate career structures to make it to executive director level.
"The EC should investigate whether there is in fact a glass ceiling for women and take steps to eliminate unfair restrictions and encourage or mandate good internal practices which allow women to have a family and successful career. This would achieve more in the long run than potentially divisive quotas."
Lords EU Committee Chairman Baroness O’Cathain said:
"Although the Committee welcomes the positive steps already taken by many Member States to ensure more gender-balanced boards and senior management teams – particularly in the UK – the number of women at the top remains far too low.
"More balanced boards are to everybody’s benefit. We found that they will be more able to tap into the wealth of available talent in the labour market, provide a broader spectrum of ideas and improve corporate governance. However, we are not persuaded that the only way to stimulate change is through the introduction of EU quotas.
"National governments are already signed up to the benefits of more women on boards, and there has been real progress. More than a third of people appointed to FTSE 100 boards last year were women, and FTSE 100 companies are expecting to see a quarter of their board positions taken by women by 2015.
"Across the EU as a whole, the proportion of women on boards has risen by 16% since 2010. Business leaders and national governments need to be given a chance to build upon these efforts before we consider quotas.
"The Commission should at this stage seek to support and better monitor these efforts, and only step in with stronger measures as a last resort where the business world has shown itself to be unwilling and unable to change its ways. To introduce quotas now, though, would do more harm than good and risk derailing efforts to deliver more sustainable change.
"By working together in partnership, the Government and the EU can ensure that all of the talent in our jobs market is used to the full, regardless of gender."