14/09/2011 08:57 BST | Updated 14/11/2011 05:12 GMT

Government Gender Equality Measure Dismissed By Women's Groups

Measures to promote equal pay for men and women in business have been announced by Home Secretary Theresa May, but almost immediately dismissed by women's groups as a way to avoid mandatory gender quotas.

The government said the new initiative, called 'Think, Act, Report' will encourage businesses to take action on the gender pay gap and inequality between men and women in businesses and report publicly “in time”.

Major firms such as BT, Tesco and Eversheds are already signed up. But the Centre for Women & Democracy, who campaign to help women in business, said that the measures would not go far enough.

“Whilst voluntary reporting strategies are interesting, and will engage those companies who already understand and accept the business case for more women in senior roles, they do nothing to address the situation in those companies who do not believe that any action is necessary.

“Experience elsewhere suggests that quotas, on the other hand, do work, and even in the UK the threat of them in Lord Davies’ report earlier this year has produced some improvement in the number of women being appointed to FTSE100 boards. Whilst the government’s initiative is welcome, therefore, it is unlikely on its own to create or promote real and effective change.”

The announcement came on the same day David Cameron re-affirmed his commitment to gender equality in the boardroom and after a government memo exposed Conservative plans to attract more female voters.

"Only 14% of FTSE 100 company directors are women. We should do far better," Cameron told the House of Commons on Wednesday during PMQs.

We need to take much more proactive action to make sure we have a much better balance at the top of politics. We need a much better balance at the top of our boardrooms as well," said the Prime Minister.

This party took some steps. I think, frankly, we still have more to do because there are many organisations in our country where we don't have equality of opportunity and where we need to have that equality."

The Home Office said in a statement on Wednesday: “The government will annually review the number of companies releasing information, and its quality, to assess whether this approach is successful.”

Theresa May said: "I am delighted that some of the UK's most recognised and successful firms have volunteered to publish data on gender equality. Business should be congratulated for making this positive step towards greater transparency, which will help close the gender pay gap."