RADICAL plans that could have obliged companies to appoint women to at least 40% of board positions have been postponed after seemingly running into opposition within the European Commission.

European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who was behind the proposal, insisted she could still secure backing for the law. "I will not give up," Ms Reding said on social network Twitter.

Last month, nine countries including the UK wrote to the European Commission calling for the idea of quotas to be dropped. There were also concerns that strict quotas were unlawful under European Union law.

Yet the paucity of women in top corporate positions has become a prominent issue across the continent. Gender quotas have already been introduced in domestic law in France, Italy, Spain, Iceland and Belgium as well as Norway, which is not an EU country.

The Herald revealed earlier this year that 37 out of 242 board positions in Scotland's top-30 listed companies were occupied by women. This was a 27.6% increase on the previous year but still left 84.7% of seats filled by men

Helena Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% Club, which campaigns for increased female representation in the boardroom, said it opposed quotas. She said: "We are interested in a sustainable increase in the pipeline, which will take longer but deliver real benefits to businesses."

But Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament said: "It would be very sad and regrettable if the European Commission were unable to present a strong proposal on promoting gender balance in the senior management of companies because of pressure from business and prejudice."