The chief executive of Women In Business Northern Ireland (WIBNI) has said she backs EU proposals to force quotas for women on corporate boards.
Roseann Kelly said WIBNI's 800-strong membership is divided on quotas.
"I personally think we have reached a stage were we need quotas," Ms Kelly said.
"It would take 40 to 50 years to get the levels being spoken about. I believe we have moved beyond the for and against arguments and the reality is that things are moving far too slowly."
The European Commission yesterday postponed making a decision on quotas until November 14. Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner said companies should reserve 40% of seats on corporate boards for women.
She wants to correct the gender imbalance at Europe's top companies, where just one in seven board members is female.
A spokeswoman for the College of EU Commissioners said: "The College expressed a clear position on the need to address the issue of gender balance".
In the UK, the percentage of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies has risen over the past year to a record 16%, but the government wants the biggest listed companies to have a minimum 25% of female directors by 2015. Among the 27 EU member states, Business Secretary Vince Cable is leading a campaign against the quota proposals.
Some countries have imposed national quotas, including France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Norway has had a 40% quota for women on boards since 2003.
Only four organisations in the Belfast Telegraph's Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies are headed up by women.
They are; Catherine Mason, chief executive of Translink; Darina Armstrong, chief executive of Progressive Building Society; Mary Woods, regional manager of Alliance Boots and Anita Barnard, general manager of HCL BPO Services NI.