Sector News

2014 Catalyst Census: Women Board Directors

April 27, 2015
Diversity & Inclusion

For the first time, Catalyst, a leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business, takes its 2014 Catalyst Census: Women Board Directors global, as the call for gender equality on boards grows worldwide. Created in partnership with The Data Morphosis Group, the new and expanded Census focuses on women’s share of board seats at stock market index companies across three regions and 20 countries, including the United States, Canada, Europe (14 countries), and Asia-Pacific (Australia, Hong Kong, India, and Japan).

Among the findings:

  • North America: Women hold 19.2% of S&P 500 board seats in the United States; and 20.8% of S&P/TSX 60 board seats in Canada.
  • Europe: Women’s share of board seats ranges from 7.9% in Portugal (PSI-20 index) to 18.5% in Germany (DAX index) to 22.8% in the United Kingdom (FTSE 100 index) to 35.5% in Norway (OBX index).
  • Asia-Pacific: Women’s share of board seats ranges from 3.1% in Japan (TOPIX Core 30 index) to 9.5% in India (BSE 200 index) to 19.2% in Australia (S&P/ASX 200 index).

“We have evidence and optimism that closing the gender gap on corporate boards is possible, yet the current numbers are simply not good enough,” says Deborah Gillis, President & CEO, Catalyst. “Companies that are not making diversity on boards a priority should be embarrassed. Smart leaders know that they can either lead the movement toward making profound and lasting impact, or be left behind. The way of the past is not the way of the future.”

Diverse boards strengthen a company’s talent pipeline, and are correlated with more women Corporate Officers, increased financial performance, more innovation, and higher group performance. This we know. Research also shows a clear link between diversity and corporate social responsibility, and this is evidenced again in Catalyst’s new report, Companies Behaving Responsibly: Gender Diversity on Boards, which further highlights that what’s good for women is good for men, business, communities, and indeed, good for the world. 

The good news? Catalyst sees more leaders stepping up and successfully taking intentional action to disrupt the status quo and ensure that women have a seat at the table. Here’s how.

  • Be a Sponsor: Through the Catalyst Corporate Board Resource, CEOs recommend qualified board-ready women. After Maggie Wilderotter, Chairman and CEO, Frontier Communications, sponsored Andrea Bierce, Catalyst introduced Bierce to India-headquartered company Cyient, which appointed her to their board. “Andrea was extremely qualified and board-ready,” says Ms. Wilderotter. “It was an honor to sponsor her through Catalyst and put her on the radar for a company like Cyient. Boards with one woman member are likely to add more, and boards with more women are shown to outperform those without. It is in everyone’s best interest to open up the C-suite and boardroom to women.” 
  • Partner Up: Catalyst’s Women on Board® initiative pairs women corporate director candidates with board chairs who act as champions. After success in Canada, where over 40% of program alumnae have been appointed to corporate boards, the program has expanded to the United States. “When I was asked to be a sponsor in Catalyst’s US Women on Board® program, I didn’t hesitate to accept because I know the great value that women bring to a board, and I’m eager to share my knowledge and networks,” says James S. Turley, former Chairman and CEO, EY, who currently sits on the boards of Citigroup, Emerson Electric Company, and Intrexon Corporation. His mentee, Ellen Costello, who was recently appointed to the board of D+H Corporation, says his perspective has been valuable as she evaluates various board opportunities.  

The Women on Boardssm program of Borderless is as well a select network of qualified female executives with leadership experience in the sectors served by the firm. Members of the network are either already engaged on boards or share an ambition to qualify for Non-Executive Board positions.

Through a range of face-to-face and online networking opportunities, Borderless Women on Boards℠ supports executives in developing the required expertise, and positions them for success in Non-Executive Board roles.

  • Pledge to Make Change: The Catalyst Accord is a call to action for Canadian corporations to increase the overall proportion of Financial Post 500 board seats held by women to 25% by 2017. So far, 27 companies have signed the Accord, pledging action. By publicly committing to boardroom diversity and setting goals, these companies serve as role models for others, demonstrating that leadership and accountability start at the top.


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