Asian Women are still largely under-represented on corporate boards, despite continued efforts to improve boardroom gender diversity, according to the fifth edition of Deloitte Global’s Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective publication.
At 8 percent, gender diversity in some of Asia’s leading economies is the lowest compared to other parts of the world. Only a few countries in the region have quotas or other approaches to address the issue.
The report explores the efforts of more than 60 countries to promote boardroom gender diversity, and reveals that women hold just 15 percent of board seats worldwide. These numbers show only modest progress from the 2015 edition of Women in the Boardroom.
For the first time, the publication includes a region-by-region analysis of the relationship between corporate leadership and diversity. A direct correlation was found between female leadership (CEOs and board chairs) to board seats held by women.
“Organizations with women in the top leadership positions have almost double the number of board seats held by women. The inverse is true as well, with gender diverse boards more likely to appoint a female CEO and board chair,” said Dan Konigsburg, senior managing director of Deloitte’s Global Center for Corporate Governance.
“This illustrates an important trend—as the number of female CEOs and board chairs climbs, it is likely to spur greater board diversity. Yet, the percentage of women securing top leadership roles remains very low, with women holding only 4 percent of CEO and board chair positions globally.”
The 2017 publication also reported statistics from larger economies in Southeast Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand – as well as Vietnam which is new to this edition.
“The percentage of women occupying board seats in Asia (7.8 percent) is improving but the pace of change is still slow compared to global statistics (14.5 percent in North America, 22.6 percent in Europe),” says Ernest Kan, Deloitte Southeast Asia Centre for Corporate Governance Leader.
“There is much more that can be done to create an environment that would enable women to break the glass ceiling to accelerate boardroom diversity. Strong leadership is needed to change the board’s composition by focusing on identifying capable and board-ready individuals.”
The percentage of board seats held by women in Singapore has increased by 1.7 percentage points to 10.7 percent whereas board chairs that are women have declined by 1.6 percentage points to 5.4 percent.
“As markets become more sophisticated and expectations rise for boards to include directors with different backgrounds and expertise, diversity has become nothing less than a business value,” says Seah Gek Choo, Deloitte Singapore Centre for Corporate Governance Co-Leader.
“Much of women’s abilities to reach our career and leadership goals lie within ourselves and so we need to remove the self-imposed career blocks and propel ourselves to seize opportunities in leadership roles,” added Seah who chairs the local initiative of Deloitte’s Board-ready Women Program to prepare talented women executives for board service.
Bridging the gender divide in the workforce is not only a matter of fairness, but also of effective governance and inclusive economic growth.
Inclusive growth and the future of work
As organizations navigate technological and societal shifts which are transforming the future of work, boards will have a critical role to play. Diversity of thought—and people—will be critical to ensure that board members are exploring challenges from every angle and consistently bringing a fresh point of view.
“Enhancing the diversity of the workforce and fostering inclusive growth is top of mind for Deloitte,” continued Konigsburg. “To support these goals, we are actively involved with initiatives ranging from our engagement with the B20 to increase female workforce participation, to our collaboration with the OECD in support of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes bringing gender equality to the center of economic development.”
Konigsburg added, “Deloitte also continues to advocate for diversity in boardrooms through our ‘Board Ready’ programs which are delivered across the globe to help prepare women for board service.”
Boardrooms across the Americas region are not highly gender diverse
In the U.S., only 14 percent of board seats are held by women, a 2 percentage point increase from the 2015 edition. The percent of female board chairs has not progressed, remaining at just under four percent.
The percent of board seats held by women in Canada grew to 18 percent, a 5 percentage point increase since 2015. The percentage of boards led by women dropped from 6 percent in 2015 to 5 percent in 2017.
In Latin and South America overall, only 7 percent of board seats are held by women and 2 percent of board chairs are women.
Progress across EMEA varies significantly
Norway, the first country to ever introduce a gender quota, has the highest percentage of board seats held by women (42 percent). 7 percent of board chair positions are held by women.
In the UK, there are no quotas in place for women on boards, but 20 percent of board seats and 3 percent of board chair positions are held by women.
The percentage of board seats held by women has increased to 28 percent in Italy. However the number of female board chairs fell 14 percentage points since 2015 to 9 percent.
Boardroom diversity in Australasia is on the rise
There are no gender quotas in Australia for women on boards; however the numbers continue to improve. The percentage of board seats held by women is currently 20 percent and 5 percent of board chairs are women.
New Zealand achieved the strongest growth since 2015, with the number of board seats held by women increasing to 28 percent (a 10 percentage point increase) and the number of female board chairs increasing to 11 percent (a 6 percentage point increase).
Source: SMBWorld Asia
“My biggest mistake is not recognizing the power of compounding and the ability for it to build wealth, and therefore, not investing early enough,” she says. “To me, if there is one thing that can change our society, our economy, and the world, it is getting more money in the hands of women.
Indigenous Americans make up less than 1% of board members for major, publicly traded businesses, according to DiversIQ analysis. Only five people among the 5,537 board members for the S&P 500 identify as fully or partially American Indian or Alaska Native.
These three questions can not only play a pivotal role in strengthening an organization’s DEI culture; they can also serve as team-building exercise. The process of evaluating one’s understanding of DEI principles promotes open discussions, knowledge sharing, and alignment within the team.