A group called European Women on Boards last week released its first-ever gender diversity index and came to this conclusion: France, far and away, has by its measure the highest share of women on company boards at 44.2%.
The index assessed gender representation at the 200 largest European listed companies in nine nations—Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the U.K—in an effort to identify best practices. Of the 30 French companies covered in the study, 28 had boards that were at least ⅓ female.
In addition to singling out nations’ overall progress on gender diversity, the report highlighted stand-out companies:
France’s high share of female directors follows its 2011 decision to mandate that women make up at least 40% of all CAC 40 boards by the end of 2017. In fact, the top three countries on this list have passed quotas requiring certain levels of gender diversity on boards.
At Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International Summit in London in June, Sodexo’s chair Sophie Bellon voiced her support for legal mechanisms that force companies to address board diversity because she abides by the belief that “what gets measured gets done.”
“When you want a company to improve sales or profitability, you just give an objective and everyone is aligned,” she said. Board diversity is just as important a topic, so it’s worth approaching in the same way, she said.
Bellon said the company had learned about improving gender balance from the U.S., since discussions about the benefits of diversity started sooner there than in Europe. But France has since leapfrogged the U.S. in share of women directors. And now the U.S. is taking its turn mimicking the European nation, as California just became the first state with a board diversity mandate.
By Claire Zillman
“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.