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Women joining but not leading boardrooms globally

June 12, 2015
Diversity & Inclusion
The representation of women on corporate boards continues to increase, but the number of women leading boards still remains low globally. Overall, women now hold 12 percent of seats worldwide with only 4 percent chairing boards, according to the fourth edition of the Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective, report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (Deloitte Global).
 
The report outlines the efforts of 49 countries to increase the number of women occupying board seats. European countries continue to lead on gender diversity in the boardroom, with Norway, France, Sweden, and Italy all ranking high. Regionally, countries in the Americas and Asia Pacific region have progressed the least. According to the report the regional breakdown of women chairs is: EMEA (5 percent), the Americas (4 percent) and Asia-Pacific (4 percent).
 
Dan Konigsburg, Deloitte Global Managing Director of the Deloitte Center for Corporate Governance, comments: “We’ve seen a welcome increase in women on boards; however the number of women securing the top spot remains elusive even in the most progressive countries. Of course, in many countries, the chair is an executive position, but this absence of women among chairs is revealing. For example, Denmark has the sixth-highest number of women on its boards, yet ranks bottom—our study didn’t identify a single board in Denmark that had a women chair. This is not the only country where this is the case.”
 
“The global statistics mask important differences within countries. For example, Scandinavian countries have successful policies that make it easier for women to serve on boards, compared with the Asia-Pacific region, which has been slow to implement such policies. So, it’s clear that more can be done. We actively encourage increased collaborative effort from organizations, governments and policy-makers; it is the only way we will begin to see results,” said Konigsburg.
 
Additional findings from the research include:
 
Boardrooms across the Americas region are not highly gender diverse
 
Progress towards increasing the number of women on boards in the Americas region has been slow. 
 
In the U.S., only 12 percent of board seats are held by women and 3 percent of board chairs are women. 
 
At present, in Canada, 13 percent of board seats are held by women. However, the percentage of boards led by women is 6 percent.
 
Progress across the EMEA varies significantly
 
In the UK, there are no quotas in place for women on boards, but all Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) 100 companies have women represented, with 16 percent of board seats held by women, while 4 percent of board chairs are women. 
 
France reinforced boardroom gender diversity quotas in 2014. As a result, the number of women serving on boards (30 percent) continues to increase, while 3 percent of board chairs are women.
 
Italy introduced a ‘gender balance’ quota in 2011. The quotas have helped to provide a significant increase in the number of women represented on boards, with the percentage of board seats and board chairs currently at 22 percent.
 
Germany will introduce a mandatory gender quota from 2016 onward for supervisory boards of about 100 listed companies with employee codetermination (where workers participate in management of the companies they work for). Eighteen percent of board seats are currently held by women and 4 percent of board chairs are women.
 
Asia-Pacific lags behind other regions
 
At 6 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. 
 
Many Indian companies have started to introduce women directors to their boards. Currently 8 percent of board seats are held by women and 3 percent of boards chairs are women. 
 
In Hong Kong, only about 10 percent of the board members of listed companies are women, even though women account for almost half of the total workforce. 
 
There are no gender quotas in Australia for women on boards or in senior positions; however the numbers are gradually improving. The percentage of board seats held by women is currently 15 percent and 6 percent of board chairs are women.
 
By Temur Tatishvili 
 

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