The latest survey by the group found that of the 810 active GDI companies, women hold 19.7% of board seats, an increase from 18.8% in 2015, and from 14.6% in 2011. While both men and women gained and lost board seats, the net result was that women gained 74 board seats in 2016, and men lost 71, for a net change of three additional female board seats.
The research found that companies actually added board seats to achieve diversity. The index shows that of the 120 companies that added women, 70 (58%) did so by increasing the total number of board seats to accommodate a new woman appointee, without replacing men. This, the campaign group said, challenges the argument that boards need to wait for a man to step down in order to add a woman.
Half of the GDI companies now meeting the target of having 20% or greater women on their boards. The percentage of women on boards has also increased across major sectors, the research found. Companies in six sectors now have over 20% female board members, compared with five sectors last year: consumer cyclical, consumer defensive, financial services, healthcare, real estate and utilities.
The number of companies that have no women on the board has steadily declined since the index was launched in 2011 and is now down to 8%, from 9% last year. Sixty-one GDI companies currently have no women on their boards; in this same cohort, 41 companies have had no women directors over the 5 years of research. Many of these companies have actually ignored shareholder proposals to adopt a formal diversity and inclusion policy the campaign group said.