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Still work to do to get more women on boards globally

Researching the top 3,000 companies globally the percentage of women on boards reached 14.7% by the end of 2015 up from 12.7% in  2013 and 9.6% in 2010 according to the latest survey by the Credit Suisse (CS) Research Institute although rates of growth has varied between regions.

The report based on the CS Gender 3,000 data, found that the growth in the last two years has been driven by Europe with the introduction of quotas and targets in recent years, so that the average representation of women in the boardroom in the region stood at 24.4% in 2015. US and Canada, which have not had quotas, have also seen a rise of about a third in the numbers of female directors and the numbers of Asian directors have increased by 60% since 2010 although this improvement is from a low base meaning that women only make up 10% of directors.

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Manifest has comprehensive board diversity data sets ranging from 1996 (UK) and 2004 (Global). Along with gender, age, committee and experience, the fully relational data captures board interlocks, fees, compensation and director voting trends.

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Following its findings in its 2014 report the CS Research Institute again reports that companies with more women on their boards perform better financially stating that the the excess compound returns have expanded to 3.5% per annum since 2005 compared to companies where the boardroom is entirely male.

Looking at specific positions there are 130 female chief executives – 3.9% of the total – little changed from its 2014 report, while they make up 14.1% of chief financial officers globally. Looking below boardroom level women make up women make up 16.5% of senior finance and strategy roles and  9.9% of business head roles which compares to  8.5% in 2014.

However, the research found the rise of women in the boardroom has not helped the increase of women generally in senior management with the report indicating there are cases of over-boarding in the US and Europe – suggesting certain women are taking on an excessive numbers of directorships. As the report notes this helps companies meet targets or quotas but does not meet the broader purpose of improving  female representation more generally. The authors of the report also state that they have seen several examples of companies cutting the number of directors on their board in order to achieve quota levels rather than recruit additional female directors.

The study does find that if women make it to the top of companies they are more likely to promote women around them in senior management roles. The research revealed that female CEOs are 50% more likely to have a female CFO and 55% more likely to have women running business units.

In a separate study by the London School of Economics International Inequalities Institute into top incomes and the gap between women in men it was found that women are seriously under-represented in the top income groups and the degree of under-representation increases as one approaches the top. Looking at the figures for eight countries – the UK, Spain, Norway, Australia, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand and Italy – it was found that women account for under a quarter of those in the top 1 per cent of incomes.

What do you think?