Women in the boardroom
A global perspective
Women are still largely under-represented on corporate boards globally, despite continued efforts to improve boardroom gender diversity. The 5th edition of the Deloitte Women in the boardroom publication outlines efforts in over 60 countries to increase the number of women occupying board seats.
Our latest edition also provides global, regional, and country-specific analysis of women serving on boards, including of how women are represented on board-level committees.
- Women hold 15 percent of board seats worldwide, a slight increase from our previous 2015 edition.
- Organizations with women in the top leadership positions have almost double the number of board seats held by women.
- Women hold only 4 percent of CEO and board chair positions globally.
There were only 10 countries in the EU where women accounted for at least 25 percent of board members in April 2016: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. France (at 37 percent) and Sweden (at 36 percent) were closest to the 40 percent target set by the EU Directive in discussion.
At present, a total of less than 30% of seats in supervisory boards are held by women, with the DAX 30 companies serving as a pioneer.
The German parliament passed legislation in March 2015 requiring roughly 110 listed companies with employee representation on their supervisory boards to have 30 percent of their non-executive board seats held by women. The law took effect in 2016. Companies that are not in compliance will need to appoint women to fill vacant board seats or leave them empty.
Germany is above average, but not leading the field.
Two important milestones for female representation on the supervisory boards of DAX 30 companies were reached in the 2016 AGM season:
- women now account for more than 30 percent of non-executive positions, and
- there are no longer any all-male supervisory boards.
This is a considerable improvement from 2010, when only 14 percent of supervisory board seats were held by women.
Female representation on management boards is also increasing, but the percentage is considerably lower. Roughly 10 percent of DAX 30 management board seats are held by women, up from a mere 2 percent in 2011.
Besides the quota requirement for supervisory boards, effective January 2016, the Equality Act as well as the 2015 German corporate governance code for listed companies contain various recommendations to promote greater gender diversity on management boards:
- Management boards should take diversity, particularly the representation of women, into account when filling management roles.
- Management boards should set targets for increasing the percentage of women represented on the next two management levels below top management.
- Supervisory boards should set targets for diversity, particularly women’s representation, on the management board.
These corporate governance code recommendations are enforced on a comply-or-explain basis; a failure to comply must be disclosed on an annual basis.
Furthermore, the 2015 Equality Act contains a 50 percent target for women on the supervisory boards of state-owned enterprises from 2018 onward.
It will be instructive to see how female representation will develop in the next few years. Now, it is an open question whether we will see companies only meeting the minimum legal requirements or whether there will be real equal gender representation on supervisory boards in the future.
Claus Buhleier, Partner, Leader of the Center for Corporate Governance, Deloitte Germany