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Deloitte Global’s latest Women in the boardroom report reveals crucial link between women’s leadership and more diverse boards; overall rate of progress remains slow

Many countries still have much work to do to support women in leadership roles

Key highlights:

  • Report reveals a disconnect between women holding roles on boards and in the executive. Only 6.7% of board chairs are women, and even fewer CEOs - 5% - are women
  • A global average of 19.7% of board seats are held by women, an increase of 2.8% since 2018 compared to a 1.9% increase in the period from 2016 to 2018
  • Companies with women CEOs have significantly more balanced boards than those with male CEOs—33.5% vs. 19.4%, respectively

NEW YORK, NY, USA, 1 February 2022– Deloitte Global in collaboration with The 30% Club today released the seventh edition of Women in the boardroom: A global perspective. The latest edition of the report finds that women hold just 19.7% of board seats globally, a 2.8% increase from the report’s last edition, published in 2019. At this pace, the world could expect to reach near-parity in 2045, over twenty years from now.

The latest edition reveals that in all eight major regions (North America, Latin and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Middle East and North Africa, Asia, and Australasia), at least 10% of board seats are occupied by women. With notable exceptions, progress has been slow, however this slight acceleration provides some reason for optimism given the 2019 report showed the world would not reach parity until 2052. Austria, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States saw the most notable increases.

This year, Deloitte Global collaborated with The 30% Club, whose mission is to achieve at least 30% representation of women in board seats and executive leadership among all listed companies. The report provides a short summary of the “story on the ground" for each country where the 30% Club maintains a chapter, portraying a world of uneven progress.

The latest edition of the report includes updates from 72 countries on representation of women in the boardroom, exploring insights on the political, social, and legislative trends behind these numbers.

It found that nearly all countries have local organizations or governments committed to increasing the number of women serving on company boards. While these private and public sector efforts demonstrate steps toward achieving parity, the pace of collective progress needs to pick up.

“While it’s heartening to see that the world continues to make progress towards achieving gender parity, with the exception of a few countries, overall progress remains slow and uneven,” says Sharon Thorne, Deloitte Global Board Chair. “The pandemic has further challenged progress in achieving equality, making it even more important to move past discussion and take concrete actions to ensure inclusion within and beyond the boardroom including gender, ethnic and racial diversity among other characteristics. Increasing the number of women on boards is only the first step on a larger journey.”

Disproportionate progress in leadership positions

While global female board representation increased slightly in 2021, progress at the chair and CEO levels is less apparent, underscoring the notion that placing more women on corporate boards does not necessarily equate to progress across leadership positions.

The latest research found that only 6.7% of board chairs are women, representing just a 1.4% increase from 2018. Even fewer women – 5%– hold the CEO role, representing only a 0.6% increase from 2018.

However, Deloitte Global’s research revealed a positive correlation between female CEO leadership and board diversity. Companies with women CEOs have significantly more women on their boards than those run by men—33.5% vs. 19.4%, respectively. The statistics are similar for companies with female chairs (30.8% women on boards vs. 19.4%, respectively). The inverse is true as well, with gender-diverse boards more likely to appoint a female CEO and board chair.

Top five countries

Percentage of board seats held by women

Percentage of CEO roles held by women

Country

Percentage

% change

Country

Percentage

% change

France

43.2

5.9

Singapore

13.1

3.2

Norway

42.4

1.4

Sweden

12.4

2.1

Italy

36.6

7.3

Thailand

11.6

1.9

Belgium

34.9

4.3

Ireland

11.5

3.7

Sweden

34.7

1.4

France

9.7

3.5

Source: Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective, 7th edition (2022)

“Consistent dedication and commitment are required to overcome the persistent barriers to improving gender diversity within the boardroom,” says Dan Konigsburg, Managing Director of the Deloitte Global Boardroom Program. “Leaders must recognize, advocate, and actively advance gender parity in the boardroom even as progress remains slow. Whether by addressing bias, implementing programs designed to help women prepare for board service or supporting legislation, we all have a part to play in advocating for a more diverse and equitable future.”

Other key findings of the report reveal additional challenges for women in the boardroom

Fewer women are serving on more boards. Deloitte Global’s Stretch Factor metric examines how many board seats an individual holds in a particular market. The higher the stretch factor, the greater the number of board seats the same director occupies in a given market.

  • In 2021, the Stretch Factor for women increased slightly from the 2018 figure of 1.26 to 1.30, indicating that - compared to men - a smaller group of women are taking on a large number of board seats. Men, by comparison, have a Stretch Factor of 1.17.
  • Countries with the highest Stretch Factor for women—Australia (1.43), the US (1.33), and New Zealand (1.32)—have all eschewed quotas in favor of voluntary approaches such as non-binding targets. Meanwhile, those European countries that were early adopters of quotas have much lower Stretch Factors for women directors, some equal to that of men globally.
  • The global average tenure of women directors has reduced from 5.5 years in 2018 to 5.1 years in 2021.
    • The numbers are decreasing in specific markets, such as the US (from 6.3 years in 2018 to 5.3 years in 2021), the UK (4.1 years to 3.6 years in 2021), and Canada (5.7 years to 5.2 years).

To read the full report, please visit: www.deloitte.com/WOB7

About Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective

The global, regional, and country analyses are based on a dataset covering 10,493 companies in 51 countries— more than 176,340 directorships—spanning Asia Pacific, the Americas, and EMEA. Only active directorships and committee memberships were considered in the analysis. To supplement this data, Deloitte Global compiled information on diversity quotas and other diversity initiatives. In total, the publication explores the efforts in 72 countries to promote boardroom gender diversity. Percentage change noted throughout the report is in comparison to Deloitte Global’s analysis conducted in previous editions of this report, published in 2015, 2017 and 2019, unless otherwise noted. The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited or the Deloitte member firms. We make no representation or warranty about the accuracy of the information.

About the Deloitte Global Boardroom Program

The Deloitte Global Boardroom Program brings together the knowledge and experience of Deloitte member firms around the world to address critical topics of universal interest to company boards and management. Supplementing country programs, its mission is to promote dialogue between corporations and their boards and management, investors, the accounting profession, academia, and government. In addition to the publication of thought-pieces on critical topics, the Deloitte Global Boardroom Program hosts a series of must-see webinar discussions with eminent panelists to enable boards and management of global companies to challenge perceived wisdom. For more information about the program contact globalboardroomprogram@deloitte.com. Find us online

About Deloitte

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), its global network of member firms, and their related entities (collectively, the “Deloitte organization”). DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) and each of its member firms and related entities are legally separate and independent entities, which cannot obligate or bind each other in respect of third parties. DTTL and each DTTL member firm and related entity is liable only for its own acts and omissions, and not those of each other. DTTL does not provide services to clients. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more.
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Contacts

Vicktery Zimmerman
Global Communications
Deloitte Global
Tel: +1 312.486.1569

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