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Women still largely under-represented on corporate boards worldwide


But new Deloitte report finds gender diversity on boards doubled in organisations with female leadership

Women are still largely under-represented on corporate boards worldwide, despite continued efforts to improve boardroom gender diversity.

Released last night, the fifth edition of Deloitte Global’s Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective publication explores the efforts of 64 countries, including New Zealand, to promote boardroom gender diversity. The report reveals that women hold just 15 percent of board seats worldwide. These numbers show only modest progress from the 2015 edition of the report.

Deloitte New Zealand Partner Peter Gulliver says that for the first time, the publication includes a region-by-region analysis of the relationship between corporate leadership and diversity, and direct correlation was found between female leadership (CEOs and board chairs) to board seats held by women.

“Organisations with women in the top leadership positions have almost double the number of board seats held by women. The inverse is true as well, with gender diverse boards more likely to appoint a female CEO and board chair,” says Mr Gulliver.

“This illustrates an important trend—as the number of female CEOs and board chairs climbs, it is likely to spur greater board diversity. Yet, the percentage of women securing top leadership roles remains very low, with women holding only 4 percent of CEO and board chair positions globally,” he says.

The Women in the Boardroom report includes a small sample (18) of New Zealand companies and finds that New Zealand does above average compared to the global sample, with 27.5 percent of board seats and 11.1 percent of board chairs held by women.  But none of the companies analysed have female CEOs.

Mr Gulliver says, despite the small sample size, the results for New Zealand are consistent with what we know from recent research released here.

“The New Zealand Census of Women on Boards 2017, published last month by AUT professors Judy McGregor and Stevie Davis-Tana, shows that the number of women on the boards of the top 100 companies on the NZX has climbed above 20 percent for the first time, with over 22 percent of board members now women. However, according to AUT, the number of female board chairs and CEOs of the top 100 companies have not changed since 2012, holding steady at seven and three respectively,” says Mr Gulliver.

“Given the correlation between women leaders and female board representation, these last two statistics, along with the fact that none of the Kiwi companies analysed for Women in the Boardroom have a woman CEO, are particularly concerning,” he adds.

“Bridging the gender divide in the workforce is not only a matter of fairness, but also of effective governance and inclusive economic growth,” concludes Mr Gulliver.

Highlights of additional findings from the research include:

Boardrooms across the Americas are not highly gender diverse

  • In the US and Canada, only 14 and 18 percent of board seats respectively are held by women. And the percent of female board chairs has not progressed, remaining at just under 4 percent in the US and dropping to 5 percent in Canada.
  • In Latin and South America overall, only 7 percent of board seats are held by women and 2 percent of board chairs are women.

Progress across Europe varies

  • Norway, the first country to ever introduce a gender quota, has the highest percentage of board seats held by women (42 percent). 7 percent of board chair positions are held by women.
  • In the UK, there are no quotas in place for women on boards, but 20 percent of board seats and 3 percent of board chair positions are held by women.  

Asia lags behind other regions

  • At 8 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.

Read the full report, Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective, here

Media contact:

Matt Huntington
Deloitte New Zealand Communications Manager
04 470 3771


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