Women are joining but not leading boardrooms

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Women are joining but not leading boardrooms: Deloitte Global survey

Findings from the fourth edition of the Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective, report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (Deloitte Global).

Singapore, 24 June 2015 – The representation of women on corporate boards continues to increase, but the number of women leading boards still remains low globally. Overall, women now hold 12 percent of seats worldwide with only 4 percent chairing boards, according to the fourth edition of the Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective, report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (Deloitte Global).

Press contact:

Marie Li
Deloitte Singapore
Marketing & Communications
+65 6800 3717
meijli@deloitte.com

The report outlines the efforts of 49 countries to increase the number of women occupying board seats. European countries continue to lead on gender diversity in the boardroom, with Norway, France, Sweden and Italy all ranking high. Regionally, countries in the Americas and Asia Pacific region have progressed the least. According to the report the regional breakdown of women chairs is: EMEA (5 percent), the Americas (4 percent) and Asia-Pacific (4 percent).

Dan Konigsburg, Deloitte Global Managing Director of the Deloitte Center for Corporate Governance, comments: “We’ve seen a welcome increase in women on boards; however the number of women securing the top spot remains elusive even in the most progressive countries. Of course, in many countries, the chair is an executive position, but this absence of women among chairs is revealing. For example, Denmark has the sixth-highest number of women on its boards, yet ranks bottom— our study didn’t identify a single board in Denmark that had a women chair. This is not the only country where this is the case.”

“The global statistics mask important differences within countries. For example, Scandinavian countries have successful policies that make it easier for women to serve on boards, compared with the Asia-Pacific region which has been slow to implement such policies. So, it’s clear that more can be done. We actively encourage increased collaborative effort from organizations, governments and policy-makers; it is the only way we will begin to see results,” said Konigsburg.

Zooming in on Southeast Asia, the survey reported statistics from the bigger economies in the region – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

“In Southeast Asia, the percentage of board seats held by women does not cross the 10 percent mark for each country, which is way behind the European economies with Norway topping at 36.7 percent. The likely contributors to this are the traditional barriers that women have to overcome and insufficient family support,” said David Chew, Head of Deloitte Southeast Asia’s Centre of Corporate Governance.

For Singapore specifically, there are currently no gender quotas for women on boards or in senior management position. According to the research, 9 percent of board seats in Singapore are held by women, and woman board chairmen make up 7 percent. The Energy & Resources Industry sees most women on its boards (14%) and women usually hold positions in the boards’ audit committees.

These figures almost mirror those reported in a Deloitte-partnered survey1 conducted last year, which reported that men take up 91.7% of all board seats in Singapore, leaving 8.3% which are taken by women. In addition, only 5.9% of Independent Director seats are held by women, with more than half of all boards (56.1%) do not have any women.

“Board appointments should be by meritocracy, where an individual’s capability and fitness to serve on the board is the primary focus, irrespective of gender. However, there should be more platforms and opportunities for corporations to be exposed to these women candidates and not exclude them from the selection process in order for leasers of the highest caliber to be represented on boards,” said Seah Gek Choo, Assurance & Advisory partner, Deloitte Singapore.

“There are generally two schools of thought to promote gender diversity – one involves affirmative actions in the form of regulations and the other leaves it to market forces or natural course of events. While it appears that regulators tend to favour a ‘light touch’ approach, it would probably be more effective to let companies identify and recognise the value that such diversity could bring to their business, on a case by case basis,” said Chew.

“The percentages in Southeast Asia, although very much lower than the other more mature world economies are only for listed entities. Privately held companies have a higher percentage of women at decision-making roles and boards. As these companies grow to become listed entities and the evolution of societal norms, we can expect to see more women playing an active role at the senior management and board levels.”

Additional findings from the research include:

Boardrooms across the Americas region are not highly gender diverse

Progress towards increasing the number of women on boards in the Americas region has been slow.

  • In the U.S., only 12 percent of board seats are held by women and 3 percent of board chairs are women.
  • At present, in Canada, 13 percent of board seats are held by women. However, the percentage of boards led by women is 6 percent.

Progress across the EMEA varies significantly

  • In the UK, there are no quotas in place for women on boards, but all Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) 100 companies have women represented, with 16 percent of board seats held by women, while 4 percent of board chairs are women.
  • France reinforced boardroom gender diversity quotas in 2014. As a result, the number of women serving on boards (30 percent) continues to increase, while 3 percent of board chairs are women.
  • Italy introduced a ‘gender balance’ quota in 2011. The quotas have helped to provide a significant increase in the number of women represented on boards, with the percentage of board seats and board chairs currently at 22 percent.
  • Germany will introduce a mandatory gender quota from 2016 onward for supervisory boards of about 100 listed companies with employee codetermination (where workers participate in management of the companies they work for). Eighteen percent of board seats are currently held by women and 4 percent of board chairs are women.

Asia-Pacific lags behind other regions

At 6 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.

  • Many Indian companies have started to introduce women directors to their boards. Currently 8 percent of board seats are held by women and 3 percent of boards chairs are women.
  • In Hong Kong, only about 10 percent of the board members of listed companies are women, even though women account for almost half of the total workforce.
  • There are no gender quotas in Australia for women on boards or in senior positions; however the numbers are gradually improving. The percentage of board seats held by women is currently 15 percent and 6 percent of board chairs are women.

1 The Singapore Directorship Report 2014

Women in the boardroom: A global perspective
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