Study: Gender Parity in Boardrooms Is Still a Ways Off

By / Oct 31, 2019 (erhui1979/DigitalVision Vectors)

A new global report from Deloitte shows that corporate boards still struggle with gender parity—despite improvements in recent years. The U.S. only slightly outperforms the global average.

When it comes to corporate boardrooms, we’re a long way from gender parity—even with some improving numbers.

That’s according to Deloitte’s latest Women in the Boardroom report, which tracks the number of women that occupy board seats in 66 countries worldwide. And the report found that no country has true parity—the closest is Norway, at 41 percent, which is well above 2018’s global average: 16.9 percent. The United States, at 17.6 percent, is right near the middle worldwide.

If a woman leads an organization or chairs its board, it tends to correlate with greater female representation on the board.  For example, 29.3 percent of board seats are held by women in companies with a female CEO, while only 16.5 percent of board seats are held by women in companies with male CEOs. And if a woman chairs a board, 28.3 percent of its seats are held by women, compared to 17.1 percent with a male chair.

The report also noted that just 5.3 percent of boards had female chairs globally. Additionally, women didn’t serve on a board nearly as long as men, serving two and a half years less on average (5.5 years, compared to eight years).

While those statistics, which are focused on corporations but mirror results gathered from the nonprofit space elsewhere, show there is still much to do to improve the gender makeup of boards, they nonetheless show growth, as the 16.9 percent global number is about 2 percent higher than it was in 2016, while in the U.S., the 17.6 percent makeup is up about 3.4 percent from 2016.

The report notes that other countries, such as Germany and South Africa, have made dramatic strides in their board growth in recent years, but a few countries—particularly in the Middle East—have numbers that rank well below the norm.

In his introduction to the report, Deloitte Global Center for Corporate Governance Senior Managing Director Dan Konigsburg noted that there was a strong cultural case for more women on boards, as it encouraged “a more inclusive kind of capitalism.”

“A strong representation of women in the boardroom has a trickle-down effect in breaking down stereotypes,” he wrote in the report [PDF]. “It encourages girls to pursue careers in business, science, technology, engineering, and math, and it helps narrow the wage gap between genders. These are important steps in achieving greater economic opportunity for women and more inclusive societies.”

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