Women’s participation in corporate boardrooms is still well below parity, according to a new report from the Deloitte Global Center for Corporate Governance, Women in the boardroom: A global perspective.
Of 17 countries examined, the average ratio of women serving on corporate boards was around 11%.
Norway stands out in this respect, with women accounting for 35.6% of board members. This is likely due to Norway’s strict quota policy on board gender, with all Norwegian public companies required to meet the quotas since 2008 or face dissolution.
On the other hand, Italy, with no formal gender-equality initiatives in place, has only 3.7% of its board directors as women.
A study by Blue Skies China of a random sample of 22 Hong Kong Stock Exchange companies found that while women accounted for 7.7% of the total number of board members in Hong Kong, only 50% of companies had at least one female board member.
However, both China and Hong Kong show some leadership, with initiatives in their Corporate Governance Codes to exclude gender as a desirable quality or background for board candidates.
“In China, we are seeing growing importance of the role played by women in the boardroom,” says Danny Lau, Asia Pacific managing partner of Enterprise Risk Services of Deloitte. “The Chinese government has also been supportive about the development of women in the society. From 2001-2010, it implemented the Program for the Development of Chinese Women, including the role of women in the economy and the promotion of education for the female,” he says.
“Currently, women only account for 8% of the total number of directors of the top 100 domestic companies in China,” says Lau. “Over the long term, we can expect a continuous increase in the number of female executives in China.”
According to a report foreword by Liselott Kilaas, managing director of Aleris AS in Norway and Denmark and a member of the Norwegian Central Bank’s Executive Board, the issue of quotas tends to polarize opinions. “Either you are for or utterly against,” she says. “The counter argument runs that without stimulating measures, progressing towards more balanced board participation between the sexes is happening at an unacceptably slow pace.”
Whether executives or policymakers agree with the concept of female quotas in the boardroom, the situation is aptly summarised by Maggie Wilderotter, director of Procter & Gamble and Xerox Corporation and vice chair, President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. “We all know that we are well past the time where this should be an issue…. It boils down to respect, common sense, and good business,” she says.