UK ranked in top four countries for boardroom gender diversity - but more progress is needed

*New* European Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index released 


Across Europe women comprise one third (33%) of board members in STOXX Europe 600 companies, the European Women on Board Gender Diversity Index reveals. Significant progress has been made in increasing the share of women on boards. However, gender diversity at other levels of corporate governance is still a mirage: In only just over a quarter (27%) of leadership positions are occupied by women. This figure represents the proportion of women (removing double-counting when the same person holds different roles) in all the top layers of governance, as well as on board committees.

Fiona Hathorn, CEO of Women on Boards UK, commented: 

"Congratulations to all the women across Europe who have put themselves forward for non-executive roles - especially the 1800 women in our network who have gained non-executive roles since we started. 

It is heartening to see that the concerted effort made by the UK Government places us as one of the top four countries for boardroom gender diversity in Europe. However it is clear that more work will be needed to maintain this. In particular, we need to make sure that more women with non-executive experience results in more female Chairs very quickly and more executive female directors."

More key points from the research show: 

  • Women are much less likely than men to be in executive positions: only 16% of leaders in the second layer of corporate governance and, where they exist, in the third layer of corporate governance, are women;
  • Only 28 companies covered in this study (4.7% of the dataset) have a female CEO;
  • 99 companies, representing 17% of the dataset, have at least one female member of the C-suite (only counting CEOs, CFOs or COOs);
  • Women are much less likely to hold chair positions then men at all layers of governance. Only 7% of Chairs of Boards are women.
  • Companies that have a woman as CEO, CFO or COO tend to have more women in executive positions. The 99 companies analysed that have a woman in one of these three positions have 27% of women at executive level

Even in those companies where the overall share of women is rather balanced, the share of women in executive roles lags behind.

The average Gender Diversity Index of companies analysed is 0.53, with 1 being the value representing perfect gender equality.

Only 30 companies (5%) are close to having gender-balanced leadership with a GDI value that is 0.8 or more. On the other hand, 53 companies in the dataset (9%) have strongly male-dominated boards with a GDI of 0.3 or less. In 2019, there are still three companies out of 598 which have no woman represented in any of their leadership roles.

Companies from the UK, Norway, France and Sweden are closest to having gender-balanced governance.

Of the top 20 companies according to the Gender Diversity Index, 7 are French and 5 are Swedish. Although Norway has relatively few companies in the index (only 15), these companies tend to achieve a good score and two of them are in the top 20. Swiss companies, on the other hand, have the least diverse leadership. Of the bottom 20 companies in the Index, 10 are Swiss.

Companies in sectors of financial and insurance services, technology and media and “other” (i.e. utilities and travel and leisure) tend to have greater gender balance in their leadership than other sectors, but differences are not statistically significant.

>>  Read the full report

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