Oct 6, 2021 - Economy

Women still make up less than a quarter of corporate boardrooms worldwide

Illustration of a woman standing in the middle of larger legs of several men.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Women still make up less than a quarter of corporate boardrooms around the world despite global governance efforts to improve gender and cultural diversity within businesses.

Driving the news: Since 2015, the percentage of female board members across 3,000 companies globally has grown by 8.9 percentage points, to reach an average of 24%, according to a Credit Suisse study.

Why it matters: Recent data suggests that businesses with more diverse boards fared better during the pandemic, showing a strong correlation between board diversity and company performance.

The big picture: While there’s been debate around the financial benefits of board diversity, the general aim of increasing representation has been to expand boardroom culture

By the numbers: Globally, the U.S. ranks 17th out of 35 countries and regions in terms of female representation on boards (28%), a growth of 11% from 2015, according to the Credit Suisse Gender 3000 report.

  • France (45%), Sweden (40%), Italy (39%), Austria (39%) and Denmark (38%) took the top five spots. 
  • European regulators have put greater pressure on companies to improve gender diversity since at least 2004, whereas U.S. improvements have come more gradually as broader investor interest in ESG has developed, the report says.

What they’re saying: Boardroom diversity alone is not enough, the researchers write.

  • “We find the best-performing companies in terms of share price [have] superior diversity in both the boardroom and the C-Suite. Delivering on the former, but failing on the latter, erodes the ‘diversity premium,’” — which the report defines as valuation, higher returns on capital, higher margins and lower volatility.

What to watch: The SEC is now looking to propose board diversity disclosure regulations.

Go deeper