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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

Corporate Boards Making Little Progress in Adding Women: MSCI

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Governance is a key ingredient of ESG investing, and one aspect of it is how many women are in positions of leadership or on company boards. The latest annual study on the subject by MSCI shows annual progress “continues to be slow.” In fact, MSCI doesn’t see the rate of women in directorships hitting 30% until 2029 “if the current rate of increase remains unchanged.”

That said, the study did find some positive news:

  • Women held almost 18% of all directorships at MSCI ACWI Index companies as of Oct. 16, 2018. In the United States, women held 23.4% of directorships (up from 21.7% the year before), compared with emerging markets, in which women held 11.2% of board seats (up from 10.2% the previous year).
  • Sixty-four percent of emerging-market companies had at least one female director, up from 59.6% in 2017.
  • Of the 2,694 companies in the MSCI ACWI index, a fifth had all-male boards. Only 11 of the firms in the index had majority-female boards, while 32 were divided equally. South Korea was the slowest to adapt, with 83.5% of its companies having all-male boards.
  • Western markets had the majority of boards with three female directors (considered a “tipping point”) or more. By percentage of firms, the leaders were Norway, France, Italy and Sweden, while in absolute numbers, the United States and United Kingdom led. Asian countries including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China had the most all-male boards.
  • An increase in female CEOs is very slow, and the study found it has in fact gone backward slightly in 2018 in developed markets. The study shows that of the 99 firms that had female CEOs, 26 were American, 17 Chinese, eight from the United Kingdom and six from Australia. The numbers of female chief financial officers “were more encouraging,” it states, particularly in Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and China.
  • Firms in financials, health care and telecommunications were the most likely to have three or more women on their boards.

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