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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

Slow Gains for Female Board Membership: Report

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Keep this year in mind: 2044.

That’s when MSCI projects there could be a 50/50 gender split on company boards globally. Although that date seems far away (and no doubt some of us won’t be around to witness it), the MSCI’s Women on Boards 2019 Progress Report has found some positive trends.

For companies that make up the MSCI All Country World Index, 20% of directors are women this year, up from about 18% in 2018. The report notes that “this 2.1 percentage-point increase in 2019 also slightly shortened the path to 30% female directorship (projected for 2027, based on the latest data).”

Other findings using companies in the MSCI ACWI include:

  • 3% of companies subjected to mandatory gender quotas have exceeded these requirements; Italy and France have the highest percentage of companies with more women than required;
  • The number of companies with a majority of female board members doubled in 2019 vs. 2018; this means, however, that just 22 companies met this qualifier and that close to 99% of boards remain male dominated;
  • The financial sector tops all areas, with three or more women on about 45% of boards, while this is the case for only about 28% of boards in information technology (which did improve from 2018 and 2019),
  • More women than men (22% vs. 12%) were “overboarded,” that is, serve in multiple directorship roles.
  • Emerging markets are doing better than developed markets, with female CFOs at 14.4% at EM companies vs. 12.7% in the United States and 12.5% in the ASWI.

Country-Level Stats

It’s no surprise that among countries (or states, such as California) that have mandatory quotas for women on boards, 72% have achieved the overall goal of 30% female membership.

Of those countries that did not have mandatory quotas, only 20.3% have reached the 30% threshold and 23.0% have all-male boards.

In the United States, despite the lack of country-level quotas, only 1% of companies have all-male boards, down from 1.9% in 2018 and 2.6% in 2017, the report finds. Canadian companies look similar, with just one of 92 companies (or 1%) lacking a female director in 2019.

Countries with the highest percentage of all-male company boards are typically located in Asia and the Middle East.

For example, there are no female board members on 11 Qatari companies in the MSCI; 94% of Saudi Arabian companies have no female representatives, followed by South Korea with 77%. In Japan, 33% of companies have male-only boards, while China, Hong Kong and Russia come in at roughly 32%.

Boards in the United States with a majority of women include Viacom (55.6%), American Water Works (54.5%) , CBS (54.%%), General Motors (54.5%), Omnicom Group (54.5%) and Best Buy (53.8%). Across U.S companies in the MSCI ACWI, 26.1% of total board seats are held by women.

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