A recent study found that gender equality within the boardroom is on the rise (32.5%), especially in Nordic countries; however this isn’t the case throughout Europe.
The rise in female board members can be linked to a law which was passed in Norway a decade ago. This stated a requirement of a 40% representation of both genders amongst board members. This resulted in Norway’s top listed companies having the highest representation of women in the world, according to the Nordic Board Index.
The Nordic Board Index which was first published 29 years ago examines 18 countries and analyses 125 of the largest companies in the Nordic region to monitor the progress of female board members.
It’s easy to perhaps become pessimistic at the results, well it was enforced by the government but as Scott A. Scanlon, CEO of Hunt Scanlon Media stated, it’s still a positive outcome for women: “Spencer Stuart’s report shows us what we can accomplish in the area of broadening the makeup of corporate boards, even if those changes initially come as a result of government intervention and direction.”
Managing director of 79˚Executive Search & Advisory in Norway, Baard Storsveen agrees: “But it is important to say that the quality of female board members is equal to their male colleagues. This means that the law ‘forced’ companies to look for women and the end result was good.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the new law has also had a positive outcome on male employees. He added that men have also experienced a positive effect from the new law: “This law has even broadened the board recruitment field for men, as more young men with international and entrepreneurial backgrounds appear on boards now. This is an important side effect.”
The report also found that in Sweden 57% of new company directors were women and 48% of new board members in Norway were women, compared to around the globe, these are fascinating figures.
However, despite the high number of female directors in Nordic countries, only five of them actually have female chairman – or chairwoman (one in Finland, two in Norway and two in Sweden). This is similar to European countries as there are only 30 women chairman amongst the 795 companies that make up the 13 European countries.
Most shockingly, Denmark does not have one single female chairman.
But there is some further good news as the 23% of directors within the FTSE 150 are women which is an increase; ever so slightly but at least it’s an increase of 1% from 2014.
Another piece of positive news is that in 2015 only 12 S&P 500 boards reported having no female directors in 2015, compared to 50 boards in 2010. It may be another small gain but every little helps in the fight for equality in the boardroom.
In the USA it’s another matter. Currently women only represent 20% of all S&P 500 directors, despite making up 47% of the United States workforce. This amounts to two women per board, which isn’t a great gender representation.
The Heidrick & Struggles Board Monitor estimates that women will account for 50% of new board directors in the Fortune 500 in the USA by 2024.
Let’s keep positive, we still have another 8 years to see if such predictions come true but in the meantime let’s celebrate the increase, however small the number of women entering the board room. Its a move in the right direction.