BoardWomen Monitor 2010: Almost 12% of board members is female

The proportion of women on the boards of the top European companies has grown to 12% in 2010 from 8% in 2004. Keeping current growth rate of 21% every two years, parity could be reached in 16 years. Companies score better on international diversity than gender diversity

Women make up 11.7% of boards at the top 3001 European companies up from 9.7% in 2008 and 8.5% in 2006, the best progress since first BoardMonitor. Of a total 4,875 board seats, women occupy 571. As a result of quota legislation2 Norway remains at the top of the table in having 37.9% women on boards. Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, Belgium and France have more than doubled the number of women on boards; the introduction of Corporate Governance Codes together with equal access legislations currently under discussion in a few countries is having a significant impact, as well as increased shareholder and media scrutiny of board membership.


The Scandinavian Countries are remaining substantially stable

Norway’s growth path following the introduction of a gender quota for board members has reached its peak to 37.9% women on boards (from 44.2% in 2008) and is followed by the other Scandinavian countries. Sweden slightly increased to 28.2%, up from 26.9% in 2008, while Finland remained substantially stable (25.9% in 2010 vs 25.7 in 2008) whereas Denmark decreased to 14% (down from 18.1%). Still, Scandinavian countries continue to outperform the rest of Europe.

Positive growth trend in most European countries

Most European countries – including Southern Europe – show a growing trend, probably thanks to some initiatives related to equal access legislation under discussion or Corporate Governance Codes now effective and to the many private initiatives and press attention for the issue of women’s under-representation on boards in the past few years. Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, Belgium and France have more than doubled the number of women on boards, even though some of them start from such a low number that the result doesn’t appear to be positive enough. All the countries included in the panel, apart from Luxemburg and Ireland show a very positive trend. In the UK, the proportion of women on boards has increased to 13.6% from 11.5% in 2008. Eleven countries out of seventeen are now above 10%. Italy and Portugal show the largest growth rates even though they remain below 5% (3.93% and 3.45% respectively).

On average there are 1.4 women on boards

The average European board is now composed of 11.7 people, of which 1.4 are women. The size of boards has decreased since 2006, when the average European board was composed of 15.1 people, of which 1.5 were women. Women today therefore play a stronger role than two years ago.

Four out of five companies have at least one woman on the board

80% of companies in the survey have at least one woman on the board, up from 72% in 2008 and 68% in 2006. However, still one out of five companies has an all male board.

Critical mass achieved in many countries

The most relevant achievement is that almost one out of two companies have more than one woman on the board and one out of four companies have more than three3, signalling that more and more companies are moving away from tokenism and are convinced of the positive impact on their results gender diversity brings.

Companies score better on international diversity than gender diversity

25% of board members are of a different nationality than that of the company’s headquarters (up from 23.5% in 2008). For women the proportion of internationals is even higher, reaching 30.2% in 2010. Most exceptions are related to language: countries in which board meetings are mostly held in the national language thereby not supporting foreigners that don’t read and speak the language fluently.

About the EuropeanPWN BoardWomen Monitor 2010

This fourth edition of the EuropeanPWN BoardWomen Monitor, designed and run by the European Professional Women’s Network ( Russell Reynolds Associates provided the data taken from BoardEx. The monitor tracks the number of women on the boards of Europe’s top companies. Its bi-annual schedule seeks to provide reliable data on the progress being made.

Survey Methodology
The data for the survey was provided by Russell Reynolds Associates using data from BoardEx which is based on publicly available information. The survey focuses on European companies with a market capitalization of more than £1bn (based on the worldwide headquarters’ home-country).In addition, where the top 6 companies in a country had market capital under £1bn, the top 6 companies by market capital were included. The data was collected on June 22, 2010. The data from the 2004, 2006 and 2008 survey were similar while not strictly comparable; the economic downturn that impacted the economy also impacted the panel of companies: 38.7% of companies in the 2010 panel were not present in the 2008 panel. The difference in data sourcing could impact the conclusions. For countries where a two tier system applies, both boards (supervisory board and executive board) were considered.