Percentage of women on boards globally reaches 20.6%
Proportion has doubled in a decade, according to Credit Suisse Research Institute gender report
Female representation on boards globally has doubled in a decade, according to the CS Gender 3000 report, “The CS Gender 3000 in 2019: The changing face of companies” released by the Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI).
The report also highlights that:
• the proportion of women in management is higher in US and APAC (excluding Japan) than in Europe
• China scores highly in female CFO representation but has made limited progress in gender diversity in management
• reaffirms findings from previous iterations: that a material correlation exists between companies with a higher participation of women in decision-making roles and their stock market and corporate performance.
The report analyzes the gender mix of the executive teams of over 3,000 companies stretching across 56 countries and comprising 30,000 executive positions. In APAC, including Japan, the CS Gender 3000 dataset includes 1,280 companies from 14 jurisdictions.
Key highlights for China
• China has a high female CFO representation of 21% of CFOs, ranking sixth globally
• Changes in boardroom diversity were limited in China, recording a marginal improvement of 0.9 percentage point since 2015 to 11.2% in 2019, and compared to 10.1% in 2010.
• Ranked 26th globally, China’s female representation in boardrooms is significantly below the global average of 20.6%.
• In terms of diversity of senior management, China saw a decline from 15.8% in 2016 to 15.2% in 2019, based on the matched dataset.
Women on boards
The percentage of women on boards globally now stands at 20.6%. This has broadly doubled since the start of the decade and risen from around 15.3% since the last report in 2016.
• The experience across geographies does vary considerably. Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) has seen a pedestrian upward trend in gender diversity in the boardroom, rising to 14.4% in 2019 from 11.6% in 2015. However, the country-by-country range is considerable, stretching from 3.1% in South Korea to nearly 30% in Vietnam and Australia/New Zealand. Three APAC countries – South Korea (3.1%), Pakistan (5.5%) and Japan (5.7%) – occupied the last three positions globally. Europe is leading the regional table with an average of 29.7%, driven by the greatest tailwind of policies and initiatives seeking to address gender diversity within supervisory boards.
• The countries with the largest representation include those where quotas or less formal targets exist, such as Norway, France, Sweden and Italy. The countries that have seen the biggest proportional increase in boardroom diversity in the last five years – of between 9.4 and 12.8 percentage points – have been Malaysia, France, Australia, Germany and Austria.
Women in management
The proportion of women in management has risen to 17.6% from 13.8% in the 2016 study. Regionally, the US (21%) and APAC (19%) reflect greater management diversity than witnessed in Europe (17%) despite the policy focus upon quotas in the boardrooms in many European countries.
Seven out of the top 10 markets with the highest percentage of women in management are from APAC, with the Philippines (34%), Thailand (28%), and Australia/New Zealand (25%) firmly in the top three positions. Interestingly, with India (8%), South Korea (4%) and Japan (3%). APAC countries also cover the “top three” positions at the other end of the table.
The spill-over from this trend into the most senior executive positions has been limited. Barely 5% of the CS Gender 3000 companies have female CEOs, and less than 15% female CFOs. Female roles are still clustered away from operational decision making. A third of all “shared services” functions are held by women. 80% of heads of IT positions are male.
Contrasts across the Power Line are less marked in Asia-Pacific than in other regions. It has the highest number of female CEOs (5.6%) and CFOs (18.9%). The comparable figures for Europe and North America are 4.1% and 4.5% for CEOs and 13.3% and 13.6% for CFOs, respectively.
With 15% female CEOs, Singapore and Italy rank the highest in terms of female CEO representation globally, immediately followed by Thailand (9%) and the Philippines (8%). APAC countries are also globally leading in terms of female CFO representation, with Thailand (42%) topping the chart globally.
The report shows that the proportion of women in management increases as the percentage of women on boards rises, suggesting that the impact of greater diversity in the boardroom leads to a better gender balance in executive functions. At the 50% level of board representation, we find nearly 30% of women in management.
While not asserting cause and effect, the CSRI’s previous reports found that strong correlations existed between boardroom diversity and share price outperformance and there was also a coincidence of higher levels of profitability when industries are judged like for like.
• The 2019 report has shifted focus to analyze gender diversity and corporate performance through the lens of management rather than just boardroom. At close to 4% outperformance, the “alpha” (excess returns) we find when analyzing differing diversity levels amongst management teams is more than threefold that when only considering boardroom diversity.
• The report reviewed the relative performance by region, and finds that since December 2014, family-owned companies with at least one female executive have outperformed male-only family-owned companies in Asia ex-Japan by 160 basis points per annum. In Europe, this outperformance reached 570 basis points per year.
• On a sector adjusted basis, the report shows the spread between EBITDA margins between the more diverse versus less diverse companies to be 229 basis points. Credit Suisse’s unique corporate performance framework, HOLT®, finds the cash flow returns on investment to be 2.04% higher and also exhibiting less volatility over time for the companies with a higher proportion of female senior managers. It accords a higher “Quality” attribute to these more diverse companies statistically.
Gender diversity and family-owned companies
Family-owned companies in general tend to outperform non-family-owned peers in terms of financial and share-price returns. Those that tend to perform best, however, appear to have substantial female representation at the executive level. Their EBITDA margins tend to be higher, their reliance on debt tends to be lower, whereas cash flow returns over the past ten years have on average been more than 400 basis points higher.
Based on a proprietary survey among 120 family-owned companies, it was found that a greater share of female executives also correlates with a greater focus on sustainability, ESG and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The female labour market and career progression through macro lens
The report also includes a macro assessment of the dynamics of female labour market participation and the frictions at work that potentially impact female career progression, particularly where managerial roles are concerned. Amongst the policies that potentially need addressing to enhance mobility and flexibility, one is the gender pay gap. The Gender 3000 companies interestingly reflect the lower the diversity, the higher the pay gap.
Patsy Doerr, global head of diversity and inclusion, comments, “It is heartening to see progress being made in most parts of the world to ensure female progression and promotion in the senior positions of the workplace. Though the business case for doing so has long been known, studies such as the CS Gender 3000, and our continued commitment to this research mean we are able to draw ever-clearer conclusions as to how we can achieve an equitable and inclusive workforce.
“That being said, we are still a long way off achieving workplace parity. This is why we are keen to spotlight the issues that persist globally and be part of the conversations that can impact material change in the direction of better gender representation and better corporate performance.”
Richard Kersley, head of global thematic research, comments, “We were uniquely placed to conduct this research using our HOLT valuation framework and global spread of company analysts who have built a comprehensive picture of the gender make-up of the corporate sector. In our view, an understanding of diversity in executive management is of crucial importance if one wishes to really assess the impact of enhanced diversity in the work place and its specific relevance for shareholders. We do not assert cause and effect in our research but let the data speak. We find a material correlation between gender diversity and corporate performance.”
Nikki Davies, head of diversity and inclusion, Asia-Pacific, adds, “At Credit Suisse, we firmly believe that having a diverse workforce contributes to wide-ranging expertise, creates broad networks and fosters an inclusive and open corporate culture, all leading to better business results. In Asia-Pacific, our focus on gender diversity has benefited from a multi-dimensional approach to attract and retain female talent, with sustainable programs in place for continuing the journey towards a diverse and inclusive organization.”
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