Efforts by corporations and governments around the globe have increased the number of women on corporate boards, however there is still significant room for improvement, according to the third edition of “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women in the Boardroom,” a report from Paul Hastings LLP, a leading global law firm (released today). Although the debate over the best approach to increase representation continued in 2013, the report also showed strong consensus in many countries of the importance of building a strong pipeline of women candidates.
The 2013 edition of the report examines the legislative, regulatory, and private sector developments and trends of female representation on corporate boards in 35 countries. The latest report also provides updates on notable developments over the past 12 months, a chart of corporate governance codes for the countries surveyed, and an interactive website that includes video interviews with those who are making important contributions to the issue.
“The issue of gender parity on corporate boards continues to garner increased attention around the world,” said Tara Giunta, Paul Hastings Litigation partner and Editor of the report. “While it is increasingly becoming a key focus for both governments and the global business community at large, there is still much debate about the best strategies to close the gap and level the playing field. Paul Hastings’ report is intended to draw attention to the diverse approaches taken in various countries, spark new ideas and discussion, and to further help advance the issue,” she added.
Key findings of the report include:
- The European Union continues to lead the way on the issue, as 2013 brought both tangible progress and spirited debate about the best ways to foster the representation of women on corporate boards. 2013 showed the highest change recorded to date in the average number of women on the boards of large EU corporations, in part due to the introduction of mandatory quotas. However, several EU countries opted for other policies to address the gender gap. Austria, Denmark, Finland, the United Kingdom, and Sweden have all instituted legislation and corporate codes that allow companies to set their own targets and policies.
- China’s legislative efforts have begun to bear results. More than 50 cities in Mainland China have adopted local rules implementing 2011 legislation that requires an increase in representation of women on the boards of public and private companies.
- India is also addressing the issue with legislation. The lower house of the Indian Parliament recently passed a bill, which is expected to become law, which requires a certain class of companies to have at least one woman director.
- The United States and Canada have seen only marginal growth in the number of female board members year-over-year; however discourse on the subject has increased and has centered predominantly on private sector initiatives.
- Australia and New Zealand have each adopted reporting requirements that highlight corporate boards’ gender composition. In Australia, new legislation requires private companies with 80 or more employees to report annually on specific gender equality indicators. The legislation includes sanctions for non-compliant companies. New Zealand’s NZSX/NZDX Listing Rules require listed companies to provide a breakdown of the gender composition of their directors and officers.