•  The publication explores the efforts of 64 countries to promote boardroom diversity
  •  Reveals 15 percent of all board seats are filled by women globally, representing a 3 percent increase since 2015 edition of the publication
  •  Companies with a female chair have nearly double the number of women serving on boards as compared to when boards are led by a male chair (29 percent versus 16 percent, respectively). The numbers are nearly identical when looking at female CEOs and the number of women serving on their boards as compared to male CEOs (29 percent vs 15 percent, respectively)

Women are still largely under-represented on corporate boards, despite continued efforts to improve boardroom gender diversity. The fifth edition of Deloitte Global’s Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective publication explores the efforts of more than 60 countries to promote boardroom gender diversity reveals that women hold just 15 percent of board seats worldwide. These numbers show only modest progress from the 2015 edition of Women in the Boardroom.

For the first time, the publication includes a region-by-region analysis of the relationship between corporate leadership and diversity. A direct correlation was found between female leadership (CEOs and board chairs) to board seats held by women.

“Organizations with women in the top leadership positions have almost double the number of board seats held by women. The inverse is true as well, with gender diverse boards more likely to appoint a female CEO and board chair,” said Rana Ghandour Salhab, partner and Talent and Communications leader at Deloitte, Middle East. “This illustrates an important trend—as the number of female CEOs and board chairs climbs, it is likely to spur greater board diversity. Yet, the percentage of women securing top leadership roles remains very low, with women holding only 4 percent of CEO and board chair positions globally.”

Bridging the gender divide in the workforce is not only a matter of fairness, but also of effective governance and inclusive economic growth.

Inclusive growth and the future of work

As organizations navigate technological and societal shifts which are transforming the future of work, boards will have a critical role to play. Diversity of thought—and people—will be critical to ensure that board members are exploring challenges from every angle and consistently bringing a fresh point of view.

“Enhancing the diversity of the workforce and fostering inclusive growth is top of mind for Deloitte,” continued Salhab. “To support these goals, we are actively involved with initiatives ranging from our engagement with the B20 to increase female workforce participation, to our collaboration with the OECD in support of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes bringing gender equality to the center of economic development.”

Salhab added, “Deloitte also continues to advocate for diversity in boardrooms through our ‘Board Ready’ programs which are delivered across the globe to help prepare women for board service.”

Highlights of additional findings from the research include:

Strategies to address gender diversity in the Middle East  

  • Generally, there are no gender quotas in the Middle East countries for women on boards, however, some strategies to increase women’s representation on boards are making their way in a few countries, including setting voluntary targets, disclosing and increasing transparency in director appointments, implementing quotas, and addressing unconscious bias. However, representation of women on boards remains very low across the region with women holding no more than 2 percent of board seats in the GCC region.

Boardrooms across the Americas region are not highly gender diverse

  • In the U.S., only 14 percent of board seats are held by women, a 2 percentage point increase from the 2015 edition. The percent of female board chairs has not progressed, remaining at just under four percent.
  • The percent of board seats held by women in Canada grew to 18 percent, a 5 percentage point increase since 2015. The percentage of boards led by women dropped from 6 percent in 2015 to 5 percent in 2017.
  • In Latin and South America overall, only 7 percent of board seats are held by women and 2 percent of board chairs are women.

Progress across EMEA varies significantly

  • Norway, the first country to ever introduce a gender quota, has the highest percentage of board seats held by women (42 percent). 7 percent of board chair positions are held by women.
  • In the UK, there are no quotas in place for women on boards, but 20 percent of board seats and 3 percent of board chair positions are held by women.

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