News Analysis

Women in the boardroom – progress remains slow and uneven

by Stephen Conmy on Mar 1, 2022

The latest Deloitte ‘Women in the Boardroom’ report shows that companies with female CEOs have more women on their boards than companies with male CEOs. However, when it comes to the percentage of women on boards around the world, progress is slow.

Key points of the report

  • This report reveals a disconnect between women on boards and in the executive sphere. The percentage of women who chair boards is 6.7%, and only 5% of CEOs are women.
  • A global average of 19.7% of board seats are held by women, an increase of 2.8% since 2018 compared to a 1.9% increase in the period from 2016 to 2018.
  • Companies with women CEOs have significantly more balanced boards than those with male CEOs – 33.5% vs. 19.4%, respectively

The 30% Club

For this new research, Deloitte partnered with The 30% Club to publish ‘Women in the boardroom: A global perspective’.

The latest (and seventh) edition of the report finds that women hold just 19.7% of board seats globally, a 2.8% increase from the report’s last edition, published in 2019. 

With this slow acceleration, near-parity could only be reached in 2045, over twenty years from now.

Austria, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States saw the most notable increases in women on boards.

Uneven progress around the world

The report gives an overview of the “story on the ground” in each country where the 30% Club has a presence, revealing uneven progress.

“While it’s heartening to see that the world continues to make progress towards achieving gender parity, with the exception of a few countries, overall progress remains slow and uneven,” says Sharon Thorne, Deloitte Global board chair. 

“The pandemic has further challenged progress in achieving equality, making it even more important to move past discussion and take concrete actions to ensure inclusion within and beyond the boardroom including gender, ethnic and racial diversity among other characteristics. Increasing the number of women on boards is only the first step on a larger journey.”

Little progress in leadership positions

In 2021, the proportion of women on corporate boards increased slightly; however, progress at the CEO and chair levels was less apparent. Putting more women on corporate boards does not necessarily result in advancements in leadership positions.

In the latest research, just 6.7% of board chairs are women, representing just a 1.4% increase over 2018. Even fewer women – 5%– hold the CEO role, representing only a 0.6% increase from 2018.

The research found, however, a positive correlation between female CEO leadership and board diversity.

Companies with female CEOs have more women on their boards than companies with male CEOs – 33.5% vs. 19.4%, respectively.

The statistics are similar for companies with female chairs (30.8% women on boards vs. 19.4%, respectively). 

A gender-diverse board is also more likely to appoint a female CEO and board chair.

“Consistent dedication and commitment are required to overcome the persistent barriers to improving gender diversity within the boardroom,” says Dan Konigsburg, managing director of the Deloitte Global Boardroom Program. Source: Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective, 7th edition (2022)

“Leaders must recognise, advocate, and actively advance gender parity in the boardroom even as progress remains slow. Whether by addressing bias, implementing programs designed to help women prepare for board service or supporting legislation, we all have a part to play in advocating for a more diverse and equitable future.”

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