In late 2015, the European Women on Boards (EWoB) network started work on two studies which aimed to inform the topical debate regarding gender diversity and inclusion on European Boards. The studies were carried out with key stakeholders (companies, investors, institutions, women board candidates, etc.), with a view to assess the situation and to furthermore contribute progress in terms of women’s participation in decision-making.
The specific objectives of this work were, and continue to be, to:
- Collect and analyse data on how corporate governance practice and long- term business models in Europe promote and advance (or not) gender diversity on boards: key issues and recommendations.
- Collect and analyse best practices on the inclusion of women on boards to enhance performance and competitiveness by innovation,
- Contribute to strategic debate on European Boards, for a better integration of balanced business models for a more sustainable and inclusive growth.
The result of the first six months of work was unveiled in April 2016, when the quantitative part of the study was unveiled.
Realising Europe’s potential: progress and challenges examines the participation of women directors on the boards of the STOXX 600 companies between 2011 and 2015. The study also looks at other related topics such as the inclusion of women directors and board committees and the promotion of women into board leadership position. This study also identifies trends occurring at company, country, sector levels concerning board gender diversity which is driven mainly by the addition of independent, non-executive female directors. Women on European boards are on average younger, newer to the board, a higher number of outside directorships listed companies, and are more likely to be independent outsiders that their male counterparts. The topics covered in the study include proportion of women on Boards of Directors, proportion of women on Board Committee additional gender -related board statistics representation of women in leadership positions remuneration regulatory framework examination of company disclosures and league tables. This publication was produced with the financial support of the Progress Programme of the European Union. The contents of the report are the sole responsibility of European Women on Boards asbl and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.
The second study report, of a qualitative nature, was published in July 2016, and is the result of interviews with 20 of Europe’s most important business and governance leaders. The result is a gathering of insights from seasoned board members and investors, for whom diversity means improved company performance, that provides a unique insight into how women on boards can bring tangible benefits to a wide range of organisations.
Realising Europe’s Potential: Experiences and Best Practices confirms the findings of EWoB’s first study, acknowledging that the “representation of female directors on boards of the largest European listed companies has almost doubled in the last five years”, while at the same time highlighting the need for organisations to measure gender diversity, established targets and actively monitor progress.
Within the context of recent developments at EU level, the study summarises experiences and best practices, as well as challenges and areas for improvement. Among its key findings and conclusions, the study notes that attention is now focusing on how female representation can be boosted in the executive pipeline, acknowledging that a well-diversified board adds value to a company and contributes to a higher standard of professionalism by encouraging full consideration of a board’s needs in terms of balance of skills and experience. The study also underlines the key role of women networks in providing talents in line with boards’ needs.
EWoB Project Team: Marie-Ange Andrieux, Co-chair, Roger Barker, Director, and Karima Zahi, Project Manager
Disclaimer: The European Women on Boards studies have been developed in the pursuit of EWoB’s objectives and are intended to promote the study, research and development of the role of women in corporate governance. EWOB publishes this document because it believes that it is in the public interest for the governance practices of listed companies to be the subject of public debate and neither EWoB or ISS make any representation or warranty, express or implied, to the accuracy or completeness of our reports all the information on which the contents of these reports are based.