In many ways, Taiwan has broken the glass ceiling for gender parity. After the 2016 elections, the country saw a record percentage of female legislators (38%), putting Taiwan far ahead of both other Asian countries and the international average of 22%.1 Also in 2016, Taiwan elected its first female president, Tsai Ing-Wen.2 However, women’s representation in the boardroom has not matched the gains in political representation. In 2017, just 12.57% of board seats of public companies were held by women, according to Deloitte.3 Among Taiwan Stock Exchange Corporation (TWSE) listed companies, women comprise 11.90% of corporate board members, and 23.85% of supervisory positions.4 Although representation of women in the boardroom lags behind representation in public office, Taiwan remains one of the highest-ranking countries in East Asia in terms of women’s representation on boards.
The Constitution of Taiwan states that, “All citizens of the Republic of China, irrespective of sex, religion, race, class, or party affiliation, shall be equal before the law.”5 In 2002, the Act for Gender Equality in Employment (GEEA) was enacted, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex with regard to hiring, training, salary, welfare benefits, remuneration, and other conditions of employment.6 The GEEA also includes protections against sexual harassment7 and promotes equality in the workplace through guaranteed maternity and parental leave, and guaranteed child care at employers above a certain threshold. In 2007, Taiwan ratified the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Although Taiwan’s legislature has adopted quotas for political office (stipulating that women must represent half the “at-large” seats in the legislature), currently there is no such requirement with respect to board representation quotas for women on corporate boards.8
The Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC)—the government agency responsible for regulating the securities market, banking, and the insurance sector, and the regulator of the TWSE—has taken steps in recent years to address diversity on boards. In 2013, the FSC issued a corporate governance roadmap (“FSC Roadmap”), which sets forth goals to improve corporate governance, with diversity on boards as one of the stated goals. The FSC Roadmap instructs the TWSE and the Gre Tai Securities Market (GTSM) to revise their corporate governance guidelines, entitled the “Corporate Governance Best-Practices Principles for TWSE/GTSM Listed Companies,” to encourage companies to consider gender equality in their corporate governance.9 According to a senior executive vice president of the exchange, the guidance is “an encouragement mechanism, [and] currently it’s not enforced or mandatory.”10
Another major project set forth in the FSC Roadmap is the implementation of a corporate governance evaluation system that evaluates all listed companies according to a number of corporate governance metrics.11 Among the approximately 99 indicators are questions that relate to diversity on boards. Two of those indicators require companies to answer whether they adopted and disclosed a board diversity policy, and whether their board of directors included at least one female director in the previous year.12 Although the body responsible for the evaluations, the TWSE Corporate Governance Center, has released rankings of companies based on the evaluation, publicly available information does not reveal how companies fare in terms of board diversity.
Despite the advisory nature of these measures, Taiwan has seen significant progress in women’s representation on boards of directors and supervisory committees. In 2016, the percentage of women on boards at TWSE-listed companies was 11.90% (13.10% for GTSM-listed companies).13 The percentage of women who served as directors of state-owned enterprises has increased from 11.93% in 2013 to 20.12% in 2017.14 Finally, the percentage of women in supervisor positions at TWSE-listed companies reached 23.8% in 2016 (25.79% for TSM-listed companies).15
These statistics align with other reported measures on gender equality. According to Taiwan’s Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, in 2017 the country ranked 38th out of 187 countries on the Gender Inequality Index.16 It must be noted, however, that this ranking comes from Taiwan’s own self-evaluation based on the survey factors, as Taiwan was not included in the official U.N. ranking conducted by independent evaluators.17
The increased focus in Taiwan on the representation of women on boards also includes a number of non-government organizations. Among these are Women on Boards, an organization founded in April 2014 with the express goals of promoting women’s involvement in the corporate sector and increasing the number of women on boards and in decision-making positions at the management level.18 The combination of privately-led movements and government-led efforts is an encouraging sign that Taiwan could continue to build on the gains it has achieved in recent years for the representation of women in both the public and private sectors.
1 Cindy Sui, Taiwan, the place to be a woman in politics,BBC (May 20, 2016), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36309137.
2 Tsai Ing-wen elected Taiwan’s first female president, BBC (Jan. 17, 2016), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35333647.
3 Women in the boardroom: A global perspective, Deloitte 31 (2017), https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ch/Documents/risk/ch-en-women-in-boardroom.pdf.
4 Individual Action Plan for the enhancement of the ratio of women’s representation in leadership (2017), Gender Equa. Comm. for the Exec. Yuan 2, https://www.gec.ey.gov.tw/en/News.aspx?n=C255A3BC2FF33891&sms=2FAE5A07AE47735C.
5 Constitution of the Republic of China, art. 7.
6 Christine Chen, Employment and employee benefits in Taiwan: overview, Thomson Reuters,https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/9-633-4823?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true&comp=pluk&bhcp=1.
8 Sui, supra note 1.
9 Corporate Governance Roadmap (2013), Financial Supervisory Commission, http://cgc.twse.com.tw/img/Corporate%20Governance%20Roadmap%202013.pdf; Corporate Governance Best Practice Principles for TWSE/GTSM Listed Companies, art. 20 (amended Dec. 31, 2014), http://eng.selaw.com.tw/LawArticle.aspx?LawID=FL020553&ModifyDate=1031231.
10 Sarah Mishkin, Taiwan: more women at the top, Financial Times (Mar. 20, 2013), https://www.ft.com/content/ffb2994a-e2d5-393a-9933-fc8d757f2970.
11 The 2018 Corporate Governance Evaluation System, TWSE Corporate Governance Center (2018), http://cgc.twse.com.tw/static/20180209/000000006150c00d0161794f01e40005_%E8%8B%B1%E8%AD%AF107%E5%B9%B4%E5%BA%A6%E5%85%AC%E5%8F%B8%E6%B2%BB%E7%90%86%E8%A9%95%E9%91%91%E7%B3%BB%E7%B5%B1%E4%BD%9C%E6%A5%AD%E6%89%8B%E5%86%8A%E5%8F%8A%E6%8C%87%E6%A8%99.pdf.
13 Gender Equal. Comm., supra note 4, at 2.
16 Chen Cheng-wei and Y.F. Low, Taiwan ranks 38th worldwide in gender equality in 2016: DGBAS, Focus Taiwan (Mar. 21, 2017), http://focustaiwan.tw/news/asoc/201703210032.aspx.
18 WOB touts female participation in business, Taiwan Today (Apr. 18, 2014), http://taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xitem=216541&CtNode=416.