Countries with Mandates and Stock Exchange Diversity Policies Make the Most Cracks in the Glass Ceiling for Women on Corporate Boards

November 01, 2018

Washington, DC— In the fifth edition of “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women in the Boardroom,” a global study of gender parity on corporate boards, Paul Hastings LLP, a leading global law firm, finds that women are making advances across Europe and in some other countries, but overall are still underrepresented in the boardroom. The most positive changes were found in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, and the United Kingdom, as well as in Australia and Kenya. The full report includes developments from more than 40 jurisdictions.

The report, considered a first-of-its-kind for a major law firm, provides insights into a variety of approaches to foster gender equality in the boardroom. Among the most effective approaches, according to the report’s findings, are mandatory quotas, public stock exchanges’ diversity policies, and efforts undertaken by institutional investors.

Compelling highlights from this year’s study include:

  • Mandatory quotas have made a significant impact across Europe. For example, in Norway 40.5% of public company board seats are held by women in 2018—an increase of nearly 35% from 2002, the year before the quota’s enactment.

  • Since France enacted legislation in 2011, the proportion of women on corporate boards at its top 40 largest listed companies has jumped from 15% to 42%.

  • The UK saw similar progress, with the percentage of female-held directorships at the top 100 companies increasing from 10.5% in 2005 to 27.7% in 2017.

  • In the U.S. there are encouraging signs that this issue is becoming more visible, thanks to the #MeToo movement and other developments. In the first five months of 2018, women comprised 31% of new board directors at the top 3,000 publicly traded U.S. companies.

  • Women hold 28.5% of seats at companies in the Australian Stock Exchange’s ASX 200, and have comprised 50% of new appointments to ASX 200 boards to date in 2018—developments spurred by the ASX’s adoption of a “comply or explain” diversity policy.

  • Sparked by a constitutional mandate, Kenya leads the way in Africa with women holding 26% of board seats at state-owned corporations and 19.8% of board seats at public companies.

“Each year we look at the latest developments and make comparisons to our previous studies, enabling us to gauge the impact of the growing array of approaches being used to address the issue of gender parity on corporate boards,” said Tara Giunta, partner at Paul Hastings and Founder and Editor of the report. “Given the seismic social changes over the past year or so—with the #MeToo movement and more—the next five years will be pivotal in determining whether further significant progress is achieved.”

To access the study, and its country by country findings, visit www.paulhastings.com/genderparity.

At Paul Hastings, our purpose is clear — to help our clients and people navigate new paths to growth. With a strong presence throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S., Paul Hastings is recognized as one of the world’s most innovative global law firms.

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