Women Make Progress in the Boardrooms of Unexpected Countries

September 29, 2015

Washington, DC— In its latest edition of “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women in the Boardroom,” a global study on gender parity in the boardroom, Paul Hastings LLP, a leading global law firm, finds that women are making varying degrees of progress around the world, but still remain a distinct minority in the boardroom. Among the countries covered in this year’s report, the most positive changes for women in the boardroom are found to be in Thailand, Kenya and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), while little substantial change is taking place in Pakistan, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, and Japan. 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 differences in viewpoint and the varying degrees of government involvement in mandating stronger representation – examining legislative, regulatory, and private sector developments.

“Each year we are able to make comparisons to our previous studies and see where women are becoming more visible in the boardroom, and ultimately making a bigger impact on major decisions for companies and organizations,” said Tara Giunta, partner at Paul Hastings and editor of the report. “I want this report to spark an informed dialogue on best practices, raise awareness of the issue, and help enact positive change.”

Compelling insights from this year’s study include:

  • Sparked by a constitutional mandate, Kenya leads the way in Africa with women holding nearly 20% of board seats, which is more than most countries worldwide, including the United States, France, and the Netherlands.

  • While Nigeria remains slightly below the continental average at 11.5%, recent developments, including a unique approach by the Central Bank which tackles the issue through the lens of the banking sector, bodes well for future progress.

  • Last year, women in the United States held 19.2% of board seats, up from 16.9% in 2013.

  • In Asia, Thailand was the highest-ranking country for women’s participation on corporate boards at 9.7%. Malaysia made significant strides in the civil sector putting in place a policy requiring women to comprise at least 30% of those in decision-making positions. This helped to increase the number of leadership positions held by women from 18.8% to 32.3% in less than six years. Next on their agenda is a similar policy for board seats. Japan continues to trail, with an increase in women serving on boards from 1.6% to 2.1%.

  • Within the Arab States, women hold a greater percentage of board seats in Kuwait (2.7%) and Oman (2.3%) in comparison with Saudi Arabia (0.1%) and the remaining Arab countries. Despite these low numbers, there is optimism that a first-of-its-kind law in the GCC requiring at least one woman on a board of directors will increase these percentages.

  • In Pakistan, women only comprise 23% of the workforce, but 72% of family-owned companies report women on their boards.

As the report reveals, the strategies and efforts by countries around the world to address gender parity are as diverse as the countries themselves. Ultimately, the debate over the best way to close the gap will continue.

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

Paul Hastings is a leading global law firm with a strong presence throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Through a collaborative approach, entrepreneurial spirit, and commitment to client service, the professionals of Paul Hastings deliver innovative solutions to many of the world’s top financial institutions and Fortune 500 companies.



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