Deloitte Global has released the latest edition of its Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective. The report reveals that women hold less than a quarter (23.3%) of board seats globally, a 3.6 percentage point increase since the report’s last edition was published in 2022.

Yet, the report highlights that despite initiatives around the world to increase the number of women serving on boards, gender parity is unlikely to be achieved before 2038. And, there is no clear path to gender parity in the board chair or CEO role.

For parity to become a reality, a wide range of stakeholders would need to devote greater focus and action to help corporate boards more accurately reflect the societies in which they operate. And boards themselves would need to continue to take action and ask the right questions.

The latest edition of the report analysed more than 18,000 companies in 50 countries and geographies, exploring representation of women in the boardroom, as well as insights on the political, social, and legislative trends behind these numbers.

Key Highlights:

  • Women hold less than one-quarter (23.3%) of the world’s board seats
  • Since 2022, the number of women on boards has risen 3.6 percentage points and the anticipated timeline for achieving parity has dropped by seven years, but without increased momentum, gender parity in the boardroom will not be reached before 2038
  • Just 8.4% of the world’s boards are chaired by women and 6% of CEOs are women
  • At the current pace, reaching global gender parity for chairs and CEOs will not be reached before 2073 and 2111, almost 50 and 90 years from now, respectively

Deloitte Global Chair Anna Marks said: “The business case for diversity is clear: companies with more diverse boards have shown that they tend to perform better financially. Despite that, it is clear that a tangible increase in momentum is needed to reach gender parity in the boardroom. With women currently still under-represented on company boards globally, that step change in momentum will require organisations and investors to do more to realise the benefits that diverse boards can bring.”

Government action is making an impact
Government action has yielded results in advancing parity at the board level. For instance, five of the top six countries with the highest percentage of women serving on boards in the study have some sort of quota legislation, ranging from around 33% (Belgium and the Netherlands) to 40% (France, Norway, and Italy).

But quotas are not the only vehicle for progress. Continued government initiatives, such as the use of targets and disclosures, have also driven progress. For example, in the UK and Australia, women now hold more than a third of board seats. And while there is no magic number of board seats an individual director should hold, the geography-level data shows that the movement to increase gender diversity on boards has not caused ‘overboarding’ as some may have feared, says Deloitte.

However, government action alone is likely insufficient to reach parity. Stakeholders, including investors, should remain vigilant in setting expectations around gender diversity, despite the number of matters competing for investor attention.

In some countries, parity is found at the committee level
Across regions, particularly Europe, more women are chairing board committees. For instance, in Italy and France women hold a majority of board committee seats or committee chair roles, and more than 40% of European compensation committee chairs are women.

But there are stark differences between regions. For example, while women account for a majority of compensation committee chair roles in the UK (59%), Italy (57%), France (55%), and Ireland (51%), that figure drops to 27% in the US.

While it is encouraging to see women leading in these positions, more progress could be made in leveraging these committee chair roles to help women ascend to the board chair role.

Among chair and CEO roles, the glass ceiling seems impenetrable
While quotas and targets may help diversify boards, they do not seem to have the same effect on chair and CEO roles. Globally, the percentage of women chairing boards is nearly three times lower than the percentage of women serving on boards, with just 8.4% of the world’s boards being chaired by women.

When it comes to the highest executive roles, women’s representation drops even further: only 6% of CEOs in the world are women, representing just a 1% increase from Deloitte’s previous edition. At the current rate of change, global parity for CEOs would not be reached before 2111—almost 90 years from now.

Since many companies prefer to recruit board members with CEO experience, these numbers do not paint an optimistic outlook for pipeline development, according to Deloitte. Companies should expand their skills profile requirements to further diversify their boards and shore up critical skill gaps.

Women in Games CEO Marie-Claire Isaaman offered: “The Deloitte report’s findings are both encouraging and a call to action. While it’s positive to see progress being made, there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender balance in the games industry’s boardrooms. At Women in Games, we’re firmly committed to advocating for more women at all levels in the industry, and that includes leadership positions. We will continue to develop initiatives and resources that empower women to pursue boardroom roles and encourage games companies to embrace diversity at the highest levels.”

To read the full report visit: Women in the boardroom | Deloitte Insights

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash