Expatica news

Board quota legislation works

27 June 2008

The top 300 European companies now have 9.7 percent of women on their boards, up from 8.5 percent in 2006 and 8 percent in 2004. Of a total 5,146 board seats, women occupy 501. Without Norway, the European growth rate falls back to 9.1 percent confirming the average growth rate of around 0.5 percentage points over each two year period from 2004 onwards.

“The figures illustrate that significant progress takes place in countries with quota legislation, such as Norway but not all countries appear ready to adopt such an approach which depends on both culture and context,” Mirella Visser, President of the European Professional Women’s Network, tells Expatica.

“Norway’s quota legislation is part of its Companies Act, and not the Equality Act. This means that representation of women in top echelons of corporations is seen as an economic issue and just ‘good for business’,” she says.

More female representatives at top of Dutch corporations

What is remarkable according to Visser, is the significant growth of board women in Dutch corporations; from 6.5 percent in 2006 to 12.3 percent in 2008.

“Ample press attention, a large number of private initiatives and role models speaking out in favour of the issue, seem to be having its effect. Noticeable is that a lot of companies that had no women on the board in 2006 have appointed one or two over the past years (DSM, Fortis, Reed, Rodamco, Heineken).”

UK at standstill, France below average
The UK at 11.5 percent seems to have stagnated as the percentage has hardly moved for two years ago (11.4 percent) after an initial encouraging growth rate of 1.4 percentage points from 10 percent in 2004. Growth in France is below average, resulting in 7.6 percent women on boards from 7.3 percent in 2006. Germany recorded an average growth of women on boards, from 7.2 percent in 2006 to 7.8 percent.

Front Runners in Scandinavia accelerating
Norway’s impressive growth path to 44.2 percent women on boards (from 28.8 percent in 2006 and 22 percent in 2004) is followed at a lesser but still impressive pace by the other Scandinavian countries. Sweden posted 26.9 percent, up from 22.8 percent in 2006, whereas Finland and Denmark recorded 25.7 percent and 18.1 percent respectively (up from 20 percent and 17.9 percent). All Scandinavian countries continue to outperform the rest of Europe.

Increasing divide in Europe
Italy and Portugal remain Europe’s laggards, with Greece, Spain and Switzerland a little ahead. Marked by stagnation, the divide between these countries and the rest is increasing quickly. However, we expect to see some impact of Spain’s very recently introduced quota legislation in the next survey in 2010.

The EuropeanPWN launched the bi-annual EuropeanPWN BoardWomen Monitor in 2004. It was the first survey of its kind, presenting the facts, rather than opinions, on the status quo of women’s presence in Europe’s board rooms. The report aims to analyse the best practices across Europe and also provides companies and women with information about the representation of women on the boards.

“Overall,    international diversity within companies is growing faster than gender diversity,” says Visser.


(Report by Natasha Gunn) 


[Copyright Expatica 2008]