Progress slows on boardroom gender diversity

Women will not fill 30 per cent of board seats until 2029, two years later than first predicted, according to research.

MSCI, the index provider, said global progress in boosting gender diversity at the highest level has been slower than expected despite the issue benefiting from various initiatives by business leaders and policymakers.

“There seem to be lingering attitudes, conscious or unconscious, that make this hard,” said Meggin Thwing Eastman, one of the report’s authors.

Over the past year more large investors have pushed for a greater mix in investee companies, partly because of the recognition that diversity can improve financial performance.

Last year a group including BlackRock and the Government Pension Investment Fund in Japan signed up to an initiative pushing for 30 per cent of women on FTSE 350 boards and 30 per cent of women in senior management at FTSE 100 companies by 2020.

This was co-ordinated by the 30% Club, a campaign group pressing for greater participation of women in top corporate jobs.

Thirty per cent is a “tipping point” beyond which the presence of women moves past tokenism, said Ms Thwing Eastman, who is head of impact and screening research for MSCI ESG Research.

MSCI said the slow pace of change had “galvanised initiatives to accelerate progress” but warned that the goals they set could be challenging “in light of progress to date”.

The group found that women held 17.9 per cent of directorships at companies on its ACWI Index, which covers almost 3,000 groups worldwide, at the end of October. This is up from 17.3 per cent in 2017 but well short of the 19.4 per cent predicted by MSCI in 2015.

More than a fifth of the 2,694 companies in the index had all-male boards, most of which were based in east Asian countries.

Norway, France and Italy, which have all implemented female quotas, were the only large countries whose indexed companies all had at least three women on the board.

Source: Financial Times

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