In France, for example, women hold 42% of CAC 40 board seats and 40% of SBF 120 seats, and 40% of new board members are women. The 40% quota came into effect in 2017, with penalties for non-compliance; boards risk the appointment of a male being nullified – and the directors risk losing their board fees. However, the quota effect only goes so far: just 1% of French CEOs and 2.7% of board chairs are women.
Elsewhere, 26% of board members of ASX 250 companies in Australia are women, while India now requires at least one woman on each company board. They haven’t achieved that yet, but at least they’re focused on it.
As for the US, it has fallen from the top spot in the world to number 12; only 22% of S&P 500 board members are women. However, during the 2017 proxy season, 36% of the new board members were women, which represents good progress. Even so, unless every other new board member is a woman, the situation is never going to improve significantly.
The ICGN supports voluntary initiatives such as the UK’s 30% Club and 2020 Women on Boards in the US. These initiatives are having an effect even in countries where there is no national approach to diversity. Market-led initiatives have an advantage over quotas, as the latter tend to become ceilings rather than floors.