UK improves female representation on company boards

UK improves female representation on company boards

Europe’s boards are slowly becoming more diverse, a new study shows – and the UK is gaining ground.

The UK has been taking steps to improve female representation on company boards for years. Although progress is slow – as it often is when businesses are expected to affect cultural and practical change – the proportion of women sitting on boards is steadily rising. As a new study shows, Britain is gaining ground against the rest of Europe as a result.


According to the 2014 European Board Diversity Analysis from executive search firm Egon Zehnder, the UK is now the nation with the fifth-highest percentage of women on large company boards in Europe.

Some 22.6 per cent of directors in these firms were female, the same proportion as Australia.

That means the UK still has some way to go to catch up with front runner Norway – where 38.9 per cent of board members are women – but is definitely moving in the right direction.

What’s more, Europe is way ahead of the global average. Overall, boards across Europe have almost double the proportion of female board members compared to the global average – some 20.3 per cent compared with the non-European average of just 11.6 per cent. With Finland, France and Sweden taking up the second, third and fourth spots respectively, the whole of the top five were European.


In contrast, fewer than nine per cent of board members in India are women. That figure rises to 9.2 per cent in China, but then slumps to 5.6 per cent in Russia and just 3.3 per cent in Japan.

That said, there’s still plenty of work to be done across Europe. After all, the number of women leading boards and in executive director roles is actually below the average across all other regions – 2.6 compared to 3.7 per cent in board chair roles. Just 5.6 per cent of executive directors are female. Edwin Smelt, co-leader of Egon Zehnder’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Council, says that attracting and retaining female talent is vital to fix that.

“Plenty of work remains in identifying a wider pool of female board candidates as well as retaining executive-level women and assuring their advancement within organisations so there is ample readiness to pivot to the boardroom,” he says.

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