The number of women on corporate boards all over the world is still unfortunately very small. A recent survey conducted by Catalyst, a U.S. organization specialized in researches, revealed that Norway has the number one position, with women having 36% of its board seats. Finland comes second, with 30%, and France is on the third place, with 29.7%. However, in countries such as Japan, where a number of women still call their husbands “master,” women hold only 3% of board seats. In the U.S., women occupy 19% of seats among the S&P 500 companies.
Can quotas for women help lift those numbers? According to a new study led by investment management firm BNY Mellon and run by Cambridge University professor Sucheta Nadkarni, quotas can boost the number of women on boards but cannot guarantee that women will stay. This shows that turnover may stop the total number of women on boards from significantly growing. This same study reveals that putting up an economic power for females such as defining the percentage of women in the workforce, could be a very efficient way to increase the presence of women. However, this method is quite difficult to accomplish. But what companies can do to help is to write governance codes that cite gender diversity as an objective.
Helena Morrissey, chief executive of BNY Mellon subsidiary Newton Investment Management, told The New York Times that “the striking and most encouraging finding is that empowering women and girls outside the boardroom is key to getting them into the boardroom—and staying there”.
The study was communicated at Womenomics, which is a BNY Mellon-sponsored conference. It was based on data from 1,002 companies on the Forbes Global 2000 list, including businesses in 41 countries, over a time span of 2004-2013.
Furthermore and in addition to the economic power, some other strategies are likely to help increasing the number of women on boards: For instance, long maternity leaves. They help a lot because the longer the leave, the greater the percentage of women who join boards and stay there. Moreover, it appeared that the growing number of women participating in politics in a country is correlated with more getting onto boards and staying.
Following this new study, the question that should be asked is: Would quotas still be considered as a tool to right discrimination’s wrongs? And what about women who join boards and then leave quickly?