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Women Make Slow Progress Into World's Company Boardrooms - MSCI

Tom Burroughes

17 January 2019

Women have not filled company directorships as fast as a research and market benchmarking organisation had hoped, although there are areas of improvement such as in some emerging economies, a new study says.

Research from MSCI, aka Morgan Stanley Capital International, has revised its forecast from 2015 to conclude that 30 per cent of directorships will not be in female hands until at least 2029 if the current rate of change does not shift – two years’ later than it had originally projected.

The organisation’s 2018 Women on Boards Progress Report comes at a time when calls for more female representation in corporations remains a high-profile issue in developed and emerging market economies. 

“This year’s report shows that there are some bright spots of progress with companies, but the pace of change needs to be more in line with the strong advocacy from global investors to see better female representation at the companies they invest in,” Jack Lin, Asia Pacific Head of Client Coverage at MSCI, said. 

Women held 17.9 per cent of all directorships at MSCI ACWI Index companies as of 16 October 2018, up only slightly from 17.3 per cent last year. Among MSCI World Index (Developed Market) companies, women held 21.6 per cent of all directorships (up from 20.4 per cent), with women at US companies holding 23.4 per cent of directorships (up from 21.7 per cent). Women held 11.2 per cent of board seats at MSCI Emerging Markets Index companies (up from 10.2 per cent).

More than a fifth of the 2,694 MSCI ACWI Index companies still had all-male boards and nearly all still had majority male boards. Only 11 companies had boards that were majority female (up from seven in 2017), with another 32 divided exactly 50-50 (up from 21).   

Female representation at the CEO level remains low across MSCI ACWI Index constituents. However, in the chief financial officer position, there has been strong growth in the number of women, especially in emerging markets. This is notable in China, where the proportion of female CFOs (19.3 per cent) is noticeably greater than the overall MSCI ACWI representation (11.1 per cent).

A report last year scolded a number of Asian countries for not doing enough to give women more of a chance to ascend to the top of the company tree.