Women Executives Gain Worldwide, Remain Far From Parity

More women are in executive and management positions than ever before, but equality remains a long way off.

The presence of women on boards and in leading management roles has risen worldwide, and that may be good for business.

A wide study presented in October by the Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI)—based on 3,000 companies in 56 countries and more than 30,000 executive positions—shows that the percentage of women on boards has doubled in the past decade to 20.6%. At the same time, women in management roles have also increased, jumping to 17.6% in 2019 from 13.8% three years ago.

Still, women are a long way from parity in the world’s C-suites, and there is great variation between regions. The percentage of female directors on boards rose to 24.7% in North America, gaining more than seven percentage points since 2015. The jump in Europe to nearly 30% is underpinned by laws and directives in Norway, Finland Spain, Italy, France and Belgium. Japan, with 5.7%, and Latin America, at 7.8%, are lagging behind.

Although the number of women in senior executive positions is rising, women held a mere 4.4% of seats at the CEO level in 2019. On this metric, Italy tops the charts, with women comprising 15% of CEOs, compared with 5% in the US. By industry, communications has the highest proportion of female CEOs (7%); industrials and information technology has the lowest (3%).

Diverse teams show a strong correlation with a better performance. “Companies with more diverse management teams have generated sector-adjusted outperformance approaching 4% a year compared with those displaying below the average,” says the CSRI report, while noting that correlation is not causation. In other words, it could be that companies managed by women are doing better—but it could also be that the best companies are those where women can rise.