Cornerstone International Group: Have Quotas Put More Women on Boards?

In this article, Chris Allan of Cornerstone International Group takes a look at a report by The Economist to ask the question, have quotas put more women on boards?

10 years ago Norway decreed that 40% of the directors of listed companies must be women. At the time, the percentage in major countries was around 10%. Many other countries adopted quotas as well, including Belgium, France, Italy, threatening dissolution and/or fines, plus Germany, Spain and the Nethlerlands, but without sanctions. Britain offered guidelines and North America demurred.

The question is, has it worked? Here's what they found:

  • Belgium, Germany, France and the Nordics today have 30-40% women on the boards of large, listed companies.
  • However, without quotas in place, most countries cannot do better than 20% participation from women, only 3% better than the global average.
  • That 17% global average is not expected to hit 30% before 2028, another 10 years.
  • In OECD countries, college and university graduates are 58% women yet they don’t make it to the top of the corporate world in anything like those proportions.
  • Early fears that quotas would result in tokenism and the appearance of a few highly qualified women on multiple boards do not seem to represent an issue.
  • According to the Economist, 19% of women directors sit on three or more boards, not a whole lot more than 15% for men.
  • Studies in France, Germany and The Netherlands show that just 10-20% of senior management positions are filled by women, a share that has not moved for several years.
  • In the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap Index of 144 countries, the U.S. ranks 26th in women’s economic participation and opportunity and 73rd in women’s political empowerment.

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