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Women in leadership – The UK may have avoided quotas but is the progress just tokenism?

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A new report on global diversity in the boardroom from INAC, an international network of executive search consultancies, has found that while progress on the gender divide is being made – only five percent of the world’s largest corporations are women.

In the UK, much has been made of the latest Women on Boards Davies Review Report which boasts that: “Representation of women on FTSE 100 boards now stands at 23.5%, with 18% women’s representation on FTSE 250 boards. British business is well on its way to achieving the 25% target by the end of the year. However, as Paul Hunt, Managing Director of Search firm, Healy Hunt, a member of INAC, points out: “This is, on the face of it, good news. But I think it is disappointing that this is an average figure across executive and non-executive directors and in fact only 8.6% of executive directors are women – and that’s only up from 6.8% last year – so is this just tokenism?”

In the US, which could feasibly see a female President in the not too distant future, only 17% of Fortune 500 board seats are held by women. In Latin America, only 28% of companies have a gender equality policy at executive level. In Australia, while there are no formal targets, almost a quarter of directors the top 50 ASX listed companies are female and every single one has female directors on the board. There were some interesting anomalies. Turkey is among the top 15 countries in the world for female board members although it still fell behind its European counterparts when it came to the percentage of women participating in the workforce. This was due mainly to the high number of female entrepreneurs running micro businesses. And while Norway is often seen as one of the most progressive countries, having implemented boardroom quotas in 2003, the number of female CEOs in the region is still very small.
The report, which came out of INAC’s recent global conference in Bogota, outlines the different approached and thinking on boardroom gender diversity, from a range of organisations and countries citing research from thought leaders in the executive search area, government and academia.

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