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Global Board Diversity Analysis

The Egon Zehnder 2016 Global Board Diversity Analysis (GBDA) is the most comprehensive to date, evaluating board data from 1,491 public companies with market capitalization exceeding EUR 6bn across 44 countries.

Global Progress: Slow but Positive

Across the globe, gender parity in the boardroom continues on an upward trajectory, with slow but positive progress – in 2016, nearly 19 percent of seats on the boards of the largest companies globally were held by women, up from 14 percent in 2012. And with this trend, it’s now more common to see women on boards.

Companies with Women on Boards
Women in Board Seats
Four-Year Growth in Percentage of Women on Boards Globally
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Tracking Regional Growth

Global data from the 2016 GBDA proves that with the right measures, it is possible to radically change the gender composition of boards. Thirty-six of the 44 countries studied showed progress in gender diversity since 2012.

Four-Year Growth in Percentage of Women on Boards Globally
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Four-Year Growth in Percentage of Women on Boards Globally
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Tracking Regional Growth

Global data from the 2016 GBDA proves that with the right measures, it is possible to radically change the gender composition of boards. Thirty-six of the 44 countries studied showed progress in gender diversity since 2012.

Four-Year Growth in Percentage of Women on Boards Globally
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Four-Year Growth in Percentage of Women on Boards Globally
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Tipping Point for Diversity Change

Egon Zehnder’s experience and third party research show that for gender diversity to have meaningful impact at the board level, representation by three or more women is required to reach the tipping point for transformative and sustainable change. If progress continues at the same global rate as the last two years (2014-2016), the average number of women per board will reach three by 2021, while gender parity remains 20 years away.

Four-Year Growth in Percentage of Women on Boards Globally
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Global Diversity Champions 

Of the 44 countries studied, there are 16 countries worldwide that can be labeled as “Diversity Champions”. They have achieved the critical mass of three female board directors on average, and it is probable that board diversity has reached the tipping point in these countries.

Reached Critical Mass of Average Three Women per Board
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Average Number of Women per Board: Diversity Champions
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Global Diversity Champions 2016

Of the 44 countries studied, there are 16 countries worldwide that can be labeled as “Diversity Champions.” They have achieved the critical mass of three female board directors on average, and it is probable that board diversity has reached the tipping point in these countries.

Diversity Champions: Reached Critical Mass of Average Three Women per Board
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Average Number of Women per Board: Diversity Champions
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Western Europe Leads the Way

For the “Diversity Champion” countries, achieving critical mass has been a result of consistent and coordinated action over a relatively short period of time – this can be seen looking at countries such as France and Italy, which instituted ambitious board diversity quotas and experienced quick transformation in the last four years. However, quotas are not the only effective route to board diversity transformation, as we have seen in the UK, which has achieved consistent growth.

Trend in Average Percentage of Women on Boards, Western Europe

Countries Slow to Progress 

Despite progress in some regions, our global sample shows that many countries have yet to start a diversity journey, largely due to notable societal hindrances. The overall global ratio of male to female directors for new appointments remained fixed globally at three males to one female for board appointments, whereas in Russia this rate increased to eight to one, and in China it is 18 to one.

Zero Female Board Representation in 50% of Companies
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Average Number of Women per Board
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Countries Slow to Progress 2016

Despite progress in some regions, our global sample shows that many countries have yet to start a diversity journey, largely due to notable societal hindrances. The overall global ratio of male to female directors for new appointments remained fixed globally at three males to one female for board appointments, whereas in Russia this rate increased to eight to one, and in China it is 18 to one.

Countries Slow to Progress: Zero Female Board Representation in 50% of Companies
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Average Number of Women per Board
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Broader Diversity Lens

As boards must tailor their make-up to reflect the needs of key audiences, geographies and business growth strategies, it is just as critical to broaden the lens on what diversity truly entails – adding perspectives of the younger generation and a better understanding of the cultural context within key business markets to the diversity discussion. Some global statistics:

Global Diversity Best Practices

While the 2016 GBDA illustrates that transforming the gender composition of boards is possible on a global scale, accelerating progress will require the adoption of emerging best practices for diversity initiatives.

Egon Zehnder’s Constructive Roadmap for Building Diverse Boards

Egon Zehnder’s Constructive Roadmap for Building Diverse Boards

Egon Zehnder’s Constructive Roadmap for Building Diverse Boards

Egon Zehnder’s Constructive Roadmap for Building Diverse Boards

Egon Zehnder’s Constructive Roadmap for Building Diverse Boards

Egon Zehnder’s Constructive Roadmap for Building Diverse Boards

"The GBDA reinforces that we must continue to accelerate efforts to broaden opportunities at the highest levels of leadership for women, requiring we rethink what great leadership entails. Leaders today must pave the way for diversity to become the next disruptive force in business, embracing diversity as a fundamental and reimagining it for the long-term benefit of organizations."

Rajeev Vasudeva
Chief Executive Officer, Egon Zehnder