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21 Mar. 2019 | Comments (0)

LeaderXXchange, an organization that advises and promotes diversity and sustainability in governance, leadership, and investment, has some good news for prospective women directors. Among the world’s largest public companies gender leadership scores are climbing and most companies have formal diversity policies.

The bad news is there a lot more that has to be done, according to a recent study LeaderXXchange released. For instance, while companies may have diversity policies that have not translated into more women on boards or in the C-suite.

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, Sophie L’Helias, founder and president of LeaderXXchange as well as a sitting corporate director and senior fellow at The Conference Board Governance Center, and Adria Vasil, a Toronto-based environmental journalist, author and the managing online editor at Corporate Knights magazine, spelled out the study’s findings in a Corporate Knights magazine article.

Some of the top findings the women divulged were: 

  • Women rising: Gender diversity in leadership scores are climbing. Companies that were leaders and outliers in 2014 are joined by a larger cohort in 2019. Why? Because a growing number of companies have made significant progress in three areas: The percentage of women on boards, an increase in women in management, and the number of companies that have added an internal gender target.
  • Walking the talk: North American diversity policies are failing to deliver. As of this year, most corporations have a formal diversity policy, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into higher levels of women at the top.  Case in point: 92 percent of North American companies have adopted diversity policies, 5 percent more than European firms. Meanwhile, Canadian and American companies lag behind their European and Australian peers in terms of gender diversity in leadership. It’s a clear sign that having a diversity policy is far from enough.
  • Target practice: Australian and European firms are seeing results with gender targets. Canadian and American companies seem to be reluctant to set quantifiable internal gender targets at the risk of being held accountable. Targets continue to remain a more European and Australian practice. Australia, in particular, has shown that even in the industries most traditionally perceived as male, such as mining, these targets produce results by attracting more women in the workforce with management and leadership roles.
  • Changing boardrooms, lagging C-suite: Institutional investors have actually been the driving force behind gender shifts in boardrooms, particularly in Canada and the US. In fact, gender diversity on boards has become the leading issue investors want directors to address, alongside executive compensation and climate change. To incentivize laggards, several large institutional investors, including New York’s State Comptroller, have adopted strict voting guidelines to vote against nominating committee members of boards that have no women.
  • Some sectors are leading the way: Once a notorious “boys club,” the financial sector now has the largest number of companies that outperform LeaderXXchange’s median score. What happened? For one, L’Helias points out that the 2008 financial crisis created a crisis of confidence. Investors and regulators used their new leverage to focus on improving the industry’s governance, particularly the banking industry. Employees and clients were also adding pressure.
  • About the Author:ESG Center

    ESG Center

    Today, boards and C-Suites face increased stakeholder expectations and challenges to public trust in business. Businesses need actionable answers to meet stakeholders’ demands, and are expected …

    Full Bio | More from ESG Center


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