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08.10.2014 – 08:31

Egon Zehnder

Women's Share of European Board Seats Increases to More Than 20 Percent, but Progress Stagnant in Executive Director and Board Leadership Positions

London (ots/PRNewswire)

Findings Highlighted in Egon Zehnder's 2014 European Board Diversity


More than 20 percent of directors on large European company boards are women, a significant increase from 15.6 percent just two years ago and a jump from 8 percent in 2004. These are the findings of the 2014 Egon Zehnder European Board Diversity Analysis, which examined board diversity at more than 350 companies with market capitalizations in excess of EUR4 billion across 17 European countries. Egon Zehnder has released this report biennially since 2004.

European boards have also progressed in other aspects of diversity; today, nearly one-third of directors (32.3%) on large European company boards are non-nationals, representing a major change from 2006 when just 22.7 percent were non-nationals.

At the same time, however, the 2014 study revealed a continued scarcity of female executive directors (5.6%), which in turn carries profound weight in shaping the future of board diversity.

Europe Leads Gender Diversity Progress Worldwide

With 20.3 percent women, European boards have nearly doubled the average female representation of boards studied outside of Europe (11.6%). European boards are now in line with those in traditionally high-ranking countries like the United States (21.2%) and Australia (22.6%). The five countries worldwide with the highest percentage of women on large company boards are all European and include two non-Nordic countries for the first time: the U.K. and France (28.5%).

"We believe the evolution towards greater board diversity is steadily advancing, and the issue has become more deeply embedded into the conversation at the highest levels of organizations around the world," said Rajeev Vasudeva, Chief Executive Officer of Egon Zehnder. "Boards, just as much as CEOs, must embody and champion the importance of diversity, and as average CEO tenure shortens, boards are essential for ensuring cultural and strategic continuity on this topic."

Extending the analysis to regions outside of Europe for the first time, the report evaluated board data from an additional 568 companies from around the world. The study found board diversity is still in single digits in many countries' largest companies - India (8.8%), China (9.2%), Japan (3.3%) and Russia (5.6%) - but in each region, at least one country is showing progress, such as Poland and Hungary in Eastern Europe, Indonesia in Asia and Chile in South America.

The Next Frontier: Women in Board Leadership and Executive Director Roles

Despite significant gains in female participation on European boards, women have yet to attain a corresponding share of board leadership roles. Female representation in board chair positions (2.6%) among the European boards studied is comparable to the average of 3.7 percent across all other regions.

In addition, the small number of female executive directors (5.6%) reflects the ongoing challenges European companies face in building their talent pipelines and fostering the progress of the next generation of women through their executive ranks.

"We've seen significant progress in the diversity of European company boards since 2004, but 20 percent female representation should be the start and not the end goal," said Edwin Smelt, Co-Leader of Egon Zehnder's Global Diversity & Inclusion Council. "Plenty of work remains in identifying a wider pool of female board candidates as well as retaining executive-level women and assuring their advancement within organizations so there is ample readiness to pivot to the boardroom."

Further information

For key findings, sector and country breakdown and further details, visit


Enquiries please contact: UK - Tessa Curtis (M:
+44(0)776-7654-122; / Germany -
Klusmann (F: +49(0)30-32-79-55-97; /
Remaining Europe - Astrid Carniaux (F: +49(0)211-55-02-85-75; / All other markets - Hilary
Crnkovich (F:

Original content of: Egon Zehnder, transmitted by news aktuell