Women occupy 19.7% of board seats globally, Deloitte finds

But it found that only 6.7% of boards had chairwomen

Deloitte's report revealed a positive correlation between female leadership and board diversity. Getty

Female representation on the world's corporate boards has grown in recent years, with women holding 19.7 per cent of seats at the table around the world — a rise of 2.8 per cent since 2019, a report shows.

The study by global consultancy Deloitte and the 30% Club noted that countries including Austria, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the US and the UK had the biggest increases.

“If this rate of change were to continue, we could expect to reach something near parity around 2045,” the report said, bringing forward by seven years estimates based on the 2019 figures.

But overall progress remains “slow and uneven”, said Rana Salhab, a partner at Deloitte Middle East.

“The pandemic has further challenged progress in achieving equality, making it even more important to move past discussion and take concrete actions to ensure inclusion within and beyond the boardroom," Ms Salhab said.

She said increasing the number of women on boards was "only the first step on a longer journey".

This seventh edition of the report includes updates from 72 countries on the boardroom representation of women, exploring insights on the political, social and legislative trends behind the numbers.

It is based on a dataset of 10,493 companies.

The report found that nearly all countries have local organisations or governments committed to increasing the number of women on company boards.

Founded in the UK in 2010, the 30% Club aims to achieve at least 30 per cent representation on board seats and executive leadership among all listed companies.

The Middle East region, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia — the Arab world’s biggest economies — has achieved “significant strides towards gender parity”, with female representation targets introduced and other leadership positions being put in place, said Lamisse Muhtaseb, a director at Deloitte Middle East.

“Many companies and government bodies are investing in gender balance programmes and initiatives, preparing women to serve on boards and creating a fertile ground for increased representation of women in the Middle Eastern corporate landscape,” Ms Muhtaseb said.

In 2018, the UN Human Development Report found the UAE to have the highest level of gender equality in the GCC, with a significant number of women in the workforce and more continuing into higher education than men.

In 1975, just over 2 per cent of the Emirati workforce was women. In 2018, it was 28 per cent, PwC said.

But the report highlighted disproportionate progress in leadership positions. It said progress at the chair and chief executive levels was less apparent.

It found that only 6.7 per cent of boards have chairwomen, representing just a 1.4 per cent jump from 2018.

Only 5 per cent of chief executives are women, representing a 0.6 per cent increase from the same year.

Updated: April 14, 2022, 4:32 PM