Improving diversity

Improving diversity

The proportion of women in European corporate leadership positions remains low. Nevertheless 2020 saw notable improvements in some areas. That’s the conclusion of a study by European Women on Boards, an EU sponsored non-profit organisation.

The study looked at 668 top listed companies across Europe including 106 from the UK. By analysing the number of women on boards, in general leadership functions and in executive decision maker levels the study evaluated how close each organisation came to gender parity. Overall the study saw 34% of board positions occupied by women, with female representation in 28% of general leadership positions and 17% of company decision makers. On a positive note the 2020 study reveals that whereas in 2019 just 47 companies had more than 40% of leadership roles taken by women, in 2020 this had risen to 87.

With a score of 1 representing gender equality, the average score came out at 0.56. Just sixty two companies had a gender diversity score of 0.8 or more; eighteen of which came from the UK. In fact the UK scored well overall with 72% of companies reviewed having scores above the average. Moreover, two of the only three companies which achieved a score of 1 came from the UK; with eight of the top twenty-two companies also being domiciled in the UK. Nevertheless there is still more to do with the UK in third place overall behind Norway and France and an average score of 0.64, up from 0.56 in 2019.

Numbers are one thing but we shouldn’t forget that they represent real opportunities to improve diversity across business and society. Not only that, other studies have shown how diversity can improve company performance and customer outcomes; providing a win-win for businesses, their employees and investors. Perhaps that is why the study noted that companies which were already doing well on the index in 2019 improved their rankings in 2020, having recognised the value of diversity, whereas those lower down the index had made little progress.

Commenting on the results Päivi Jokinen Chairwoman European Women on Boards said: “The starting point to our work is the firm belief that gender diversity leads to diverse thinking and better decision making.” She went on to add: “In a heterogenous environment with more diversity of thought, perspectives get wider and business risks decrease.”

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