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Gender diversity in corporate senior management: glass ceiling yet to be cracked

Vigeo Eiris reviews the level of female representation at Board and Executive levels for almost 4,000 listed companies worldwide

Gender equality is a question of social responsibility: it involves the prevention of discrimination and active measures to protect and promote women not only in recruitment, remuneration, working conditions, access to training and social benefits, but also in corporate senior management roles.

These principles are embedded into international standards such as United Nations and International Labour Organisation conventions, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and UN Sustainable Development Goal 5. Gender diversity within corporate senior management is also embedded into the Corporate Governance Codes of several countries that have set gender quotas for Boards (Boards of Directors, Supervisory Boards).

Vigeo Eiris analyses companies’ commitments to prevent any form of gender discrimination and to promote gender diversity.

The assessment is based on the visibility, exhaustiveness, definition and ownership of the commitments, the processes and means allocated to their implementation, and the key performance indicators resulting from their action.

The purpose of the rating is to measure the level to which companies and their senior management integrate specific commitments into their strategy and operations, in order to prevent discrimination towards women and promoting equal rights and gender equality in senior management, governance, remuneration, working conditions and labour relations. Whilst the issue of gender equality has gained visibility as part of the commitments published in company codes of conduct, inequality is still rife and limited information is available on the steps taken to reduce them. In many cases, the issue of gender equality leads to gender-washing rather than effective social responsibility.

This paper is based on the rating of more than 3,800 listed companies worldwide between December 2014 and September 2017. It explores the extent to which women are represented at Board and Executive levels in listed companies in 60 countries and 41 sectors of activity. With less than 20% female representation at senior management level in 2016, it appears that company governance is still considered men’s business. The principles of non-discrimination and gender equality are slowly progressing, mostly in Europe and North America, but progress remains limited in the rest of the world.

To read the main findings of this new Vigeo Eiris study and access the list of companies whose Boards/ Supervisory Boards have the highest proportion of women, please download the document below.

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