A new study, led by the University of Cambridge, is the first to take a global view of women on boards - and Britain has been found wanting. Claire Cohen reports
The UK performed worse than Ireland, the US, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Australia (which took the top spot), when it came to the economic influence wielded by women.
The study, which ran from 2004 to 2013, was commissioned by Newton Asset Management and BNY Mellon. Until now, there was a limited global picture of female representation, as 80 per cent of previous surveys were conducted in US firms.
The research looked at 1,002 companies from the Forbes Global 2000 list. It encompassed 41 countries and 51 industries, taking into account factors such as a nation’s cultural, political, legislative and economic status.
It also considered a country’s gender bias, ‘humane orientation’ (nurturing and altruism), and ‘assertiveness’ (macho characteristics).
Researchers found that the greater a nation’s tendency towards empowering young girls, via schooling and employment opportunities, the higher their female boardroom representation.
This is the first time action to support women outside of boards has been linked to their success within.
Professor Sucheta Nadkarni, who led the study, told an audience of women at the Womenomics event in London: “There is a clear effect of national cultural traits on female board membership in countries around the world. Companies are not islands. They are operating in a wider societal context and they need to recognise that”.
The findings come two weeks after the annual Lord Davies review into the number of women on British boards revealed that almost a quarter (23.5 per cent) of board positions are now being filled by women.
The Government has set a target of 25 per cent by the end of 2015.
Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management and founder of campaigning group the 30 per cent Club, said:
“I’m delighted to see confirmation that empowering women outside the boardroom is key to getting women into the boardroom and keeping them there”.