France Tops U.S. in Placing Women on Corporate Boards

Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:00am EST

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WASHINGTON,  Feb. 22, 2013  /PRNewswire/ -- France has overtaken  the United
States' lead role as the country with the highest percentage of women directors
among the 200 largest companies in the world, according to the latest Corporate
Women Directors International study of women directors.   Propelled by quota
legislation passed in 2010, a quarter of directors (25.1%) in  France  are now
women, while the percentage in the U.S. peaked at 20.9%.   

"France  has raised the bar for other countries interested in opening up
corporate board rooms to women," said  Irene Natividad, chair of the 
Washington-based international research group CWDI. "The dramatic increase in
the number of women now serving on the boards of French companies shows that it
is possible to do this at a quicker pace as long as there's a plan to do so."  
Among the  Fortune  Global 200 companies, the average percentage of women
directors came to only 15%.

An impetus behind the increases in  France  and other European countries is
through government quotas, which require 30-40% of board seats to be allocated
for women.   Norway, which paved the way by successfully reaching its 40%
mandate for women on boards in 2008, has now been joined by  Spain,  the
Netherlands,  Iceland,  Italy, and Belgium.  Outside of  Europe,  Malaysia  has
a quota which will be implemented by 2016.   With10 other countries with quotas
for women on the boards of government-owned companies, there are now 18
countries using this strategy, with the  United Arab Emirates  the latest to
require companies to have women on their boards.

The other propellant that led to more women board directors this year is the
inclusion of gender or board diversity in the corporate governance code in
several European countries  - an initiative that has now spilled over to other
continents.  A very popular strategy for countries wanting to avoid quotas,
there are now 17 countries who have adopted this initiative.   Finland  led this
drive resulting in 22% of board seats now held by women, without a quota in

Among the  Fortune  Global 200 companies covered in the 2013 CWDI Report, those
companies based in countries with quotas had a higher percentage of women
directors (18.9%) than the average representation of women in peer companies at
15%.  The three countries with the largest increases in the percentage of women
directors since 2004, when CWDI first tracked women directors in the  Fortune 
Global 200, all have quota laws -  France  (7.2% to 25.1%),  Spain  (1.9% to
12.7%), and  Italy  (1.8% to 9.3%).   

Similarly, those companies which made it to the  Fortune  listing, which are
based in countries with gender diversity recommendations for corporate boards
also had a higher percentage of women directors at 19.9% than those companies in
countries without such a directive in their corporate governance code.

"Quotas work," said Natividad.  "Inserting gender diversity into corporate
governance codes works.  What doesn't work is assuming that women will rise to
board seats 'naturally', and therefore do nothing."  The three countries with
the lowest percentage increases in women-held board seats are  the United
States,  China  and  Japan  and all three countries combined have the largest
cluster of companies among the 200 largest in the world at 104.  None of these
countries have concerted proactive strategies to improve the numbers of women
directors in their respective countries.  Should they do so, the percentage of
women directors among the  Fortune  listing would rise significantly.

CWDI's Top Ten list of best performing companies is dominated by US and French
companies and has mushroomed to 26 companies (due to ties), again due to
measures undertaken by countries to speed up the number of women directors.   A
U.S. company, Procter and Gamble leads the Top Ten with 45% of its Board made up
of women.

About CWDI:   

Corporate Women Directors International (CWDI) promotes the increased
participation of women in corporate boards globally, fosters national and
international networks to link women directors, and seeks to hone directors'
skills in corporate governance.  To provide baseline information from which
women's progress on corporate boards can be measured, CWDI has conducted
research internationally since 1996 to identify women corporate board members in
 Australia,  Canada,  Japan,  South Africa,  Spain, and  the United States, as
well as regional and global reports covering top companies and their record on
board diversity.  CWDI has also issued industry-specific studies resulting in 21
reports in 17 years.

In addition, CWDI has held roundtables on corporate governance in several cities
globally for women directors and executives.  The most recent brought together
business and government leaders convened with the World Bank in  Washington, DC,
to share board diversity initiatives from several countries.  For more
information about CWDI or its publications, please contact Corporate Women
Directors'  Washington, D.C.  headquarters at

SOURCE  Corporate Women Directors International

Larry Grady,; +1-202-415-8396

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