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Mar 09, 2022

Gender parity on larger company boards not expected till 2042, says MSCI

Index provider releases annual study of female directors at MSCI ACWI companies

The slow rate at which companies are adding women to boards means gender parity among global large and mid-caps will take another 20 years, according to research from MSCI.

As of October 2021, the overall percentage of board seats held by women in the MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) stood at 22.6 percent, up modestly from 21.1 percent in 2020 and 20 percent in 2019.

If the future growth rate follows the trend of the last four years, it will take until 2027 for MSCI ACWI constituents to reach an average of 30 percent female board members and until 2042 for 50 percent representation, finds the study.

Given the diversity of the MSCI ACWI, which includes nearly 3,000 companies across 48 markets, reaching those milestones would not indicate ‘homogenous’ progress across all countries and sectors, note the authors.

Over the last several years, companies have come under increasing pressure to raise the number of female directors on boards. Investor demands have played an important role, such as State Street Global Advisors’ Fearless Girl campaign, which initially called for all-male boards to have at least one female member and later expanded its goals.

Political pressure

Government-backed projects have also had an impact. In the UK, for example, the Hampton-Alexander Review set a target for FTSE 350 companies to have, on average, 33 percent female board representation by the end of 2020 – a goal that was met shortly before the deadline.

Global progress, however, remains slow, especially among developing markets. The MSCI research finds that, within the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, a subset of the MSCI ACWI, more than a quarter of companies still have all-male boards.

Looking at developed markets, European companies in the index have the highest proportion of boards with at least 30 percent female representation (78.7 percent), while just 0.9 percent have men-only boards.

Only a very small proportion of MSCI ACWI constituents – 1.2 percent – have a majority female board, says MSCI. ‘The Bidvest Group topped the list with the highest percentage (70 percent) of women directors,’ says the report.