theboardiQ | Women on Boards | California Rule and Global Implications

Updated: Sep 3, 2019

As is common knowledge now, California becomes the first state in the United States of America that has passed a resolution (SB 826) that requires representation of women in Public Company Boards (at least one woman board member by 2019 and then by the close of calendar year 2021, have at least 3 women in Boards of 6 or more and at least 2 in Boards of 5).

The compliance of Public Companies in the State is being tracked by the California Secretary of State - records were published on July 1, 2019 and will again be available on March 1, 2020.

This is an important and bold step taken by Senators Hannah Beth Jackson and Toni Atkinson bridging the gender gap on Boards - which remains at an alarming 19.3% among Russell 3000 Companies in the US. The United States Government Accountability Office estimated that it could take more than 40 years for the numbers of women on boards to match men!

The business case for having more women on boards is already proven with metrics and research indicating higher productivity, greater focus on sustainability, better governance, increase in revenue, profits, income and return on equity as compared to all male boards.

Moreover, women today command close to 80% of purchasing decisions made overall, in all aspects of business and life!

Taking a cue from California, other states in the US are planning to follow suit, like Illinois, New York and New Jersey, as well as lawmakers in Washington. Interestingly, some of the other dimensions of Inclusion like Women that are People of Color, Ethnicity and Racial backgrounds, have also been the subject of discussions amongst the law makers in these states.

Interestingly, the California rule has come into effect after many countries around the world having legislation and closely monitoring gender representation on Boards.

Here is the percentage representation of Women on Boards across the globe.


  1. As of March 2018, 27.1% of board seats of companies on the Australian S&P/ASX 200 index were held by women. The Australian Securities Exchange adopted diversity reporting guidelines in 2010.

  2. In Hong Kong and India, women hold 10.2% and 9.5% of board seats of the Hang Seng Index and BSE 200 index respectively. In India, the Companies' Act of 2013 imposes a quota of at least one female director on the board of listed companies and any public company having a paid-up share capital of 100 crore or more rupees or a turnover of 300 crore or more rupees.

  3. Women in Japan hold 3.1% of board seats on companies in the TOPIX Core 30 Index.


The proportion of board seats held by women in Europe varies significantly.

  1. In the Scandinavian countries, Norway leads the way with 35.5% of board seats of the companies in the OBX index held by women. In 2006, the Norwegian government introduced quota legislation that required both public and state owned companies to have 40% female board representation by 2008. Failure to comply resulted in fines or company closures. Full compliance was achieved by 2009. 

  2. Finland is in second place with women holding 29.9% of board seats on the companies in the OMX Helsinki 25 index. Finland requires 40% of state owned enterprises to have female directors for 40% of their board seats.

  3. In Sweden, 28.8% of board seats of the companies in the OMX Stockholm 30 index are held by women.Women also hold 21.9% of board seats of the companies on the OMX Copenhagen 20 index

  4. in Denmark.In France and Germany, women hold 29.7% and 18.5% of board seats of companies on the CAC 40 index and the DAX index respectively. In France, a bill was passed in 2011 requiring 40% female directorship by 2016. This quota is to be implemented on two schedules, one for private companies and one for public companies. Public companies will require 20% female board representation within three years, and 40% within six years. Private companies will have nine years to reach the 40% quota. Failure to comply with these schedules will result in voided nominations and suspended remuneration of board members.

  5. In the United Kingdom, among the companies in the FTSE 100 index, women hold 22.8% of board seats. The UK Corporate Governance Code contains a mandatory “comply or explain” measure designed to address the disproportionate representation on corporate boards. The UK Corporate Governance Code allows corporate boards to implement their own gender diversity policies and explicitly requires merit to be a consideration in candidate selection. Further, companies are required to provide details of their boardroom gender diversity policy and procedures for appointing executives and managers, and to provide explanations for discrepancies with the targets listed in the guidelines.

  6. At the other end of the scale, women hold only 10.3% of board seats in Ireland and 7.9% in Portugal.


  1. In Canada, women hold 20.8% of board seats on companies in the S&P/TSX 60 index. Quebec's Bill 53, passed in 2006, is the only provincial legislation currently in effect in Canada that deals with gender representation on corporate boards. This bill requires an equal number of men and woman on the boards of Crown corporations.

  2. As mentioned earlier, in the United States of America, women hold 19.2% of board seats on companies in the S&P 500 index.

  3. In Latin America, only 6.4% of board seats of the 100 largest companies in the region are held by women.

  4. Colombia has the highest percentage of female board seats in Latin America with 13.4%.

  5. Brazil has the second highest with 6.3%. The Brazilian Government has proposed a quota for female directors on state owned enterprises. The bill requires boards to eventually have a minimum of 40% of female directors.

  6. Chile shows a percentage of female on boards as 7%.


In Africa, a survey of 307 listed companies across 12 African nations found that women hold 12.7% of board seats

  1. Kenya has the largest female board representation of 19.8%,

  2. South Africa has 17.4% and Botswana has 16.9%.

  3. On the other end, Côte d'Ivoire has the lowest female board representation of 5.1%.

Although, women hold 17.9% of the board seats on Fortune 1000 companies globally, female board representation varies between industry sectors.

In Germany, women consisted of 8% of executive board members of the largest banks in Germany despite holding 18.5% of board seats across industries.

Interesting to note that while Gender Representation on Boards is the primary focus globally, there are now more conversations around representation from other dimensions of Inclusion including People of Color, Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Differently Abled as well as Veterans, in the true spirit of Equal Opportunity. Stay tuned for more insights!

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