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Are Women Underrepresented In The Boardroom?

Do the figures suggest that women are still underrepresented at the boardroom?

21Jan

Between 1970 and 2009, nearly 38 million more women joined America's workforce. McKinsey and Company estimated that the American economy would be 25% smaller than it is today if it weren't for the influx of female employment, equating to the combined GDP of Illinois, California and New York. Currently, 76% of women aged between 25-54 are either employed or seeking work in America, which marks a considerable improvement over the last four decades.

Problems still persist however, it took Twitter, often lauded as one of the world's most innovative companies, till December to appoint their first female board member, a full 7 years after its initial founding. Twitter's decision to hold off the appointment for so long was met with real criticism - Stanford University academic, Vivek Wadhwa, called it 'the elite arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia, the Twitter mafia'.

The situation at Twitter is mirrored throughout some of the world's dominant economies, especially in Japan, where women account for only 3.1% of boardroom employment. This is a worryingly low statistic, with Asian nations in general the worst perpetrators of inequality at the boardroom level. Even in Scandinavia, where female participation is most accepted, attendance is no where near 50%, with 35.5 % participation in Norway the highest percentage in the world.

In France, Finland and Norway quotas have been introduced that will make it obligatory to have 40% female participation at the boardroom level. The 40% level has to be achieved by 2016 in France and 2020 in Finland, meaning that between now and then, there will be considerably more women working in the top echelons of companies. In Norway, a quota was introduced in 2003 and is seen as one of the main reasons why their female participation level is so high, although the Norwegians are still behind the 40% level that's been set for them to achieve this year.

In America, the statistics are improving, up to 19.2% from 16.9% in 2014. This is a positive step forward, but still means that women aren't represented in the way that they should be. Quotas have been proven to be a success, with companies aware that they need to really encourage their female employees to make a difference at the board level. McKinsey and Company identified that having a diverse boardroom is beneficial for organisations, so it will be in major companies interests to employ women at the highest level of their operations.  

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