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Global report shows increase in China's corporate female leaders

By Tan Xinyu | | Updated: 2022-03-08 15:19
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Although women representation at the board level has improved, the rate of change has varied each year. [Photo/IC]

The proportion of total director seats held by women in China-listed companies has increased more than 5 percentage points from 2016 to 2021, data from global index provider MSCI showed ahead of International Women's Day on Tuesday, but women in the country still have low representation on corporate boards.

The latest Women On Boards Progress Report revealed, at the same time, that these companies have stood out from the global average with regard to the proportion of female chief executives and chief financial officers.

Of the total 636 surveyed China-listed companies, 6.4 percent have female CEOs, and 26.3 percent have female CFOs, as of October last year. The two figures both surpassed the average level of 5.3 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively, in the MSCI All Country World equity index, which included a total of 2,887 constituents.

Although women representation at the board level has improved, the rate of change has varied year over year.

In 2019, 20 percent of board seats of the constituents of the MSCI ACWI Index were held by women, an increase of 2.1 percentage points from 2018. However, this annual rate of increase was reduced to 1.1 percentage points in 2020, reaching 21.1 percent, indicating a slowdown in this trend. In 2021, the number of board seats held by women went up to 22.6 percent, a moderate improvement despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its threat to undo gender diversity progress.

As of October 2021, 26.4 percent of the constituents of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index still had all-male boards. Among developed markets, European countries had the highest percentage of companies with at least 30 percent women directors -- up to 78.7 percent. And only 0.9 percent of the companies had all-male boards.

Emerging markets continued to lead in terms of the number of women CFOs, with 19.2 percent of the constituents of the MSCI EM Index having a woman CFO in comparison to only 15.8 percent of the MSCI ACWI Index constituents.

Still, MSCI said, "We have not identified a significant change in the percentage of women CEOs for the past five years across all universes assessed."

According to research by the China Academy of Corporate Governance of Nankai University, the higher proportion of female directors, the higher related listed company governance index.

As the research reported, female directors can provide different perspectives for the decision-making of the board of directors, and reduce errors caused by individual preferences.

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