Greater gender diversity in companies’ boardrooms can lead to better management. However, we are still far from a consensus on the best way to improve women’s representation on boards. The experience of Norway seems to show that compulsory quotas seem to be effective in unlocking the transition to a fairer gender representation (see OECD data). However, many object that this type of affirmative actions can undermine the principle that appointments must be always made on merit. Targets that only impose a minimum share of women in boards might fail to lead to real changes in decision-making processes, if the newly appointed women are confined to marginal and non-executive roles. The chart below, based on the OECD-ORBIS dataset, shows that in most OECD countries less than 10% of listed companies have a board of directors chaired by a woman.
There is a clear need for better monitoring of the effects of quotas and corporate governance codes on women’s representation at the board level. This information needs to be detailed enough to tell not only how many women make it to the board, but also how many of them have enough responsibilities to change management practices.