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MSCI study: Women make up 20% of boards globally, an increase from past 2 years

More women were appointed to corporate boards around the globe in 2019 compared with the past two years, MSCI Inc. reported in the latest annual study done by unit MSCI ESG Research LLC.

The study, dubbed "Women on Boards" and covering 2,765 companies under the MSCI All Country World Index, noted that women accounted for 20.0% of directors of the selected companies worldwide as of Oct. 31.

The figure, the study said, was a noticeable uptick in the presence of women on corporate boards from 17.9% in 2018 and 17.3% in 2017. MSCI said the 2.1-percentage-point increase in 2019 "slightly shortened the path" to 30% female directorship, which is projected to happen in 2027, based on the latest data.

At the current pace, a 50/50 gender split among directors globally might be reached by 2044, the study projected.

While no significant differences in professional expertise were noted between male and female directors in developed markets, female directors and executives in emerging markets were found to be more likely to have financial expertise than their male counterparts, at 47% versus 39%.

More than half, or 57.3%, of the companies subject to mandatory gender quotas exceeded the requirements as of Oct. 31. Italy and France had the highest percentage of companies with more female directors than required, the study noted.

MSCI said the number of companies with majority-female boards under the MSCI index doubled year over year to 22 in 2019. However, these companies accounted for less than 1% of the index's constituents as of Oct. 30. The lion's share of index constituents, at 98.7%, still had male-dominated boards.

The information technology sector, which has historically lagged with respect to female directors, had the biggest increase in companies with three or more female directors, according to the study, at 28.3% in 2019 compared to 15.5% in 2018.

The study also noted that more women than men, 22% versus 12%, were "overboarded," or were serving on three or more boards globally. MSCI said the higher levels of multiple directorships among women may indicate overreliance on a limited pool of female directors.