Chinese, HK companies falling behind in appointing women to board seats, new research shows

15-Jan-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Asian companies continue to lag behind in appointing women as directors, having the most all-male boards worldwide, according to new research by the investment research and index provider MSCI.

Of the nearly 2,700 companies in the MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI), women held 17.9 per cent of directorships as of October last year, up from 17.3 per cent in 2017, according to the “Women on Boards Progress Report 2018″ by MSCI ESG Research.

More than a fifth of companies in the index had all-male boards, most of which were in Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, the report found.

Nearly a third of 92 ACWI companies in Hong Kong and 35.1 per cent of the 348 index companies in China lacked female directors, according to MSCI.

Only 12 per cent of Hong Kong companies and 11.2 per cent of Chinese companies had three or more women on their boards, the report said.

“Asset owners and managers in Asia are increasingly becoming aware of the potential impact of corporate governance factors, which includes improving diversity and female representation on corporate boards and in senior management,” Jack Lin, MSCI’s head of client coverage for Asia-Pacific, said.

Globally, representation of women in the executive suite showed gains last year, as the number of chief financial officers increased from 233 women in 2017 to 299 women last year, according to MSCI. There were 99 women who held chief executive positions in 2018, with 26 in the US and 17 in China.

The report came out on the same day that PG&E, the California utility linked to scores of devastating wildfires in recent years, announced that its CEO Geisha Williams would step down. The company’s shares are down more 63 per cent since November and the utility is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy over concerns about its potential liability for wildfire damage.

MSCI’s flagship global equity benchmark, the ACWI includes large and mid-cap companies from 23 developed markets and 24 emerging markets.

Only 11 companies in the index had boards with a majority of women in 2018, including First Financial Holding of Taiwan and Chinese real estate firm Xinhu Zhongbao, according to the report. Thirty-two companies had an even number of men and women on their boards last year, the report said.

MSCI projects it will take until 2029 before women account for 30 per cent of all directorships among index companies based on current trends. Between 2015 and 2018, only 12.5 per cent of board seats that opened up were filled by women, MSCI said.


Category: Hong Kong

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