Female representation on company boards is rising but number of women in executive positions is declining

The annual study conducted by the Second Swedish National Pension Fund (AP2) reveals that the proportion of female representatives on company boards has risen to 22.2 percent, the highest level attained since the study started in 2003. Even so, the proportion of women on corporate executives has fallen to 13.8 percent.

Compared to the preceding year, the proportion of female representatives on company boards has risen from 19.1 percent to 22.2 percent. This said, the positive trend shown by the study since 2005, concerning the number of women on the executives of publicly quoted companies, has been broken. Compared to last year, female representation on corporate executives has declined from 14.3 percent to 13.8 percent. The disparity in female representation on corporate executives and on company boards has thereby increased from 4.8 percent to 8.4 percent.

“It is pleasing that the proportion of women on company boards is on the increase. It also demonstrates that efforts to promote increased female representation have had an impact. It is nevertheless slightly worrying that this year we see a decline in the proportion of women in executive positions, given the fact that this represents a crucial source in the recruitment of representatives to company boards,” states Eva Halvarsson, CEO of the Second Swedish National Pension Fund.

The large-cap companies and industries with a high proportion of female employees note the highest levels of female representation. The service and consumer goods industries enjoy the highest levels of female representation on their boards, while the healthcare and financial sectors boast the highest proportion of female executives.

In the past 30 years, the proportion of women graduating in disciplines from which company executives and board members have traditionally been recruited has increased from less than 20 percent to more than 40 percent today. However, the proportion of women then declines in stages, from new graduate to employee (almost one in three), to management (one in four) and to senior executive (one in seven).

“A more equitable balance with respect to gender is decisive in ensuring the effective composition of a board. At the same time, it is important that we, as shareholders, should also pursue the issue of increased diversity in terms of age, background, experience and competence,” notes Eva Halvarsson.

Since 2003, the Second Swedish National Pension Fund has conducted an annual study in association with Nordic Investor Services to determine the proportion of women at mid-management level and on the executives and boards of publicly quoted companies. Furthermore, the study determines the proportion of women who have graduated in disciplines from which company executives and board members are traditionally recruited.

For further details, please contact:
Eva Halvarsson, CEO, Second Swedish National Pension Fund, on +46 (0)31-704 29 00
Ulrika Danielson, Head of Communications and HR, on +46 (0)709-50 16 13