Contributing to greater gender diversity in European boardrooms
Since April 2019 European Women on Boards (EWOB) has been running a Women Empowerment Leadership Program (WELP) and this thanks to the support of the European Commission*. Its main goal: supporting senior female leaders’ journey to C-Suite and Board positions.
Two cross-border programs were created, namely the C-Level School, and the Digital Strategy Mentoring (DSM) Program.
The C-Level School bridges female leaders’ perspectives with today’s business needs and guides them in their personal career aspirations. For 4 months, professionals from across industries and topics walk the participants through a comprehensive range of areas that are indispensable for any C-Suite or Board chair, including but not limited to data transformation strategy, crisis management, leadership knowhow, D&I toolkit and building board visibility. As a result,participants expand their international network and gain the latest knowledge on business trends. This program also allows them to learn how to highlight their strengths and develop a ‘personal brand’. So far, more than 140 graduates, representing 4 cohorts, have joined.
Running from 2020**, our DSM program focused on various timely topics. These included driving enterprise digitalization strategy and leveraging business-driven big data. Via educative webinars, cross-industry and cross-border information sharing, 20 Mentees gained understanding of these issues. Participants were also offered real case-study examples and hands-on exercises through a series of individual assignments and one-on-one coaching by a mentor. By the end of the program, they were able to engage with digital topics and build an international network of experts on the digital agenda.
Beyond individualised programs, EWOB strives to engage European leaders to join the change and take action in favor of gender diversity and inclusion. For this purpose, since 2018 EWOB annually publishes its Gender Diversity Index (GDI). EWOB GDI benchmarks over 650 publicly listed European companies and recognizes the Best Practice Leaders in Europe.
Through outreach campaigns and launch events EWOB ensured the dissemination of three GDI editions. Best Practice Leaders were also invited to share their success stories and diversity initiatives to bring more awareness on Diversity & Inclusion among the largest European companies.
Results show that, although there are some improvements, gender equality in corporate leadership is far from being a reality***:
- Women represent only 35% of all board members (34% in 2020)
- Women represent only 19% of all leaders at executive level (17% in 2020)
- Only 46 (7%) of 668 companies analysed have a female CEO (6% in 2020)
These indicators show that it will take more than 100 years to achieve gender equality in decision-making. To address this issue, EWOB is continuing the programs started thanks to European help, and aligning its initiatives with the European Commission’s strategy and policy goals. Today, we are engaging with the ongoing adoption process of the Board Directive setting a target of 40% women and men in the Boardroom for all stocklisted companies, across the European Union.
*Co-funded by the Rights, Citizen and Equality Program until 2022
** Co-funded by the Rights, Citizen and Equality Program from February 2020 to April 2021
*** Data from EWOB GDI: https://europeanwomenonboards.eu/portfolio/gender-diversity-index-2021/