Gender equality still far away in European finance

According to a recent EY analysis, half of the European Union’s asset managers do not reach the 40% female presence on the boards

There gender equality in the world of European finance is still far from being achieved. This was revealed by the recent EY European Financial Services Boardroom Monitor study, referring to the first half of 2023, according to which almost half (47%) of asset managers in the European Union have Boards of Directors with a female presence still lower than 40%. A non-random percentage, but indicated by the EU Women on Boards Directive as the minimum level of presence of women on boards. Therefore, for financial services companies, an acceleration in terms of gender equity is needed to reach the female quotas indicated by the EU by January 2026.

At present, the path appears rather challenging, especially by observing the data relating to the last two semesters. In fact, if in the second half of 2022 the EY study recorded 52% of women as new appointments to the boards against 48% of men, the situation was reversed in the first half of 2023 with 56% of new appointments of men and the 44% women. The study also highlights that women are less likely to have held senior roles in their careers with 53% having senior leadership experience compared to 65% of men on boards.

“Overboarding” and new skills

The so-called “overboarding“, i.e. individuals who are part of more than one Board of Directors. In this sense, the report underlines how Board members hold, on average, three positions on the Board of Directors and for 26% they even hold four. A phenomenon recurring especially in the BoDs of financial and asset management companies: 49% of them have directors who hold two or more positions.Numbers that do not at all agree with the thought expressed by 82% of investors who believe the phenomenon of ‘overboarding as a potential obstacle to the ability to effectively govern the company.

On the other hand, it should be remembered that at a regulatory level there is no general regulation for the European financial services markets to limit the number of board roles that an individual can hold. On the other hand, a positive indicator comes from the turnover that involved 10% of European corporate executives, for whose new hires greater importance was given to ESG experiences. Specifically, 21% of European asset managers, in the first half of 2023, appointed new board members with ESG experience, while 19% chose individuals with a background in new technologies. Indicators that signal a stance and, perhaps, a change of pace with respect to new and increasingly indispensable skills on issues such as sustainability and technology. Without prejudice to the priority of increasing the number of women with managerial experience within the Boards.