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Mentors. Networks. Culture change. Carrot. Stick. Not a week goes by without another law firm announcing a new strategy to get more women into senior roles, but does any of it work? Academics at Cambridge University have been examining the evidence
and their findings are intriguing to say the least.
At Cambridge Judge Business School, Professor Sucheta Nadkarni and her team have been conducting a major study of more than 1,000 organisations in 41 countries to find out what factors influence the percentage of women promoted to boards and, crucially,
how long they remain on the board.
The team found that the average percentage of female board representation rose from 9% to 16.4% from 2004 to 2013. Norway, which has quota legislation, had the highest percentage at just under 40%, ahead of Sweden and Finland, with the UK ranked
sixth at 16%.
However, none of the top six ranked countries seem to keep their women on the board for very long. Indeed, the highest average tenure among female board members was seen in Mexico (around eight years) and Hong Kong and the US, suggesting that while a
quota system promotes women to directorships, they only hold onto them if other factors are in play.
Overall, the study found that women remained directors longer in countries with greater “female economic power”, measured by expected years of schooling and percentage of women in the labour market, and “a requirement for gender diversity
in the corporate governance code”. A country’s maternity provisions and strong “female political power” (percentage of female-held parliamentary seats) also made
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