Some UK and German banks are falling short of gender parity targets on boards

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Women make up more than half of the board of directors of just seven of Europe’s 30 major banks, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Several banks may find it difficult to meet future stricter regulatory requirements.

This article is part of a series of two articles on gender parity on bank boards. To learn more about the gender gap in the Middle East and Africa, click here.

The Board of Sweden Svenska Handelsbanken AB (publ) has the highest proportion of female directors at 58%. This reflects the country’s position as the top EU country on the Gender Equality Index, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality. Sweden has held this position since 2010.

Dutch bank ABN Amro Bank SA, Nationwide Building Society based in UK, Denmark Danske Bank A/S, Based in Finland Nordea Bank Abp, based in Switzerland Credit Suisse Group AG and that of France BNP Paribas SA also have more than 50% women on their boards of directors.

On the other hand, the German Deutsche Bank AG falls short of the EU’s 2026 target of 33% female representation, while Britain’s HSBC Holdings PLC, Standard Chartered PLC, NatWest Group PLC and Barclays PLC has less than the 40% demanded by regulators by next year.

The Market Intelligence figures, as of September 6, cover members of banks‘ respective administrative or supervisory boards, including non-voting members and representative directors. Figures exclude candidates and non-elected members.

“What gets measured gets done”

The UK Financial Conduct Authority in March Position diversity goals for listed companies. This included a goal to have at least 40% female representation on their boards and that at least one board leadership position be held by a woman. The rules will apply from accounting periods starting April 1, 2022, which means that new information will start to appear from the second quarter of next year. Failing banks will have to explain themselves.

The proportion of women on HSBC’s Board of Directors is 33%. At StanChart it’s 36%, at NatWest 36% and at Barclays 38%. Lloyds Banking Group PLC meets the 40% target.

A spokesperson for StanChart said the bank recognizes the importance of gender diversity and the importance of balancing gender diversity within the broader context of diversity, “which is particularly relevant given the diversified geographical representation of the group”. The UK-based, Asia-focused bank has a minimum target of 30% ethnic minority directors.

Barclays, NatWest and HSBC did not respond to requests for comment.

Quotas aimed at improving gender balance can yield positive results, according to Swedish nonprofit AllBright, which emphasizes diversity in the corporate sector.

Swedish corporate governance rules require companies to strive for gender parity on boards, although there are no penalties for failure.

“Successful companies often set representation goals and educate employees and managers on how to create an inclusive company culture,” said AllBright CEO Amanda Lundeteg. “What gets measured gets done.”

The risk is that quotas address symptoms rather than real problems, including those of culture, recruitment and promotions, Lundeteg said.

The EU takes action

The EU passed interim legislation in June that sets a quota for women on corporate boards.

The directive, first proposed in 2012, requires all European listed companies to ensure that the ‘underrepresented sex’, usually women, hold at least 33% of all management positions by mid-2026. Those who fail to comply risk having their board decisions revoked or being fined.

On average, women hold just 30.6% of the board seats of the largest listed companies in the EU, with significant differences between member states — from 45.3% in France to 8.5% in Cyprus — and barely 8.5% of board chairsaccording to the EU.

The boards of Europe’s largest banks are, on average, much more gender-diverse than those in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Various recent analyzes show companies with a high level of equality between men and women perform best on the stock market, and this “would be due to the fact that employees are more satisfied with egalitarian companies [and] that companies find it easier to recruit talent and have a better climate for innovation,” Lundeteg said.

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National goals

Some countries have introduced their own targets. France implemented its own 40% quota for women on boards in 2011, while German legislation providing for a 30% quota on non-executive boards has been in place since 2016.

In addition to BNP Paribas, listed French banks Crédit Agricole SA and Société Générale SA and their German peers Commerzbank AG and Deutsche Bank AG are currently meeting their respective national quotas. Deutsche Bank, however, is currently below the EU’s 33% target.

Deutsche Bank is “committed to advancing underrepresented groups” and has “voluntary targets to increase the number of women in leadership positions,” a bank spokesperson said.

In six other EU member states – Italy, Belgium, Portugal, Austria, Greece and the Netherlands – national women’s quotas of between 25% and 40% apply to boards of directors. administration of listed companies, according to the latest EU Gender Equality Report, which cites data from the European Institute for Gender Equality.

Ten others – Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden – have chosen to adopt a more flexible approach, using a broad range of measures and initiatives “with varying degrees of rigor and specificity”. EU noted.

The other nine – Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta and Slovakia – took no substantial action, the EU said.

The German cooperative banking group DZ Bank AG has only 25% women on the board of directors. However, since it is not listed, it is not subject to the EU target. A spokesperson for the bank said business diversity was being addressed on an ongoing basis.

French cooperative banking group Crédit Mutuel Group at 32%, UBS Group AG based in Switzerland at 33% and Dutch lender ING Groep NV, with 33%, was among the banks with fewer women on their board of directors.

A UBS spokesperson said it sponsors numerous activities each year to promote inclusivity and a culture of belonging, in addition to strategic initiatives to increase its pool of female leaders. ING Groep, whose female representation on the board currently meets the 33% requirement in the Netherlands which came into effect at the start of 2022, is constantly improving its gender diversity and will include and implement new regulatory requirements in the future, a spokesperson said.

The Crédit Mutuel Group is not subject to the EU’s 33% target. The bank did not respond to a request for comment.

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