U.S. Lags Behind China and Europe in Appointing Women Directors to the Boards of its Largest Banks

Oct 21, 2010, 12:55 ET from Corporate Women Directors International

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A Chinese bank and several European banks surpassed their American competitors in naming women to seats on their corporate boards.  In a study released by Corporate Women Directors International, a research nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., five banks with the largest percentage of women on their boards was topped by China Construction Bank with 6 out of 17 directors being women or 35.3% of the board.

Equally remarkable, two of China Construction Bank's six women directors are foreigners with impressive backgrounds:  Jenny Shipley, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Elaine LaRoche, an American who served as CEO of Morgan Stanley China and Salisbury Pharmacy Group.  Moreover, all four Chinese banks, which made it into the Fortune Global 200 listing, had an average female board representation of 19%, beating America's five largest banks' average of 15.4% of board seats held by women.

"American banks are no longer pacesetters.  At a time when many of them are working to restore their reputations, it would be to their advantage to expand women's presence on their boards, given that women make up the majority of their workers and form a significant customer base," states CWDI Chair Irene Natividad.

Only one American bank – Wells Fargo (26.7%) – made it to the top five with the highest percentage of women directors.  Deutsche Bank ranked second after China Construction Bank with six women directors (30%), followed by two French banks – BNP Paribas  (29.4%) and Credit Agricole (23.8%).

The good news is that the 31 largest banks in the world included in the 2010 Fortune Global 200 listing all had at least one female director, with the exception of one – Mitsubishi UFJ Financial of Japan.  From 2004 to 2010, these banks raised women's presence on their boards from 10.6% to 15.6%, according to the CWDI report.  Overall, banks did better than other Fortune Global 200 companies, where women held only 12.2% of board seats.  However, men still have the lion's share of board directorships – 84.4% -- among these large banking institutions.

In France, where a quota law mandating 40% of board seats to be allocated for women has been proposed, the four French banks in the Fortune Global 200 listing had an average of 21.4% of board seats held by women, again topping both the U.S. and China's banks' percentages of female directors, even though the law has yet to be passed.

"To remain competitive globally, U.S. banks need to step up and bring in new perspectives on their boards, as Chinese and European bank boards are doing.  There's ample research showing that more women on boards spell greater profitability, so the road map to change is clear," adds CWDI Chair Natividad.

This report is the 14th conducted by Corporate Women Directors International, a nonprofit organization which has provided research data since 1997 on women directors globally, in different countries and industries, as well as bringing together women directors in various cities around the world on issues of corporate governance.

SOURCE Corporate Women Directors International