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Growth uncertainty grips corporate boards: Survey

Investors are not the only ones perplexed by the state of the economy. Confusion pervades boardrooms, as well, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Fifty-nine percent of board directors said they are "uncertain" about global economic growth for the next three years, with only 2 percent predicting "strong growth," the Global Board Survey found. Even so, respondents did not take an outright gloomy stance: Only 16 percent believe a "slowdown" will hit the global economy in that span.

The responses from more than 4,000 global board directors come amid a wave of pessimism about the global economy. While some, including top Federal Reserveofficials, have maintained a positive outlook, growth concerns have helped to cloud corporate and investor sentiment this year.

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Board members in North America and Western Europe were more unsure about the economy than their counterparts around the globe. Sixty-three percent of respondents in both regions said growth prospects are "uncertain."

The survey touched a broad range of topics, from top political issues among directors to diversity on corporate boards. Respondents chose the economy, regulatory environment and cybersecurity as their most relevant political concerns.

It also addressed the representation of women on boards, which remains stagnant despite efforts to increase diversity. Male directors were more likely to cite a "lack of qualified female candidates" for the disparity, while women more often said the recruiting process did not make diversity a priority.

The survey was conducted by Boris Groysberg and Yo-Jud Cheng of Harvard Business School, executive search and consulting firm Spencer Stuart, the WomenCorporateDirectors Foundation and researcher Deborah Bell. Sixty-five percent of respondents served on public company boards, while 35 percent were from private companies.