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Female participation on corporate boards across the world improved last year, although more needs to be done to help women advance, according to a J.P. Morgan report on achieving gender balance.
The report — published ahead of International Women's Day on Friday — said that globally, women's share of board directorships crept up last year, with large American companies leading the way.
The proportion of female directors on boards in the U.S. increased to 22 percent in 2018, from 20.4 percent in 2017, the report said.
However, women found it harder to make headway at the executive level, and progress in that area "stalled" in 2018, the U.S. investment bank found. The number of female chief executive officers in Fortune 500 companies fell to five percent last year, from a record six percent in 2017, according to the report.
"Governments across the world, and now one U.S. state, California, have begun to implement legislation mandating gender diversity on corporate boards," the report said.
But "more work needs to be done to increase female representation at the executive level, including better disclosure," it said.
J.P. Morgan's report found that 21 percent of companies under global index provider MSCI's All Country World Index — which tracks both developed and emerging markets — still had all-male boards.
Across MSCI's indexes, companies in Pakistan had the most women occupying CEO positions, followed by Finland, Greece, Sweden and Belgium.
But much more work remains to be done, the investment bank said.
"It is clear that companies need to do more to instill gender diversity especially because women are still vastly underrepresented across all levels in the workplace," said J.P. Morgan.
It added: "That starts with companies changing their hiring and promotion practices at both the entry- and manager-level for meaningful progress as research has shown that 'men are often hired and promoted based on their potential, while women are often hired and promoted based on their track record.'"