Closing The Gap

Under 5% of Europe's top companies have a female CEO, study finds

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Just 4.7% of CEOs at Europe's top companies were women in 2019, new research has claimed.

That meant just 28 of the continent's 600 most valuable public companies had hired a female chief executive.

In a report published Wednesday by the EU-backed European Women on Boards (EWOB), researchers analyzed public data from companies listed on Europe's Stoxx 600 index, which is comprised of the 600 highest-valued public firms in Europe. Businesses from 17 countries were included in the analysis.

The study gave each company an overall score based on four core metrics: the overall share of women in leadership, the share of women on the board, the share of women at executive level, and the share of women on corporate committees.

According to the report, just one in four leadership positions were held by women, while only one third of board members across Stoxx 600 companies were female.

Just 16% of executives at Europe's top firms were women, the data showed, with just 30 of the firms in the study close to achieving gender-balanced leadership.

Companies from Norway, France and Sweden were the closest to having gender-balanced governance, the study found. Seven of the top 20 companies in EWOB's index were French, while five were Swedish.

At the other end of the scale were Swiss firms, with half of the 20 lowest-ranked companies hailing from Switzerland. Companies from Luxembourg, Spain and Germany also received low overall scores.

European countries with the most gender diverse leadership

  1. Norway
  2. France
  3. Sweden
  4. U.K.
  5. Finland
  6. Belgium
  7. Italy
  8. Netherlands
  9. Ireland
  10. Denmark
  11. Portugal
  12. Germany
  13. Austria
  14. Spain
  15. Poland
  16. Switzerland
  17. Luxembourg

In terms of individual companies, Swedish real estate firm Castellum received the highest gender diversity score on the Stoxx 600, followed by French companies Kerin and Sodexo.

Top 10 firms in EWOB gender diversity index

  1. Castellum
  2. Kering
  3. Sodexo
  4. Iliad
  5. Accor
  6. Gecina
  7. EasyJet
  8. DNB
  9. L'Oreal
  10. Suez Environement

Meanwhile, Danish firm Ambu and German companies Nemetschek and United Internet were given the lowest scores on the index.

Bottom 10 firms in EWOB gender diversity index

  1. Ambu
  2. Nemetschek
  3. United Internet
  4. Glanbia
  5. Swiss Life
  6. Kuehne + Nagel
  7. Argenx
  8. Deutsche Wohnen
  9. Sika
  10. Baloise

Companies in the technology, media and financial services sectors were the highest performers in terms of having women in leadership positions, while Europe's industrial and health care industries had the lowest proportion of female leaders.

Spokespersons for Ambu, Nemetschek and United Internet were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.