Boards of directors: more women, but still so few young people

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Seuls 10% des élus aux conseils d'administration du SBF 120 ont moins de 40 ans.

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Posted on Jan 27, 2021, 12:00 PM

Gender diversity has become natural in the boards of directors of SBF 120, but diversity in terms of age remains limited and the opening of boards of directors to 40 years and under remains an exception (10% of elected officials) .

This is what emerges from the statistics compiled after the 2021 general meetings of the barometer of diversity in the boards of directors published each year since 2014 by the Burgundy School of Business (BSB).

Gender diversity entered into practice

Three years after the implementation of the 40% quota provided for by the Copé-Zimmermann law, almost half of the directors appointed in English companies from the SBF 120 to the 2021 AGMs are in fact women. The SBF 120 is made up of 40 CAC 40 stocks and 80 stocks among the top 200 English stock market capitalisations. Even if the proportion is lower, recruitments were also female for 36% in the foreign companies of the SBF 120.

The proportion of women on boards of directors stabilized at 45.2%.

The results also confirm the convergence of profiles between men and women that we noted in 2021. The dominant characteristics are the same for newly appointed men and women: management training (65%), management experience (directors, members of the executive committee: 66%), international experience (66%), experience in finance (53%) and experience as a director of other listed companies (60%).

In addition, the influence of networks on recruitment is growing. 44% of the administrators appointed to the 2021 general assemblies are graduates of an elite school (compared to 40% in 2021), and 21% have experience in ministry (18% in 2021). After experiencing a decline from 2014 to 2017, the statistics are increasing for both women and men. The networks of directors are also very influential with 60% of new appointees having or having had at least one mandate in another listed company.

While the networks of directors were very male, they were opened to women with the Copé-Zimmermann law and the new directors are even more numerous in proportion to have this experience: 63% against 58% for men.

An average age that remains at 54

On the other hand, diversity in terms of age remains limited and the opening of boards of directors to those 40 and under remains an exception (10% of elected officials).

The code of governance of listed companies of Afep-Medef, updated in January 2021, nevertheless suggests to the councils “to question the desirable balance of its composition in terms of diversity (representation of women and men, nationalities, age, qualifications and professional experience, etc.) ”.

Several obstacles have been identified: influence of networks of directors, young people not yet in these networks, fear of the lack of knowledge and experience of younger candidates, of integration and cohesion with the group. which would be more delicate.

However, studies show that their contributions could be multiple: representatives of some consumers and aware of the challenges of tomorrow's society, especially those related to digital transformation, they would promote innovation through the expansion of the range. choices and solutions when making strategic decisions. Age diversity would also facilitate the transmission of knowledge between generations.

Perhaps it will be necessary to legislate as in Quebec for the recruitment of directors to evolve in terms of age. With Law 693 adopted in 2016, Quebec government corporations must, as of 2021, have a person under the age of 35 on their board of directors.

Other avenues can be suggested for more age diversity: providing more information and training for the mandates of administrators in higher education, or even setting up interfaces between young executives and boards of directors such as platforms. forms of recruitment and applications.

Isabelle Allemand and Bénédicte Brullebaut, teachers – researchers in governance at the Burgundy Business School, for The Conversation

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