The share of female CEOs in Europe has doubled over the past seven years—to 4%

Isabelle Kocher, who became CEO of French multinational electricity firm Engie this year.
Isabelle Kocher, who became CEO of French multinational electricity firm Engie this year.
Image: Reuters/Benoit Tessier
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It’s progress—of sorts.

According to research from S&P Global Market Intelligence (pdf), the number of female CEOs at the 350 largest public companies in Europe has doubled over the last seven years. Doubled, that is, from 2% to 4%.

As of Aug. 18, women now hold the top roles at fourteen of the 350 firms in S&P’s Euro 350 index—up from six in 2009. That is, S&P writes, one new female CEO every year over the past eight years.

In the US, the growth rate of female leaders is only fractionally higher—27 firms in the S&P 500 are now run by women, up from 18 in 2009. That’s just a 5.4% share of female CEOs across large publicly traded companies in the US.

S&P looked at 10 industry sectors in their analysis, and found that four—healthcare, materials, energy and information technology—did not have any female CEOs in Europe. The telecoms industry stood out as something of a difference between the US and European indices: in the S&P Euro 350, there are now three female CEOs in the industry—up from a paltry zero in 2009. In the S&P 500, there are no female CEOs in the sector.

These numbers appear to reflect rather dismal global trends. We have already reported that the share of new CEO positions that were filled by women fell to 3% in 2015, down from  5% in 2014.

In the US, recent research (paywall) by campaign group Catalyst found that less than a fifth of board seats in the largest public companies in the US were held by women last year. EU data suggests that the number of female board members at over 700 large public companies now stands at 23% in Europe, presumably due to the quotas that exist in Norway, Iceland, Spain, France, and most recently, Germany.

Progress in female leadership is slow despite evidence suggesting that having more women in top roles, in fact, boosts a firm’s bottom line. Research released earlier this year by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY looked at over 20,000 companies in 91 countries, and found that having at least 30% of women in leadership roles added 6% to net-profit margins.