Robeco, The Investments Engineers
blue circle

08-03-2023 · インサイト

Embracing equality – Quotas are nice but C-suites are better

Though board quotas are highly visible tools for raising awareness and reducing gender bias, companies serious about embracing diversity and all its benefits must seat more women in the C-suite.


  • Audrey Kaplan - Lead Portfolio Manager

    Audrey Kaplan

    Lead Portfolio Manager

  • Antonis Mantsokis - Active Ownership Analyst

    Antonis Mantsokis

    Active Ownership Analyst

Late last year the EU Parliament mandated all companies listed on EU stock exchanges to have either a minimum of 40% women on their governing boards or at least a third of women as directors by 2026.1 Companies that fail to comply must “disclose-and-explain” how the selection process is objective and non-discriminatory. If companies don’t meet targets and lack sufficient explanation, they could face fines and rejection of elected board candidates. Though some member states already have quotas in place, the new law represents the first unified and binding requirement in EU history.

Gender inequality – unfair and sub-optimal

The employment rate for working-age women in the EU stands at 66% and women represent 60% of its new university graduates.2 Yet despite overwhelming credentials and workforce presence, the share of women on publicly listed EU boards is only 31.5%.3 In some member states that figure sinks to single digits.

The law underscores the EU’s commitment to the “fundamental value” of equality between men and women. But it’s not just a question of social value: significant economic value is also at stake. Per the European Institute for Gender Policy, improving gender equality would add as much as 9.6% to EU GDP per capita (or EUR 3 trillion) by 2050 – contributing even more to per capita GDP than labor market and educational reforms (see Figure 1).4

Figure 1 Improving gender policies, boosts GDP

Figure 1 Improving gender policies, boosts GDP

The figure illustrates the positive impact of gender equality on GDP per capita across the EU-bloc from a base year of 2015 through 2050. The green line tracks the increase in GDP with slower progress on gender reforms; the orange line tracks GDP increases with faster reforms.

Source: European Institute for Gender Equality, 2022

Board quotas – a powerful lever

Quotas have been a powerful lever for driving gender equality and improving diversity – on boards at least. Companies in EU countries with some form of gender mandate have greater female representation on boards than those without (30.4 % vs 16.6%).5 Moreover, stricter policies with sanctions for non-compliance work better than soft, voluntary measures. Norway, France and Italy – countries that combine higher quotas with binding sanctions – can boast women board seat shares of 45%, 44%, and 36% (up from 4%, 7% and 10%), respectively.6 The EU’s experience is echoed in developed markets globally – without quotas, boardrooms are largely off-limits to women.7

Gender quotas are also valued by investors. In the US, in the absence of federal mandates, investors have stepped in to demand more women on boards. Campaigns by its “Big Three” asset managers, Blackrock, Vanguard and State Street, helped increase female directors among US listed firms by a factor of 2.5 between 2016 and 2019.8 Even the tech-heavy Nasdaq instituted board diversity requirements for all companies listed on the exchange.9

Figure 2: Regulated success – quotas are effective at putting women in board seats

Figure 2: Regulated success – quotas are effective at putting women in board seats

The graphic illustrates the progress when countries take deliberate action to place women on boards either through quotas or targets. Quotas are hard legislative mandates whereas targets are softer recommendations to companies from regulators. Board-gender policies can significantly differ between countries. Please see the OECDs Gender Report for more details on country variations.

Source: OECD Gender Report 2022

Sobering statistics from the C-suite

EU lawmakers hope that giving women a unified voice at the top should also reduce inequalities in pay, compensation and advancement for women beyond the boardroom. But research thus far reveals that while quotas raise public awareness and improve board management and engagement, they do little to boost gender equality outside boardrooms.10 In Norway, the first country to enact sweeping national legislation, female share of boards jumped to 40%; yet senior management ratios and wages remain unchanged.11

That’s critical because to truly maximize the benefits of gender diversity, more women should be sitting in C-suites. McKinsey estimates that companies in the top 25% for C-suite gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform. Credit Suisse research showed companies with 20% or more women executives generated a “gender dividend” driven by higher operating margins and higher cash flows.12 Other studies show a gender-diverse C-suite lowers financial risk, improves human capital management and stimulates innovation.13

Despite the benefits, the C-suite situation for women is sobering. In 2021 and 22, women represented around 5% of CEOs globally. EU figures were only slightly better at 7 to 8%.14


Receive our Robeco newsletter and be the first to read the latest insights and build the greenest portfolio.


Diving beyond board metrics

Since its launch in 2015, the RobecoSAM Global Gender Equality Strategy has always recognized that while women on boards is a good start, a company’s true commitment to equality is revealed in other characteristics beyond board seats. Our proprietary gender scoring system ranks thousands of companies within our investment universe across no fewer than 38 criteria which assess material metrics for equality and diversity including women in key management positions, pay parity, talent retention and work-life balance, in addition to board diversity and selection process.

Our stewardship efforts push companies to strive for best-in-class market practice. In most developed countries, boards should include at least 30% of the least represented gender. Moreover, we have a strong, consistent record supporting shareholder proposals for more disclosures on board nomination processes and diversity issues such as gender ratios and pay gaps across the organization’s rank and file. Recognizing the power of diversified human assets, we have broadened our engagement activities to protect the rights and promote the advancement of employees with different race/ethnicities, sexual orientations and identities, physical disabilities and mental health issues.

A bigger toolbox

Like hammers, quotas can shatter obstructing glass and bind sturdy structural beams, but more tools and materials are needed to build a resiliently diverse and optimally performing organization. Through its gender strategy and D&I engagement, Robeco promotes companies that are pounding out inequality on boards but also using other tools to fully leverage the power of women and other “marginalized” assets to build robust institutions and robust returns.


当資料は情報提供を目的として、Robeco Institutional Asset Management B.V.が作成した英文資料、もしくはその英文資料をロベコ・ジャパン株式会社が翻訳したものです。資料中の個別の金融商品の売買の勧誘や推奨等を目的とするものではありません。記載された情報は十分信頼できるものであると考えておりますが、その正確性、完全性を保証するものではありません。意見や見通しはあくまで作成日における弊社の判断に基づくものであり、今後予告なしに変更されることがあります。運用状況、市場動向、意見等は、過去の一時点あるいは過去の一定期間についてのものであり、過去の実績は将来の運用成果を保証または示唆するものではありません。また、記載された投資方針・戦略等は全ての投資家の皆様に適合するとは限りません。当資料は法律、税務、会計面での助言の提供を意図するものではありません。 ご契約に際しては、必要に応じ専門家にご相談の上、最終的なご判断はお客様ご自身でなさるようお願い致します。 運用を行う資産の評価額は、組入有価証券等の価格、金融市場の相場や金利等の変動、及び組入有価証券の発行体の財務状況による信用力等の影響を受けて変動します。また、外貨建資産に投資する場合は為替変動の影響も受けます。運用によって生じた損益は、全て投資家の皆様に帰属します。したがって投資元本や一定の運用成果が保証されているものではなく、投資元本を上回る損失を被ることがあります。弊社が行う金融商品取引業に係る手数料または報酬は、締結される契約の種類や契約資産額により異なるため、当資料において記載せず別途ご提示させて頂く場合があります。具体的な手数料または報酬の金額・計算方法につきましては弊社担当者へお問合せください。 当資料及び記載されている情報、商品に関する権利は弊社に帰属します。したがって、弊社の書面による同意なくしてその全部もしくは一部を複製またはその他の方法で配布することはご遠慮ください。 商号等: ロベコ・ジャパン株式会社  金融商品取引業者 関東財務局長(金商)第2780号 加入協会: 一般社団法人 日本投資顧問業協会