As we have discussed on this Blog, most countries have a dismal record with respect to gender diversity on boards of directors. In addressing the issue, two broad approaches have developed. In continental Europe, countries are increasingly favoring legislative mandate. Thus, Norway and Spain now require a minimum number of women, with the percentage put at 40%. As a result, Norway has the highest representation of women on its board of any developed country.
Other, more market driven countries, have sought to use pressure. A government sponsored study in the UK called on public companies to increase the percentage of women to 25% and made a number of recommendations designed to advance that goal. In the US, the SEC has imposed disclosure requirements that mandate some discussion in the proxy statement of diversity practices. It remains to be seen whether the disclosure will amount to boilerplate, an issue that Commissioner Aguilar at the SEC is watching closely.
With that in mind, we note that Italy is discussing the institution of the Norway approach. The country has a poor record with respect to diversity. As Forbes reported:
- Currently women hold fewer than 4% of the board seats at major Italian companies, and two-thirds of Italy's major companies, including Fiat, Bulgari and Parlamat, do not have any women on their boards. On this measure, Italy has the worst track record among Europe's major economie
Efforts are underway to change this through legislation. A bill in the Italian Parliament would require companies to have boards with at least 30% women. The article suggests, however, that the legislation may not pass or may be watered down before becoming final. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether Italy will opt for the legislative solution.