Women still scarce on corporate boards

Women still scarce on corporate boards

Greek listed firms have mostly complied to the letter of a 2020 law mandating that at least a quarter of corporate board members be women, if not exactly to its spirit, a recent survey shows.

Besides imposing a minimum quota, Law 4706/2020 also mandated that non-executive directors and boards’ audit committees be truly independent and not relatives of company owners or major shareholders, a widespread practice until recently. The law gave companies until July 17, 2021 to comply.

The survey by the London-based Hellenic Observatory of Corporate Governance (HOCG) and consultancy Corporate Matters included the companies comprising the Athens stock market’s large-capitalization index (ATHEX 25). These companies have a total of 288 members and, according to the provisions of the new law, should have a minimum of 61 women on their boards. This number is actually lower than 25% because of some technicalities in requirements.

The ATHEX 25 firms have a total of 68 women on their boards even though four of them failed to comply with the legal requirement by July 17: The delinquent ones are Alpha and Piraeus banks, energy utility Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the Athens water and sewage company EYDAP. The latter does, however, have the only board chairwoman among the 25. All four have one woman less than the required minimum, although Alpha is expected to fill a vacant board seat soon.

A small minority among companies responded to the legal requirement by lowering the overall number of their board members in order to elect fewer women to their boards.

Among the 68 women board members only nine have an executive role in the company and only one is a CEO, at toy retailer Jumbo. The other 59 are non-executive directors and, of those, 46 are outside directors. Of the 46, 44 are members of board committees. Only three of the 25 studied firms – Fourlis Holdings, construction group GEK and Terna Energy – have not included any women in board committees.

Construction group Ellaktor has the highest percentage of women on its board – three out of seven – while non-complying PPC has the lowest.

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