Beyond Tokenism - 20-first releases its 2018 Global Gender Balance Scorecard

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20-first has released its latest Gender Balance Scorecard of the world's TOP 100 companies. In analyzing the gender balance of Executive Committees, the report highlights the divide between companies deepening balance - and those that still ignore the issue entirely.

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20-first, the leading international consultancy on gender balance, has analysed the gender balance of the top teams of the leading 100 companies across the Americas, Europe and Asia. By focusing on executive management, the report offers a clear picture of the attitudes and environments that companies have built - or haven't - to gender balance their businesses.


The US leads the way with 50% of the US-based companies now having at least three women on their Executive Committees, and almost 75% having at least two. Three of these companies, General Motors, IBM, and the US Postal Service, have a woman Chief Executive. But closer inspection shows there's a long way to go. Of the Executive Committee members in this sample, only 21% are women, a meager improvement from 19% in 2014.


Meanwhile, the European companies in our sample have shown clear progress since 2014 in building the gender balance of both Executive Teams and Boards. Almost half now have at least two women on their Executive Committees, a dramatic increase from only 16% in 2014. Engie, Tesco, Exor and Aviva lead the way with 3 or more women on their top teams. Engie is led by the sole female CEO in our European sample. Of the Executive Committee members in this set of top companies, 15% are women, a strong increase from 9% in 2014. European companies now have the most gender balanced Boards, with over a third held by women, compared to a quarter in the Americas and a mere 8% in Asia.


Three times more Asian companies have at least two women on their Executive Committee (9%), but from the low base of 3% in 2014; however, 75% of these companies still don't have a single woman on their top team. Of the Executive Committee members in this set of top companies, a mere 4% are women, largely unchanged from 3% in 2014.

Commenting on the research, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of 20-first, said: "Many of the world's top companies have woken up to the ever-increasing relevance of gender balanced leadership and have succeeded in moving beyond tokenism on their Executive Committees. Others are still stuck in outdated corporate cultures and mindsets of self-replicating leadership homogeneity. The US is ahead, but has made only slow progress since 2014, whereas Europe has accelerated and made strong gains. Marked regional differences show that corporate attitudes to gender are affected by both national and corporate culture. Leadership is key in improving the balance at the top. It takes intention, attention and alignment at the top to make progress."

The survey tracks companies along four phases of the gender journey:

1.    Asleep - No women on the Executive Committee, in either staff or line roles. Some companies haven't even started the journey, often with a weak succession pool with little prospect of bringing women onto the top team within 3-5 years. These companies are still, in 2018, pictures of imbalance.

2.    Token - One woman on the EC. A bonus point if she's in a line or significant P&L role. Staff roles (HR, Legal, Communications) are important, but rarely lead to the very top.

3.    Progressing - Two voices are stronger than one. With two female voices on the EC, particularly in line roles, it's less easy, consciously or not, to see them as "the token woman."

4.    Critical Mass - These are companies that have three or more women on the top team. When three or more women are present, their contribution becomes a norm. High EC numbers may promise a strong talent pool coming up.


20-first works with organisations that seek to move from 20th century mindsets, management styles and marketing approaches to more progressive 21st century forms - while staying first at the game. It advises and helps global companies interested in responding to 100% of the market and optimizing 100% of the talent pool.


Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is CEO of 20-first. Based in London, she is a consultant, coach and author. Her books include: Seven Steps to Leading Gender Balanced Businesses (HBR Press, 2014), HOW Women Mean Business (Wiley 2010) and WHY Women Mean Business (Wiley, 2009), see. She helps companies develop more inclusive leadership styles, build more gender-balanced management teams and review processes and policies to adapt them to 21st century talent and market realities.


For additional information on 20-first's 2018 Global Gender Balance Scorecard or to schedule an interview with Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, please contact: Martha Christie

Tel:        + 44 20 7021 0752

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