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Just one in three board members at Finnish firms is a woman - but that's still better than in most countries

Women account for only around 17 per cent of corporate board positions globally, according to a study by Deloitte.

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Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland is one of just six countries where women hold more than 30 percent of board positions, according to a survey of 66 countries published by consulting firm Deloitte on Wednesday.

The sixth edition of the 'Women in the Boardroom — A Global Perspective' report found that women account for nearly 17 per cent of corporate board positions globally — a slight uptick in the global average from 15 percent in 2016.

Only Finland, Norway, France, Sweden, New Zealand and Belgium can claim an average higher than 30 percent, the report stated.

Countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia sit at the bottom of the list with only 0.6 and 0.7 percent of all board seats held by women, respectively.

Strong growth in Finland

"Countries like Germany, South Africa, Finland, and Malaysia have increased the number of women on their boards by more than 6 percent since our 2016 edition," Dan Konigsburg, senior managing director at the Deloitte Global Center for Corporate Governance said in the report.

The development is significant because it has taken place without gender quotas, said Merja Itäniemi, a partner at Deloitte Finland, in the company's report.

The Finnish economy relies heavily on the industrial sector, so male engineers are traditionally well-represented on company boards, she noted. However, the Corporate Governance Code developed by the association for stock market -listed companies recommends appointing both genders to boards. According to Itäniemi, the code has increased the number of board members who have studied business and law, for example, and as a result has seen a rise in the proportion of women.

"Change is still too slow"

Overall, the number of women in leadership positions in the private sector is growing — but slowly, according to the report.

"The overall data reveals that change is still too slow. Globally, between 2016 and 2018 there was a 1.9 percent increase in women on boards. If the global trend continues at its current rate of an approximately 1 percent increase per year, we will be waiting more than 30 years to achieve global gender parity at the board level," chair of Deloitte Global Sharon Thorne said in the report.

While women hold only 4.4 percent of CEO positions globally as stated by the report, CFO roles are three times more diverse at 12.7 percent.

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