Female board members comprise only 2.7% of executive directors at top 200 S. Korean companies

Posted on : 2020-03-15 15:13 KST Modified on : 2020-03-15 15:13 KST
S. Korea’s Female representation lags considerably behind 28.4% of US companies
Comparison of proportion of female board members at top 200 listed companies between S. Korea, US
Comparison of proportion of female board members at top 200 listed companies between S. Korea, US

The proportion of female board members at South Korea’s top 200 listed companies according to sales amounts to just 2.7%, a study shows. The number is roughly one-tenth the 28.4% rate of female board membership at the top 200 companies in the US.

CEO Score, a corporate management performance rating site, announced on Mar. 8 that a survey of all 1,444 board members at South Korea’s top 200 listed companies according to sales (as of September 2019, outside directors included), which was conducted for International Women’s Day, showed a total of 39 of them, or 2.7%, to be women.

A survey by American business magazine Forbes in July 2019 found that 28.4% (684) of the members of the board at the US’ 200 largest firms were women. Needless to say, South Korea is far below that level.

Notably, there wasn’t a single woman board member at 168 of South Korea’s 200 largest listed companies, or 84% of the total. Only one of the other 32 (16%) companies had three or more female board members — Korea District Heating Corporation, a state-owned enterprise. Samsung Electronics was one of five companies that had two female directors, and the other 26 companies had one female board member. In the US, all of the top 200 companies have at least one woman on the board of directors.

These figures show that South Korea lags considerably behind the global trend of boosting the presence of women on corporate boards. Norway requires that men and women represent at least 40% of directors when there are nine or more seats on the board. In Germany, listed companies with at least 2,000 employees must give women at least 30% of the seats on their supervisory board (which serves a function similar to outside directors in South Korea). The EU recommends that member states increase the percentage of women on their boards to 40% within the year.

South Korea has been taking steps in that direction, too. This past January, the National Assembly passed a revision to the Financial Investment Services and Capital Markets Act that recommends corporations with more than 2 trillion won (US$1.66 billion) in assets to have at least one female board member. The final bill was much less ambitious than the initial draft, which would have made it mandatory for women to occupy at least one-third of seats on the board. Since the law in its final form replaced the requirement with a recommendation, companies that fail to do so cannot be prosecuted.

By Song Chae Kyung-wha, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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