2016 CWDI Report on Women Board Directors of Central and Eastern European Blue-Chip Companies

2016 Central East Euro 001



  • Women hold 15.5% of board directorships in 245 listed blue-chip companies based in 17 Central and Eastern European countries. This is not far from the 17.8% women’s representation on the boards of the 200 largest companies globally.  Both within the Central/Eastern European region and globally, men still hold over 80% of board seats in the most influential listed companies.


  • However, when the CEE region is compared to its neighbors in Western and Northern Europe in terms of women’s appointments to board seats, there is a significant 10%+ gap. Over 26% of directors in Western and Northern Europe are women compared to Central and Eastern Europe’s 15.5%. This is largely due to this region not yet having proactive strategies such as quotas for women directors which have been enacted in Western/Northern European countries to increase the number of women directors.
  • While Central/Eastern Europe trails the rest of Europe and the U.S., it does have a higher percentage of women directors than in other emerging economies. The region edges out Africa at 14.4% women directors, and performs better than Asia-Pacific (9.4%), Latin America (6.4%), and the Middle East (0.9%).
  • The relatively high percentage of women directors in the CEE region is due in part to the fairly recent privatization of companies within the last two decades resulting in early stages of corporate governance and companies having small boards averaging 6.1 members. The presence of even 1 or 2 women directors in small boards results in high percentage rates.
  • The majority of Central and Eastern European companies have at least 1 woman board director. However, a large group – 39% — still have 0 women on board.  Only 23.3% of companies in the study have more than 1 woman director.
  • Of the 17 countries included in the report, Latvia has the highest percentage of women board directors among the blue-chip companies in the region with 27.2%. The second highest is Croatia with 20.1%.  Other best performing countries include Bulgaria (19.7%) and Slovenia (19.3%).
  • The worst performing countries with the highest percentage of companies with 0 women directors are Estonia (73%), Romania (70%), and Russia (67%).
  • Nine companies in the study have at least 50% women-held board seats. The best-performing company with the highest percentage is a wood products company based in Latvia, Talsu Mezrupnieciba, which has women filling four of five seats on the board (80%).  Two companies with two-thirds of their boards comprised by women are Industrial Holdings, a Bulgarian Financial Services company and Optima Telekom in Croatia.
  • The majority of blue chip companies (67%) in the CEE region fall into the small-cap category (under $400 million market capitalization). Large-cap companies make up 24% of companies (over $1 billion) and mid-caps account for only 9% (between $400 million and $1 billion).
  • The mid-cap companies included in the study have the highest percentage of women board directors with 20.7%. Small-cap companies average 15.2% and large-cap companies fall below the regional average with 14.4%.
  • EU-membership impacts positively on the appointments of women directors. Of the 17 countries included in the report, 11 belong to the European Union, and these countries have a higher percentage of women board directors (16.2%) than the remaining 6 which do not belong to the EU (12.6%).  This difference may be due to EU directives regarding gender equity.
  • The industry with the most representation among the CEE blue-chip companies is the Banking/Financial Services industry with 51 of the 245 companies. The percentage of women on board in these companies is 15.9%.
  • The industries with the highest percentage of women directors are in Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industries comprising nine companies averaging 31.9% women directors and Shipping and Ports with ten companies averaging 22.4% women directors.  Least welcoming to women directors are Real Estate (0% out of five companies) and Engineering (6% out of nine companies) have the fewest women directors.