MILAN (Reuters) – Italian listed companies have increased the number of women serving on their boards but the number of female chief executive officers fell slightly last year, the market watchdog Consob said on Tuesday.
According to a 2019 law, companies listed on the Milan stock exchange were required to apply a quota to ensure that two-fifths of their board appointments from 2020 forward were women. That rule strengthened a one-third quota requirement imposed by a 2011 law.
These two laws have brought about change, but more needs to be done to ensure that companies can choose among a reasonable number of highly skilled women, Consob Commissioner Paolo Ciocca said at the presentation of the watchdog’s report on corporate governance.
“Female representation in companies’ boards reached its historic high at the end of last year,” Ciocca said, adding that in the future “it will be crucial to neutralise the gender distortions that still see an under-representation of women in advanced science, technology, engineering, mathematics studies and lower job opportunities and lower salaries for them.”
Despite a rise in female board members, the number of women in managerial roles was still very low.
Women accounted for nearly 39% of board members of Italian listed companies at the end of 2020, data collected by Consob showed.
Looking at women’s roles within the board, data at the end of 2020 showed female CEOs headed 15 companies, which accounted for 2.5% of total market capitalization on the Milan stock exchange. In 2019, companies with women serving as chief executives were 17, equal to 2.6% of total market capitalization.
Last year women chaired the board of directors of 26 companies, the same number as in 2019, but the companies were of much smaller sizes than in 2019.
Reporting by Francesca Landini in Milan; Editing by Matthew Lewis