Gender diversity at the board level has improved steadily over the years across the world but it is still a long way for equalisation in terms of female representation at the top level, says a report.
According to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML)report, a gender diverse board better represents the company and identifies with its customers, brings a diverse range of opinions and helps the company adapt to changes.
"The diversity of S&P 500 boards has been steadily improving over the last decade, as the average board currently has 22 percent women, up from 14 percent in 2008," BofAML strategist Savita Subramanian said in a research note.
Though diversity at the board level has increased, it still has a long way to go.
"While having quadrupled since 2008, just 11 percent of companies have at least one-third of their board seats held by women and just 1 percent (five companies) have half or more of their board seats held by women," the report said, adding that one percent of boards remain all-male, down from 15 percent in 2008.
Within the S&P 500, telecom, staples and utilities have the most gender-diverse boards, where notably, within staples, nearly one-fourth of companies have at least one-third of their board seats filled by women.
Meanwhile, energy, industrials, and real estate have the least gender-diverse boards.
According to the report, the companies with more diverse boards had a better return on equity (ROEs) than companies with lesser diverse boards.
According to analysts Lorraine Hutchinson, the lack of board diversity in specialty retail, the industry that targets mostly young women, boards are surprisingly "old and male".
In her view, board diversity might have saved the industry from some of its challenges.
Within the S&P 500, telecom, staples and utilities currently, have the most diverse boards.