Egon Zehnder’s Latin American Board Analysis Uncovers Significant Lag in Gender Diversity

In-depth study explores factors affecting leadership gender diversity
at leading Latin American organizations

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Egon Zehnder, a global leader in executive search and talent advisory
services today released its 2016 Latin American Board Diversity
Analysis, a new report examining gender diversity at the board level of
leading publicly traded companies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia
and Mexico. The study joins complementary Egon Zehnder analyses of
European and global boardrooms, leveraging the firm’s knowledge of the
leadership composition of the leading companies in Latin America and
around the world.

“When compared to Europe, the United States and Canada, Latin America
lags behind in the percentages of sitting women board directors and in
the rate of annual appointment,” said Cristina
, a Santiago-based Egon Zehnder consultant and regional
leader of the firm’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Council. “While it
appears that the idea of gender diversity in the boardroom may be
gaining some traction in Latin America, businesses must accelerate the
cultivation of ready women candidates and increase the pool of
board-ready women nominees as other regions have done at an aggressive
rate,” she added.

The report is based on analysis of the board composition of 155 major
Latin American companies, as well as in-depth interviews with 61 board
chairs and female board directors to gauge their perceptions on gender
diversity’s relevance in the boardroom and the challenges involved in
improving the numbers.

The study finds that at the country level, the role of cultural bias
continues to play a significant role in women’s leadership progression.
Women continue to face uphill resistance from male counterparts
regarding their leadership ability. The findings show that 41 percent of
board chairs and board members said that “continuing cultural bias” was
the largest impediment for women reaching board positions. Importantly,
only 21 percent of the board chairs and members interviewed said their
company has special policies or programs to select, hire and promote
women from within management.

However, some countries have shown notable strides. Colombia, for
example, has relatively high levels of gender diversity in its
boardrooms; the majority of boards (67 percent) have at least one female

In Argentina, by contrast, less than half (40 percent) of boards have
even one female member.

Additional findings from the analysis include:

  • Only 24 percent of the board chairs and board members surveyed – and
    only 15 percent of those not on Colombian boards – consider increasing
    gender diversity to be on their board’s agenda.
  • Increasing the presence of women in the boardroom will require a
    stronger pipeline of women in P&L leadership roles. Boards must work
    to increase the number of women in P&L leadership positions while
    rethinking not merely the competencies and experiences that need to be
    added, but additionally look to the leader’s leadership potential.
  • Boardroom gender diversity needs to become part of the larger
    corporate governance mandate. A key first step is in collecting and
    disseminating data on boardroom diversity and on qualified women
    candidates, sharing best practices and facilitating networking among
    potential board members.
  • New board members are drawn from the personal and professional
    networks of current members. This leads to a predictable level of
    homogeneity not only regarding gender but nationality, educational
    affiliation and other attributes.

“Latin American boards need to view boardroom gender diversity as part
of the cost of entry into the upper tier of global corporate
citizenship,” said Maitée
Soares de Camargo
, Egon Zehnder Health’s Latin America lead, and a
member of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Council based in São Paulo.
“Companies must take multiple, proactive steps towards building a
culture of gender diversity – working harder to find suitable female
candidates, reexamining their criteria for selecting directors, and
facilitating dialogue among potential board members. Time alone will not
close the gap in these countries.”

Accelerating the rate of change is pertinent because of how greatly
Latin America will fall behind other regions if no action is taken. To
put this in perspective: North American and European business leaders
are increasingly supporting a near-term goal of having women account for
30 percent of board seats. By Egon Zehnder’s calculations, at the
current rate of change, Europe will reach that goal in 2018, North
America in 2021 – and Latin America in 2042, a generation from now. This
gap will put Latin American boards at a significant disadvantage in
helping their companies compete in a world in which women represent half
(or more) of the purchasing power and a growing share of the talent pool.

To read the full report, visit:

About the Egon Zehnder Latin American Board Gender Diversity Analysis

Egon Zehnder analyzed the board composition of 155 major Latin American
public companies headquartered in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and
Mexico that had a market capitalization of US$1 billion or more, and
conducted in-depth interviews with 61 board chairs and female board
members regarding their perceptions on gender diversity’s relevance in
the boardroom, and the challenges involved in improving the numbers. The
2016 Latin American Board Gender Diversity Analysis reveals the firm’s
findings and concludes with a list of recommendations for boards to
consider regarding the issues.

About Egon Zehnder

Since 1964, Egon Zehnder has been at the forefront of defining great
leadership in the face of changing economic conditions, emerging
opportunities and evolving business goals. With more than 400
consultants in 69 offices and 41 countries around the globe, we work
closely with public and private corporations, family-owned enterprises
and nonprofit and government agencies to provide board advisory
services, CEO and leadership succession planning, executive search and
assessment, and leadership development. For more information visit
and follow us on LinkedIn
and Twitter.


For media inquiries:
Egon Zehnder
, +1-312-260-8978
Global Head of Marketing and
, +1-212-373-6030
Director, Corporate Media Relations