GMI Ratings’ 2012 Women on Boards survey includes data on over 4,300 companies in 45 countries around the globe. The results show incremental improvement in most measures of female board representation since our 2011 report. For the first time ever, women hold more than one in ten board seats globally: 10.5% of the directors in our coverage universe are now women, a 0.7 percentage point increase from last year. At the same time, the percentage of companies with no female directors at all has fallen below 40% for the first time, to 39.8% (a two percentage point decrease since last year). Moreover, the percentage of companies with at least three women — a level that some research suggests may constitute a critical mass and allow women’s leadership styles to come to the fore  — has risen by 1.3 percentage points, to just under one-tenth (9.8%) of companies worldwide.
However, these global statistics mask important differences, both among individual countries and between blocks of countries at different stages of economic development. For example, when the world’s industrialized economies are viewed as a group, 11.1% of directors are women, 63.3% of companies have at least one woman on the board, and 10.5% of companies have three or more female directors. For emerging markets as a group, only 7.2% of directors are women, 44.3% of companies have at least one woman on the board, and 6.3% of companies have at least three female directors. Furthermore, national statistics within each group vary widely. For example, over 36% of Norway’s directors are women, compared to less than 13% of Germany’s and just over 1% of Japan’s; South Africa has over 17% female directors, China 8.5%, and Brazil 4.5%.