Women on the Boards of Austrian Listed Companies: Only 14 out of 192

More+Work & Careers ♦ Published: September 6, 2021; 13:32 ♦ (Vindobona)

A study shows that women are still significantly underrepresented on the boards of Austrian companies on the Vienna Stock Exchange. The number of female board members in Austria's listed companies has decreased by one woman compared to the beginning of 2021, leaving the total at 14 out of 192. Read more about the details of the study.

Then as now: only 7.3 percent of Austrian board positions at listed companies are held by women. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Center for Jewish History NYC, Public domain

A study shows that women are still severely underrepresented on the boards of companies in Austria.

The number of female board members in Austria's listed companies as of August 1, 2021, has decreased by one woman compared to the beginning of 2021. Thus, there are 14 female board members compared to 178 male board members in the domestic companies listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange Index. Compared to the last analysis, this represents a slight percentage decrease from 7.9 to 7.3 percent.

On the other hand, the proportion of women on supervisory boards rose again slightly from 27.8 to 28.6 percent–a new all-time high. This means that more than one in four members of the supervisory boards of Austrian WBI companies is currently a woman. Five years ago, the proportion was still 18.2 percent. Since the statutory gender quota of 30 percent came into force on January 1, 2018, the proportion of women on the supervisory bodies of Austrian WBI-listed companies has increased significantly and continuously from 19.0 to 28.6 Percent. Compared to January 2021, the number of female supervisory board members has increased by four–with the same number of supervisory board members overall. This means that 149 women (28.6 percent) and 372 men (71.4 percent) are represented on supervisory boards.

As in the previous year, the proportion of female supervisory board members is highest in the energy sector (35.5 percent), where every third supervisory board member is a woman. The proportion is similarly high in the finance (33.1 percent), real estate (28.9 percent) and IT (26.9 percent) sectors.

Women are currently to be found on the executive floors in the consumer goods sector the most, where their share is 23.5 percent. In second place is the IT sector (9.1 percent) and in third place is the financial sector (7.4 percent). There is not a single female executive in five industries: Automotive, Real Estate, Natural Resources, Telecommunications and Transportation.

All of these findings come from the “Mixed Leadership Barometer” published by the audit and consulting organization EY Ernst & Young. For this, the structures of management boards and supervisory boards of Austrian companies listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange Index are analyzed every six months.

Helen Pelzmann is a Partner at EY Law and the person responsible for the initiative “Women. Fast Forward” at EY Austria. Regarding the study, she said, “Looking at the proportion of women on the boards of Austrian listed companies, the same dreary picture of stagnation has emerged for several years: the massive imbalance seems cemented in place, with women remaining exotic exceptions on executive floors.”

She says that the results of the study highlight how difficult it remains for women to rise to the boardroom and that “support is often lacking from politicians, companies and presumably also from their personal environment.”

Pelzmann argues that the lack of women in leadership roles creates a vicious cycle as it provides fewer role models for other women to aspire to be like, and thus fewer women are motivated to rise to leadership roles.

She also says that the COVID-19 crisis has been particularly difficult for women as many have been forced to stay at home to take care of their children and other house-hold tasks. Pelzmann hopes that companies will learn the right lessons from the pandemic and make the work environment more flexible so that people can find a suitable way to balance family care and work.

While Ms. Pelzmann emphasizes the clear shortcomings that the study shows, she also acknowledges that some progress has been made and attributes much of it to the quota system. She says, “Even though quotas are certainly not a panacea, we see a very clear effect in this case: since their introduction three years ago, the proportion of women on supervisory boards has increased significantly. The quota has clearly pushed the issues of diversity and equality higher up the corporate agenda and thus fulfilled its purpose of raising awareness and searching more specifically for suitable female board members.”

Proportion of women at Ernst & Young

As of August 1, 2021, eight of the 38 partners at EY Austria were women, which corresponds to a share of 21 percent. At the management level, the proportion of women is currently 44 percent. EY wants to continue to systematically increase the proportion of women at the management level and is building on programs, some of which have already been in place for several years when recruiting new employees. Women currently account for 56 percent of the total workforce at EY Austria.

Ernst & Young