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2016 Global Board of Directors Survey

April 2016

Drawing on responses from more than 4,000 directors from 60 countries, the 2016 Global Board of Directors Survey explores in depth how directors think and operate. It captures in detail the governance practices, strategic priorities and views on board effectiveness of corporate directors around the world. Spencer Stuart, the WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) Foundation, Professor Boris Groysberg and doctoral candidate Yo-Jud Cheng of Harvard Business School and researcher Deborah Bell partnered together on the survey, which is one of the most comprehensive surveys of corporate directors around the world.

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Business Outlook

Uncertainty reigns about growth prospects over next 3 years:

Business Outlook - WCD 2016

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Among the highlights of the report:

  • Directors around the world are uncertain about global growth prospects: Directors in North America and Western Europe are least confident about the prospects for growth. Sixty-three percent of directors in these regions see uncertain economic conditions, compared with 36% in Asia and 40% in Africa.
  • Cybersecurity is among the top three political issues relevant to directors: Directors rank the economy, regulatory environment and cybersecurity as the political issues most relevant to them.
  • Gap seen between best practice and reality in boards’ readiness to handle strategic challenges: Talent, regulations, global and domestic competition, and innovation are seen by directors as the top impediments to achieving their companies’ strategic objectives. How those challenges rank specifically depends in part on whether directors are serving public or private companies.
  • Directors favor tools to trigger board renewal, though few boards have them today. Respondents indicated broad support for term limits and mandatory retirement although approximately only one-quarter of boards have a retirement age and 36% have term limits in place.
  • Greater scrutiny/spotlight doesn’t always drive greater diversity. Public companies have more independent directors than the private companies whose directors participated in the survey, but private company directors report similar proportions of female and ethnic minority directors on their boards.
  • Gender and generation divide on why the number of women on boards is not increasing. Male directors, especially older respondents, report the “lack of qualified female candidates,” while women directors most often cite the fact that diversity is not a priority in board recruiting and that traditional networks tend to be male-dominated.