Swedish national pensions buffer fund AP2 has released the latest results of its annual survey of female representation on the boards and management teams of Swedish listed companies, including a “worrying” break in the trend of a rising proportion of women in management.

In the Gothenburg-based state-run investment fund’s 2023 Female Representation Index (Kvinnoindex) report, AP2 said today that the percentage of women on the boards of companies listed on Nasdaq Stockholm rose to 36.1% in 2023 from 35.4% the year before, but the percentage of women in listed companies ’management teams decreased to 26.4% from 27.2%.

Putting these changes into context, AP2 said 2023 marked the first time the percentage of women on boards had surpassed 36%, and was also the first year the proportion of women in management at Swedish listed companies had declined since AP2 created the index 20 years ago.

“Over time, the development of the management teams has, above all in the last decade, shown clearly greater stability compared to boards, where the development has sometimes halted. But now this trend has been broken,” the SEK400bn (€34.2bn) fund said.

Eva Halvarsson, chief executive officer of AP2, said: “I find it gratifying that our Female Representation Index shows the proportion of women on boards continues to increase, and that 38.6% of newly-elected members are women, which is higher than among the total number of female members.

“But it is worrying that the trend regarding the increase of women in management is broken,” she said.

Halvarsson also said it was interesting that nomination committees with women were positively correlated with boards with a higher proportion of women.

“Companies without a nomination committee have a lower proportion of women on the board than other companies,” the CEO said.

The Swedish buffer fund mentioned in its report that the new EU directive on a more even gender distribution among board members in listed companies came into force at the end of 2022.

According to the directive, member states must ensure that listed companies with at least 250 employees and annual turnover of at least €50m or a balance sheet total of €43m or more must meet at least one of two goals by 30 June 2026.

One is that people of the underrepresented gender hold at least 40% of non-executive and non-employee representative board seats, and the other is that the underrepresented gender has at least 33% of all board positions – executive and non-executive.

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