More women making it into senior management roles - but mature economies lagging behind

8 March 2013

To mark International Women's Day 2013 on 8 March, new research from the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) reveals that globally, more women are making it into senior management roles than at any time since 2010. However, progress is slower in the G7 group of developed economies, where economic performances have been stuttering, than in the high growth economies of Asia and the Far East. Grant Thornton urges businesses in developed economies to emulate emerging market counterparts and reap the benefits of having more women in senior positions.

IBR data shows that globally, 24% of senior management roles are now filled by women. This is up from 21% in 2012 and 20% in 2011. However, the G7 economies come bottom of the league table with just 21% of senior roles occupied by women. This compares to 28% in the BRIC economies, 32% in South East Asia and 40% in the Baltic states.

Francesca Lagerberg, Head of tax at Grant Thornton UK and incoming Global leader of Tax at Grant Thornton International Ltd, commented: “The pioneer economies where economic growth is high have greater diversity in their senior management teams. Women are playing a major role in driving the world's growth economies, bringing balance to the decision making process and the smooth running of their companies. In comparison, the mature economies of the G7 are now playing catch up. They need to wake up to gender disparity and add this crucial ingredient to long-term growth and profitability.”
 
Japan (7% of senior roles occupied by women, the worst performer), the UK (19%) and the USA (20%) are in the bottom eight countries for women in senior management. These economies are also experiencing low levels of growth, with GDP in Japan (1.9%), the UK (-0.1) and the USA (2.2%) in 2012 all modest. In contrast, top of the table for women in senior management is China, with 51%. GDP growth for 2012 there is expected to be between 7-8%. The top 10 also contains the growth economies of Latvia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.

The situation is even starker when looking at boardroom positions. In the G7, just 16% of board members are women. This compares to 26% in the BRIC economies and 38% in the Baltic states.

How to get more women in senior roles?

The IBR data reveals that flexible working, while welcomed by many, does not appear to be a determining factor in getting women into top positions. 72% of businesses in the poor-performing G7 countries provide flexible working, while in top of the table China only 27% of businesses offer flexible working, and only 40% in the BRIC economies.

In addition, 55% of businesses worldwide said they would be against the idea of quotas for the number of women on executive boards of large listed companies.

Francesca Lagerberg added: “Things are heading in the right direction, but it is slow progress. Flexible working is not the only determining factor in increasing female participation in senior positions. In mature economies, the majority of businesses offer it but that isn’t translating into more women in senior roles or making it on to the board. At the same time, businesses are telling us that they do not believe enforced quotas are the answer. 

“In the absence of quotas, what will ultimately spur businesses on to include more women in senior roles is the belief that their performance will improve and their growth will be healthier if they do so. What our research shows is that it is good practice, and those regions adopting it are currently outperforming those who are not.”

Download full report

 

- ends -

Notes to editors
The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) provides insight into the views and expectations of more than 12,500 businesses per year across 44 economies. This unique survey draws upon 21 years of trend data for most European participants and 10 years for many non-European economies. For more information, please visit: www.internationalbusinessreport.com

Data collection is managed by Grant Thornton International's core research partner -Experian. Questionnaires are translated into local languages with each participating country having the option to ask a small number of country specific questions in addition to the core questionnaire. Fieldwork is undertaken on a quarterly basis. The research is carried out primarily by telephone.
 
IBR is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. The data for this release are drawn from interviews with 6,627 businesses from all industry sectors across the globe conducted between November 2012 and Febraury 2013. The target respondents are chief executive officers, managing directors, chairmen or other senior executives.