‘Women CEOs at a standstill worldwide’

Just 21% of senior management roles are held by women globally, figure which has barely moved over the past decade. Moreover, just 9% of businesses have a female CEO, according to a report by Grant Thornton International, a leading organisation of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms.

The report, Women in senior management: still not enough, shows the number of senior management roles held by women has risen by 1% since last year after falling from 24% to 20% between 2009 and 2011.

It found that businesses in Russia, followed by Botswana, the Philippines and Thailand have the most women in senior management; with those in Germany, India and Japan having the least.

The report says Russia has the highest proportion of women in senior management at 46%), followed by Botswana, the Philippines and Thailand (all 39%). In Russia, it says, the sex ratio favours females, with 1.2 women for every man. It states: “This, together with the promotion of women to demonstrate ‘equal opportunity’ in the former Soviet Union explain why women have picked up so many jobs in rapidly expanding services sectors, such as health, education and accountancy, over the past 20 years.”

It says Europe has made some steady progress, which compares with a decline in emerging markets. Germany stands out, however. The number of women in senior roles there has dropped from 16% in 2004 to just 13%. It cites generous German maternity legislation as a possible reason. German law gives mothers the right to a position with their employer for up to three years after a pregnancy. The report states: “A long gap in any employee’s work experience may prevent them from seriously pursuing senior management roles.”

It puts the high numbers of women in senior posts in Botswana, the Philippines and Thailand down to the tendency for families to live with or near parents and grandparents which it says provides an in-built childcare infrastructure, allowing mothers to go out and work.

It finds that less than one in ten businesses has a female CEO, with women largely employed in finance and human resources (HR) roles.

Australia emerges as the country with the highes proportion of female CEOs; three in 10 businesses are led by women, ahead of Thailand (29%), Italy (24%) and Argentina (23%). Botswana, Brazil and Japan have the lowest number of female CEOs at just 3%, with the United Kingdom and the United States both at 6%.

It also found that many economies, especially in Europe, are choosing to implement quotas on the number of women on boards and that there was no clear correlation between either flexible working practices or female economic activity and the proportion of women in senior management. Japanese businesses came bottom for both provision of flexible working practices (offered by just 16% of businesses) and women in senior management, but despite 85% of businesses in the Nordic nations offering flexible working women hold just 23% of senior management roles.

The report, says, however, that the proportion of women in senior roles has been rising in Europe where flexible working is available where it has been declining in emerging markets where it is not so common. It suggests that flexible working could boost the ratio of women in senior management roles there.

The report concludes that some form of intervention should be considered to promote women up the career ladder since numbers have shown little movement over the  last decade.

Read the full report here.

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